Jones kicks Newport into touch at the last

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The Independent Online

It would take a brave man to wager on the outcome of this season's Welsh-Scottish League. Teams have been strengthened and this opener at Stradey Park clearly illustrated that most sides mean business. Llanelli and Newport squared up to each other from the start, in a tense and highly charged match.

It would take a brave man to wager on the outcome of this season's Welsh-Scottish League. Teams have been strengthened and this opener at Stradey Park clearly illustrated that most sides mean business. Llanelli and Newport squared up to each other from the start, in a tense and highly charged match.

Prior to this season a full-strength Llanelli would have blown Newport away but the visitors, on this display, will be a major force. Llanelli rather fortuitously claimed victory with three Stephen Jones penalties in the closing 10 minutes, having been on the receiving end for the most part from a vibrant Gwent team.

Newport, historically, were one of Wales' leading clubs, but more recently abjectly failed to come to terms with the new demands. Yet they finished last season at a canter, culminating in runners'-up spot to Cardiff. On the back of that run, further recruitment and some serious strides taken to lead the way in their off-the-field activities, optimism abounds at the club.

Llanelli, as ever, are brimful of confidence as they approach an exciting new season. There is much expectation in Wales, with a crop of highly talented youngsters coming up through the ranks to rub shoulders with more established names.

Wales were the only home country not to undertake a serious and challenging summer tour, and that perhaps is refl-ected in a general thirst and appetite which was no more in evidence than in the early set scrums as the front rows soon became acquainted.

In mini-skirmishes Llanelli failed to take advantage of promising attacking positions, largely due to fiercely combat-ive tackling in midfield, and once in Llanelli territory Sean Howarth's jinking run resulted in the fly-half opening the scoring with a simple penalty.

Attack was foremost for both sides. Andy Marinos for Newport and Dafydd James for Llanelli created openings that, with more poise than calm, should have led to tries. Neil Boobyer, James' centre partner, was next on the attack, splitting the Newport midfield for once to force them offside in front of the posts. Stephen Jones kicked the penalty.

Llanelli's cut was answered by Newport's thrust and a superb Emyr Lewis pass sent Matt Mostyn away, only to be squandered by an all too customary loose pass.

Full-back Lewis made sparkling runs for the visitors but his stunning flip pass produced the only try for winger Mostyn 15 minutes into the second half. On the hour Howarth slotted the second penalty for an eight-point lead and Llanelli's composure was rattled again by crunching defensive work by Marinos and Alix Popham. But two Jones penalties set up a rousing final five minutes.

Both teams gave their all in search of the all-important opening victory. A dangerous, ill-disciplined shoulder charge by second-row Simon Rauwilui gave Jones a last-gasp chance which he coolly slotted for a rather fortunate home victory.

Llanelli: M Cardey; M Jones (G Evans, 62), D James, N Boobyer, S Finau; S Jones, G Easterby; P Booth, R McBride, J Davies, C Wyatt, C Gillies, A Bennett, S Quinnell (capt), I Boobyer.

Newport: E. Jones; M Mostyn, J Pritchard, A Marinos, B Breeze (M Llewellyn, 63); S Howarth, D Burn; A Garvey (C Jones, 71), P Young, R Snow, S Rauwilui, I Gough, A Popham, G Teichmann (captain), J Forster.

Referee: N Williams (Bryncoch)

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