Two long-range tries handed defending Welsh champions Llanelli a confidence-boosting win over struggling Newport yesterday.
The Scarlets coach, Gareth Jenkins, picked his strongest side after the second-string team fell to Ebbw Vale last weekend, and the vision and goal-kicking of the international fly-half Stephen Jones and the pace of his outside backs proved the difference.
The loss extends Newport's miserable season and the coaching team of Leigh Jones and Richard Hill will have to come up with a strike weapon or it will be a long, painful season at Rodney Parade. Their United Nations pack secures enough possession to win matches, but everything goes pear-shaped after the ball leaves the scrum-half's hands.
Newport failed to take advantage of the wind at their backs in the first half and Stephen Jones opened the scoring with an 11th-minute penalty. Stradey Park fans were on their feet in the 18th minute when the young Llanelli full-back, Barry Davies, attacked from inside his own 22. He linked with the former Newport centre Matthew Watkins, who showed blistering pace to cross the halfway line. The prop John Davies drove towards the line, before the ball was sent wide left to the winger Mark Jones, who went over untouched. Stephen Jones – who appeared in the try-scoring movement three times – converted from the touchline.
The Newport fly-half, Jason Strange, kept his side in touch with two penalty goals, but at 6-10 down at the break, the Black and Ambers were behind the eight-ball as they turned into the wind. The four-point margin became 11 points when a loose pass from the Newport replacement Jon Pritchard fell into the hands of Stephen Jones. He slipped the ball back to Watkins who belted it downfield, and the winger Garan Evans won a 75-metre race for the touchdown.
Newport made things interesting with a try to Rod Snow, converted by Strange, with eight minutes left on the clock, but Stephen Jones kicked a third penalty goal to allow his side to cruise home to a 10-point victory.
Llanelli: Tries M Jones, G Evans; Penalties S Jones 3; Conversions S Jones 2. Newport: Try R Snow; Penalties J Strange 2; Conversion J Strange.
Llanelli: B Davies (N Boobyer, 75); G Evans, M Watkins, T Selley, M Jones; S Jones, D Peel (G Easterby, 75); I Thomas, R McBryde, J Davies, V Cooper (capt), L Gross, S Easterby, D Jones (I Boobyer, 75), D Hodges.
Newport: P Montgomery; H Luscombe, J Jones-Hughes (J Pritchard, 41), A Marinos, A Cadwallader; J Strange, D Burn (O Tonu'u, 52); R Snow, J Richards, C Anthony (A Garvey, 60), S Raiwalui (capt) (A Powell, 72), M Voyle, I Gough, J Forster (G Gravell, 60), S Ojomoh.
Referee: Colin Saunders (WRU).