Llanelli will be favoured to bring down the curtain on 31 years of the Welsh Cup in its present format with a record 12th win in the final against Newport in a fortnight. The second of the back-to-back semi-finals at the Millennium Stadium was in effect over by half-time, after a try by the Wales fly-half Stephen Jones, and one for each of the free-running back three, emphasised the Scarlets' superiority. Pushing effortlessly on from their interval lead of 27-5, Llanelli played like a team in their pomp, which makes the pain of their recent Heineken Cup exit against Perpignan all the more acute.
That defeat at Stradey Park nine days ago was largely put down to the early sending off of the Wales flanker, Dafydd Jones. Yesterday Llanelli stayed at the full complement throughout, and ran through their full repertoire of back-line moves, aided in no small part by some woeful work at the line-out by Cardiff.
Next season, with the five new regional teams up and running in Wales, this competition will be contested at its highest level by the 16 semi-professional clubs in the new Premier division. The all-singing, all-dancing regions, among them the full-time incarnations of Cardiff and Llanelli, will be otherwise occupied.
The quintet of head coaches, including David Young and Gareth Jenkins from Cardiff and Llanelli respectively, have already been appointed. In the next few days they and their colleagues – Lynn Howells (Pontypridd/Bridgend), Mike Ruddock (Newport/Ebbw Vale) and Lyn Jones (Neath/Swansea) – will present wish-lists of up to 26 players per squad for consideration by the powers-that-be.
So a vote of confidence or otherwise will be heading the way of those who yesterday mustered a crowd of around 17,000 at the Millennium. The role to be played by non-Wales qualified players such as Llanelli's Ireland internationals, Simon and Guy Easterby, is unclear.
Here they were highly influential against a Cardiff team missing six injured forwards. In addition, Peter Rogers, the former Wales loose-head prop, had better not wait by his letterbox for an offer of a contract as a hooker on this showing. He lost half a dozen throws in the first half – most of them gobbled up at the tail by Simon Easterby. As a result, the head-to-head at No 10 between Stephen Jones and Iestyn Harris never got started. The latter also missed three kicks at goal, prompting "what a waste of money" jibes from the Scarlets' supporters. Harris's undoubted quality, in the range of his passing and appreciation of space, is of limited value behind a back-pedalling pack.
Llanelli were rapidly into their stride and led 15-0 after 13 minutes. Stephen Jones potted the first penalty of his 19-point haul, then added his try to one by the full-back, Barry Davies. The first swept the width of the field, the other was made by Guy Easterby cutting through Cardiff's flimsy cover behind a line-out.
Pieter Muller got a try back for Cardiff, but Garan Evans, on his 250th appearance for Llanelli, and Mark Jones continued the largely one-way traffic. In the second half, two more backs, Leigh Davies and Matthew Watkins, got in on the act, and Rhys Williams's 70-metre touchline dash for Cardiff's second try in the 78th minute was no more than a tiny blot on the Scarlet-coloured landscape.
Cardiff: N Robinson (D Dewdney, 67); R Williams, J Robinson, P Muller, C Morgan; I Harris, R Powell (R Smith, 74); K Fourie (J Yapp, 59), P Rogers, B Evans, H Senekal, J Tait, R Sowden-Taylor (J Brownrigg, 67), E Lewis, M Williams (capt).
Llanelli: B Davies; G Evans, M Watkins, L Davies (capt), M Jones (S Finau, 52); S Jones (G Bowen, 74), G Easterby (M Phillips, 71); I Thomas, R McBryde (A Gravelle, 71), J Davies (M Madden, 66), V Cooper, C Wyatt (L Gross, 52), D Hodges, S Quinnell, S Easterby (I Boobyer, 74).
Referee: N Whitehouse (Gower).
- More about:
- Cardiff (city)
- County Of Cardiff
- Heineken Cup
- Millennium Stadium
- South Wales