Quickstep Proctor the Scarlets' lever

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The Independent Online

When the big stage beckons, then enter Llanelli. There is no better team in the land to lap up the spotlight graciously and with some pomp than the Scarlets as they progress into their 15th final of the Welsh Rugby Union Challenge Cup.

Their magnificent early onslaught pulverised Ebbw Vale into submission and induced upon the hardy men of Gwent a rugby version of post-traumatic stress.

The pre-match hypothesis that Llanelli would not be as hungry for victory as Ebbw Vale was swiftly dismissed as Scott Quinnell, Stephen Jones and Matt Cardey led the Scarlet forays, and the captain, Wayne Proctor, laid claim to rugby's quickest try by pinning his name to the score-sheet within the first 10 seconds.

The match was effectively over at the interval, but they reorganised and gallant Ebbw Vale responded with three tries of their own in the second half.

The greenish pastures of the Millennium Stadium were an inviting stage for open rugby and the ideal setting for this double-header cup semi-final. A rugby extravaganza for the public, who are still lured by the Millennium Stadium effect as 30,000-plus assembled for the action. And action is certainly what they got. Straight from the kick-off, a rather laboured Jonathan Williams' clearance kick was charged down by Proctor, who gave a new meaning to leading from the front. The ball rebounded sweetly and Proctor claimed the try. Stephen Jones converted.

Jones then scythed through the Ebbw Vale defence to set up Llanelli's second try, as his forceful run set up the platform from which the beaming prop Martin Madden emerged, claiming the ball and the score. Jones, again, converted.

Llanelli's third score after 20 minutes mirrored the previous ones with Dafydd James the provider and Quinnell the recipient, and, yes, Jones converted. At 21-0, the contest was no more. This was now about Ebbw Vale saving face.

That face was further slapped three minutes later as Chris Wyatt claimed the attacking line-out for Quinnell to send the hooker, Robin McBryde, hurtling over at the corner for a well-worked try. Llanelli temporarily lost prop Madden on the half-hour to the blood-bin, but still managed to add to Ebbw's troubles as Neil Boobyer exploited fullback Williams' handling error for Proctor to cross unopposed for his second try. For the record, Ebbw had turned up and managed two penalty goals from their fly-half Shaun Connor to give Llanelli an unassailable 31-6 interval advantage.

The break gave the Ebbw Vale management another shot at selection as they made five substitutions. It paid early dividends as their all-round game improved and Jason Strange kicked a penalty with his first touch. Taumalolo seemed happier and more effective full-back and the whole team responded.

This was Llanelli's party, though, and some good, close contact work gave prop Phil Booth the chance to cross at the posts. Jones converted.

If Llanelli had dominated the first hour, then the last quarter to their credit belonged to Ebbw Vale. With Taumalolo, Brad Clark and replacement Guy Easterby on song, they scored three superb tries through Rhys Shorney, twice, and one for Lee Banks.

Ebbw Vale: J Williams (S Taumalolo, 40); R Shorney, S Taumalolo (S John, 40), J Hawker, A Wagstaff; S Connor (J Strange, 40), R Smith (G Easterby, 40); I Thomas ( A Phillips, 57), L Phillips ( A Peacock, 40), A Metcalfe, G Llewellyn (L Banks, 40), K Faletau, N Budgett, M Jones (capt; P Williams. 57), B Clark.

Llanelli: M Cardey; W Proctor (capt; M Jones, 70), D James, N Boobyer, S Finau; S Jones, R Moon (P Horgan, 40); P Booth, R McBryde, M Madden, C Wyatt, C Gillies, S Easterby, S Quinnell (V Copper, 63), I Boobyer.

Referee: D Bevan (WRU).