EBBW VALE 17, LLANELLI 34
Stephen Jones guided Llanelli into a 16th final in 31 years - but only after
Ebbw Vale had given them a real run for their money in the Principality
Cup semi-final at the Millennium Stadium.
The Scarlets produced a late flourish to storm into the May 18 showpiece
occasion with Mark Jones wrapping it all up deep into injury time with try number four.
Ebbw Vale, who have now lost all six of their cup meetings with Llanelli,
struck the first blow after just six minutes through a Gareth Cull
Llanelli fly half Stephen Jones, who ended up with 14 points, levelled
matters and then converted a rare try from the lock Vernon Cooper that was created by good combined work from Leigh Davies and Luke Gross.
However, it was Vale who were proving the more slick of the sides and when
they moved the ball wide on 20 minutes, 18 stone lock Ockert Booyse found
himself in possession on the Llanelli 22. The big man got his legs pumping and
scattered the last line of defence to remind Llanelli they had a game on
Cull landed his second penalty just before the break but their joy was short
lived - six minutes into the second half Llanelli coach Gareth Jenkins swopped one international scrum half for another - and Ireland's Guy Easterby immediately made it a master stroke.
His first bit of the action was to be fed the ball from a scrum by No 8
Dave Hodges and he shredded the Vale defence for a try after only 48 seconds.
Jones converted but Cull kept the Steelmen going with his third and fourth penalty goals - the second a real monster effort - to send the contest into the last quarter with the sides deadlocked at 17-17.
An attempt to run the ball out of deep defence came to grief for Vale when the unfortunate Booyse dropped the ball and
predatory flanker Ian Boobyer pounced on the loose ball to score for Jones to
Jones added a penalty four minutes later and then converted Jones' late try to seal Llanelli's place in what they hope will be the first of two finals at the Millennium Stadium next month.
Ebbw Vale: Try: Ockert Booyse; Pens: Gareth Cull 4.
Llanelli: Tries: Vernon Cooper, Guy Easterby, Ian Boobyer, M Jones; Cons: Stephen Jones
4; Pens: Stephen Jones 2
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.