Rugby Union: Scarlets charge to first half of Welsh double: Llanelli win Heineken League

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Llanelli. .47

Pontypridd. .3

NEVER mind the tension of last night's title occasion, the Scarlets' runners stretched out with all the verve and occasional abandon that have characterised their breathless and breathtaking surge to Welsh rugby's Heineken championship.

Stradey Park was en fete, 12,000 people present not only to see Llanelli win the league after finishing runners-up in its first two seasons but also to collect their tickets for the Cup final against Neath at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday week.

Outside The Gnoll no one would bet against a Scarlet double. They have racked up try upon try, point upon point in winning their past eight First Division fixtures while all around them their rivals have faltered. With one, academic game to go - coincidentally at Neath on Saturday - they have amassed 131 tries and 870 points at extraordinary averages of more than six and 40 per game.

As it happens, last night's opponents had the next-best run of league victories, five, but as soon as Llanelli had done the softening-up of a side for whom macho hardness is an article of faith, Pontypridd's chance was gone. Their propensity for conceding penalties, not least for foul play, consistently undermines a team with the lowest tries-against record in the First Division until they faced Llanelli.

Moreover, they have tended to give the Scarlets trouble, not least in drawing the league encounter in November. But Llanelli had Pontypridd's measure in a Cup quarter-final this month and further exploited that superiority with the seven tries that took them to the championship.

Stradey had already given standing ovations to Laurance Delaney, the former Wales prop, on his 500th appearance and Gareth Jenkins, their retiring coach, and finally they offered one to the entire team, who have given them such fabulous entertainment as well as Heineken's silverware this season.

Last night Llanelli began with two Colin Stephens penalties which took him to 300 points for the season. They continued with two Wayne Proctor tries, produced by dazzling handling no less by forwards than backs.

Pontypridd had moments when they might have added to Neil Jenkins's first-half penalty but whenever Llanelli won decent ball and strung together more than a pass or two, they looked capable of scoring. Anthony Copsey, Ieuan Evans and Emyr Lewis did so before Evans with a final flourish brought the house down.

Llanelli: Tries Proctor 2, I Evans 2, I Jones, Copsey, Lewis; Conversions Stephens 3; Penalties Stephens 2. Pontypridd: Penalty Jenkins.

Llanelli: I Jones; I Evans, N Davies, N Boobyer, W Proctor; C Stephens, R Moon (capt); R Evans, D Fox (A Lamerton, 42), L Delaney, P Davies (P Jones, 74), A Copsey, M Perego, E Lewis, L Jones.

Pontypridd: R Morgan; S Cody, C Jones, S Lewis (C Bowen, 39), D Hughes; N Jenkins, Paul John (capt); M Smith (N Bezanie, 53), Phil John, M Powell, J Scarlett (N Jones, h/t), M Rowley, G Owen, M Lloyd, D Earland.

Referee: R Davies (Dunvant).

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