Quins edge out Llanelli in close contest
FOR the second time this month, Llanelli and Carmarthen Quins served up a tight, tense encounter at Parc y Scarlets, but it was the visitors who this time emerged with the spoils.
In a role reversal from the British & Irish Cup qualifier, it was Llanelli who were left to rue a glut of missed opportunities, while some gritty Quins defence in the second half allowed them to hold on for a win which keeps them top of the Principality Premiership table.
Both sides went into the match having won their opening game of the Premiership campaign with Quins keen to avenge a one-point loss in their previous encounter.
Llanelli butchered a glorious chance to claim the opening try on 14 minutes when flanker Dan Thomas was faced with a three-on-one opportunity 30 yards out. The young openside dummied and went for the score himself only for Quins full-back Howard Thomas to track back and pull off a brilliant try-saving tackle just a couple of metres out from his own line.
Instead, it was the Quins who were first on the scoreboard with a slick score for flanker Will Boyde.
Scrum-half Rhodri Wells turned defence into attack with a quick tap and dart upfield and from the attacking platform that followed, half-back partner Craig Evans picked out wing Tom Rees with an inch-perfect cross kick and he did well to twist out of the tackle and find Boyde on his inside for the try.
Evans converted, then landed a touchline penalty on half an hour as Llanelli fell foul of referee Neil Hennessy at the breakdown.
It was proving a frustrating evening for last season's runners-up with handling errors and infringements preventing them putting any fluency into their game.
They did get on the board through a Josh Lewis penalty on 33 minutes, then levelled matters with a try two minutes from the interval by flanker Duane Eager.
It owed a lot to some dazzling running from teenage full-back Steffan Evans, who was a constant threat from deep, with flanker Thomas doing well to find his back-row buddy with the scoring pass.
The parity didn't last for long, though, as Quins claimed their second try of the night a couple of minutes after the restart when centre Dylan Morgans finished off a well-worked overlap out wide. Evans converted superbly and the visitors were back in the ascendancy again.
Lewis pulled a penalty back for Llanelli, then another from close to halfway, as the deficit was reduced to a point.
Quins had prop Gareth Thomas sin-binned at a defensive scrum, but showed steely defensive resolve to hold out, then Llanelli centre Jonny Lewis and Quins lock Carwyn Jones also saw yellow as Mr Hennessy started brandishing the cards.
A penalty from wing Gareth Walters made it 20-19 with 14 minutes to go, but he then missed with two chances to snatch the victory – one from long-range in the final minute – as Quins held out for the points.