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Saturday, 21 September, 2002, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Scarlets too strong for battling Ebbw
Llanelli captain Leigh Davies
Leigh Davies played his first game of the season
Celtic League - Pool A
Llanelli 37-25 Ebbw Vale

Llanelli kept in contention for the knock-out stages of the Celtic League but they were made to work hard for their victory by a battling Ebbw Vale at Stradey Park.

The Scarlets picked up a maximum five points haul thanks to a blistering assault just after half-time, but for the rest of the match the visitors caused plenty of problems for their illustrious hosts.

Centre Matthew Watkins crossed for two tries, while wing Mark Jones and Salesi Finau and flanker Dafydd Jones also benefited from a loose game, that was entertaining if not of the highest quality.

  Scoring details
Llanelli (13) 37
Tries: M. Jones, Watkins (2), Finau, D. Jones
Cons: G. Bowen (3)
Pens: G. Bowen (2)
Ebbw Vale (6) 25
Tries: Davies, Shelbourne, N. Edwards
Cons: Shelbourne (2)
Pens: Shelbourne (2)
Ebbw coach Mike Ruddock will take plenty of encouragement from his side's performance.

At one stage they trailed 37-6 and were staring at a comprehensive beating, but they refused to throw in the towel and crossed for three late tries.

After two defeats out of three last year's European semi-finalists desperately needed the win and bonus point to maintain any hopes of making the last eight of the competition.

However, you would not have guessed it in the opening half hour as Llanelli's game lacked any fluency or urgency.

In fact, it was the visitors who enjoyed the better of possession and territory, playing most of the rugby and spearheaded by impressive number eight Will Thomas and lively scrum-half Brian Shelbourne.

The Steelmen deserved far better than a 13-6 deficit at half-time, although there was no doubting the quality of Llanelli's opening try.

Full-back Darren Evans provided the spark to a move that began inside his own half and well-timed passes by wing Mark Jones and centre Leigh Davies saw flanker David Jones race clear to the line.

Matthew Watkins celebrates another Llanelli try
Matthew Watkins celebrates one of his two tries
Club captain Davies was making his first appearance of the season following surgery on a knee problem, although he was making little impact on a well-drilled Vale defence early on.

Fly-half Gareth Owen added two penalties to his earlier conversion to take the Scarlets into a rather flattering 13-0 lead, although two late penalties by Shelbourne kept the visitors in touch at the break.

However, the second period was an altogether different story as Llanelli cut out the errors, upped the tempo and played some scintillating rugby.

They crossed for five tries in all, with centre Watkins claiming his first two league tries for the club, Mark Jones getting a deserved corner score and Finau showing all his power to also cross.

Ebbw Vale hit back at the close with tries of their own by lock Neil Edwards, full-back Richard Davies and Shelbourne, but that was mere consolation.

Scarlets fly-half Gareth Owen finished with 12 points to his name while Vale scrum-half Shelbourne collected a 15-point haul for his efforts.

Llanelli: Garan Evans; Mark Jones, Matthew J Watkins, Leigh Davies (capt), Salesi Finau; Gareth Bowen, Dwayne Peel; Phil John, Marcus Thomas, Martyn Madden, Vernon Cooper, Luke Gross, Dafydd Jones, Ian Boobyer, David Hodges.
Reps: Iestyn Thomas, Robin McBryde, Chris Wyatt, Gareth Williams, Mike Phillips, Stephen Jones, Matt Cardey.

Ebbw Vale: R Davies; R Shorney, M Ridley, P Matthews, N Wakley; S Mitchell, B Shelbourne; P Jones, J Evans, A Black, O Booyse, N Edwards, K Tuipulotu, T Morris, W Thomas.
Reps: C Gay, K Crawford, P Sidoli, P Williams, A Bevan, M Meenan, E Binham.

Referee: David R Davies (Llanbrathach)

Llanelli captain Leigh Davies
"The second-half went quite well"

The final



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