Rugby Union / Swalec Cup semi-finals: Llanelli at the last

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The Independent Online
Llanelli. . . . . .23

Maesteg. . . . . . .7

FORGET the scoreline and the fact that Llanelli are through to their 12th Welsh Cup final, because Maesteg played all the good rugby at Neath and possibly should have won.

It was a classic case of the underdogs - Maesteg were quoted at 66-1 to win the cup before this semi-final - rising to the occasion and nearly upsetting the odds. It took the cup holders 65 minutes to get their noses in front and a burst of 15 points in the final 10 minutes grossly flattered the Scarlets.

Maesteg did everything right, except they missed two eminently kickable penalties. They first rocked Llanelli, who have won the cup nine times, mid-way through their wind-assisted first half with a try that epitomised an adventurous spirit.

A long pass from Watts to Robbie Boobyer allowed the Maesteg centre to make a nonsense of his twin brother Neil's defence in midfield as he raced over the halfway line. An inside pass to the supporting Paul Thomas allowed the move to carry on to the 22 before the scrum-half Huw Lewis intervened and sent his half-back partner Watts racing to the line for a try that he also converted.

The Maesteg pack grew in confidence and it was only an unfortunate bounce on the stroke of half-time that took some of the gloss off a superb first-half performance by the underdogs.

From a scrum after a Colin Stephens drop-goal attempt fell short, the Llanelli backs lined up on the left and Scott Quinnell and Rupert Moon moved swiftly to the right to create space for Ieuan Evans to score his 44th cup try.

The second half saw Maesteg as inventive and as committed to the tackle. Had Watts landed a 30-metre goal 19 minutes into the second half, his side might have robbed the Scarlets of their dream of four Cup final wins in a row. But it drifted wide, and five minutes later Stephens stepped up to kick a penalty that put the favourites in front.

Llanelli: Tries I Evans, Quinnell, R Evans; Conversion Stephens; Penalty Stephens; Drop Goal Strange. Maesteg: Try Watts; Conversion Watts.

Llanelli: J Strange; I Evans, N Davies, N Boobyer, W Proctor; C Stephens, R Moon (capt); R Evans, A Lamerton, H Williams-Jones, P Davies, A Copsey (P Jones, 78), M Perego, S Quinnell, L Jones.

Maesteg: B Davey; D Williams, R Boobyer, G Wilcox, J Hopkins; M Watts, H Lewis; P Riley, L Gilby, P Pincher, L Harvey (capt), S Thomas, P Buckle, A Williams, P Thomas.

Referee: C Thomas (Swansea).