Llanelli Scarlets warmed up for the new and historic season with a comfortable win over one of their own Premier Division feeder clubs, Llandovery.
Assistant Coach Nigel Davies was more than pleased with the performance of the regional side's blend of experience and youth. He said:"With a dozen or so players away on World Cup duty for the next three months, the start of the season will give many of the squad a chance to make names for themselves."
Davies congratulated Llandovery on the their commitment, mindful that the likes of hooker Aled Gravell and centre Tal Selly learned a lot on dual registration at Church Bank last season under coach Iestyn Thomas. "Llandovery are always well prepared and will be hard to beat at home in the Premier League and I hope that they, Carmarthen Quins, Narberth and the Llanelli club will continue to give us the base and grounding for many future players who will go on to get regional contracts."
Drovers coach Iestyn Thomas took much encouragement out of the game. "We competed well throughout against a full professional outfit and the scoreline did scant justice to our commitment, work rate and chances to score. With a modicum of luck and a little more steadiness, we could have got two or three tries but we could not hope to match the speed of the Scarlets behind the scrum."
Thomas was also pleased with the performance of the XV in the last quarter when they were encamped in the Scarlets 22 for long periods and were then hit for a 100 metre breakaway try. "At least we know that fitness levels are more than satisfactory" quipped the coach.
After the easy opposition on the tour to Slovenia, the Scarlets had to have their wits about them against the Drovers but superior pace eventually took them through in style in front of a good crowd of over 1000. There was much interest in the form of the youngest of the Quinnell brothers, flanker Gavin, and he put in some storming runs as well as being on hand to grab the fifth of the away tries at the end of the second of four quarters played. The young Scarlets had wise heads around them in prop John Davies, the old blockbuster himself Salesi Finau on the wing and the Easterby brothers Simon at No 8 and Guy at scrum half, both of whom had been temporarily released by Ireland. Allied to that experience, was the speed of full back Barry Davies, the cutting edge of Tal Selly and the good line out work of lock Bryn Griffiths and it was to Llandovery's credit and fitness that they not only kept the score to under 50 but even had slightly the better of the last quarter.
The Drovers were also worthy of more than the early solitary try, made by exciting prospect, full back Ricky Williams and finished by wing Ioan Davies. The efforts of the front row of the two Andrew Jones' and the mobile Dorian Williams, back row men Wayne Beynon, Luka Plesko and Aberystwyth import Eifion Gwynne deserved better reward whilst scrum half Rob Walters came close to crossing on two occasions. And the Scarlets defence, too, well marshalled by Guy Easterby had to get down to serious tackling for a period of ten minutes late on when Llandovery threw everything at them.
That said, the speed of the Sospans counter attacking brought them some delightful tries at regular intervals, starting in the third minute when centre Gavin Evans crossed and ending with a very long range sortie from 100 metres, finished by wing Lee Byrne. In between, Finau with two, Byrne, Quinnell, Burn and Gravell scored tries to remind the Drovers who were the professionals on the park.
Starting line up: Ricky Williams; Rhodri Thomas, Christiaan Roets, Matthew Lewis, Ioan Davies; Rhys Phillips, Rob Walters; Dorian Williams, Andrew R Jones, Andrew B Jones (Capt), Iwan Davies, Arwel Davies, Luka Plesko, Matthew Monaghan, Wayne Beynon
Replacements used at various stages: G Jenkins, Barrie Thomas, Tracy Lewis, Ifan Evans, G Morgan, Geraint Jones, Hywel James, Dylan Pugh, Dennis Pugh, Dai Giles, Eifion Gwynne, S Edwards
Llandovery Scorers: Try: Ioan Davies; Con: Ricky Williams