Rugby Union: Red-faced Scarlets cut to ribbons

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Neath. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .27

Llanelli. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5

THAT old All Blacks magic proved irresistible in the first year of the Heineken League in Wales and it looks like doing so again this season.

Llanelli, the reigning champions, have never lost at The Gnoll in three previous visits in the league and not even the normally cagey bookies gave Neath much chance.

Local bookmakers had given the Welsh All Blacks, the only unbeaten team in the First Division, a six points start. That was like a red rag to a bull and the whole pack were determined to make a nonsense of such ill-conceived odds. They did, too, making a complete mess of the Llanelli forwards along the way. Neath wanted this win badly, and played in that fashion. The best that could be said for Llanelli was that they turned up.

That may sound harsh, but the Scarlets had won their last eight meetings with Neath and much better had been expected of them in a game that could well decide the ultimate destination of the league title this season.

And after this irrepressible performance there is no reason why Neath shouldn't be able to regain the Heineken Trophy they won in 1991. As their coach, David Pickering, commented after the game: 'We were awesome.'

From the first minutes to the last the visitors were put to the sword as Gareth Llewellin and his pack simply ran riot. The only surprise in the first half was that Neath were no more than 10 points ahead by the interval. In terms of territorial advantage, the home side were worth far more than a try by Adrian Shaw and conversion and penalty from Paul Thorburn.

But second half tries by the impressive half-back pairing of Matthew McCarthy and Chris Bridges sealed a famous victory.

Thorburn helped turn the victory into a rout with two conversions and another penalty and despite a consolation try by the Llanelli skipper Rupert Moon, the messages sent from Neath to their First Division rivals was quite clear.

The Blacks are back.

Neath: Tries Shaw, McCarthy, Bridges; Conversions Thorburn 3; Penalties Thorburn 2. Llanelli: Try Moon.

Neath: P Thorburn; A Harries (S Crandon, 34 min), A Shaw, H Woodland, R Rees; M McCarthy, C Bridges; Brian Williams, Barrie Williams, J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Gareth Llewellyn (capt), M Morris (I Boobyer, 77 min), S Williams, A Varney.

Llanelli: Ian Jones; Ian Wyn Jones, S Davies, N Davies, W Proctor; H Williams, R Moon (capt) (H Harries, 77 min); R Evans, A Lamerton, H Williams-Jones, P Davies, P Jones, S Quinnell, E Lewis, M Perego.

Referee: G Simmonds (Cardiff).

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