LLANELLI WIN CRU­CIAL FIGHT

Llanelli Star - - RUGBY PLAY-OFF -

PON­TY­POOL’S dreams of pro­mo­tion were dashed as Llanelli se­cured their own Pre­mier­ship status with a 27-16 vic­tory in the play-off match at Aber­avon’s Tal­bot Ath­letic Ground.

The two fa­mous Welsh clubs went head to head in this one-off en­counter, with Cham­pi­onship win­ners Pon­ty­pool des­per­ate to fi­nally make the step up after years of knock­ing on the door.

But while the boot of Kieran Meek put them in a solid po­si­tion after 40 min­utes, tries from Tay­lor Davies, Ryan Con­beer and Lee Rees left them ul­ti­mately dis­ap­pointed while keep­ing the his­toric West Wales club from drop­ping down to the Cham­pi­onship next sea­son.

The first half was a tense af­fair, full of nig­gle as both teams largely can­celled each other out.

After just six min­utes of ac­tion Llanelli lock Chris Long was in the sin­bin after be­ing yel­low-carded for a de­lib­er­ate knock-on.

The first try-scor­ing opportunit­y came after 25 min­utes but Pooler winger Lloyd Lewis was un­able to gather a bounc­ing ball when the line was at his mercy.

Nev­er­the­less, Pon­ty­pool kept going closer in the open­ing half hour and got their re­ward.

Llanelli scrum-half Gareth Ge­orge was charged down by sec­ond-row Cur­tis Gre­gory, who found Darren Hughes with an off­load but the hooker was dragged down just short.

Llanelli full-back Kal­lum Evans was sin-binned, though, as his side scram­bled back to cover and Meek kicked Pon­ty­pool ahead.

Llanelli pushed for a quick response and they nearly had it. Winger Ryan Davies dived over in the cor­ner, only for eagle-eyed of­fi­cials to spot him drop­ping the ball as he leapt through the air.

A cou­ple of min­utes later, Pon­ty­pool pun­ished them when Meek dou­bled Pon­ty­pool’s ad­van­tage with another ef­fort from the tee.

Even­tu­ally, Llanelli got their score. A driv­ing line-out saw Davies pop up with the ball at the base. Pry­die con­verted from a tight an­gle to give them a lead at the break.

The sec­ond half, in­cred­i­bly, saw them start with another knock-on over the line, Con­beer los­ing it in contact as he dived for the line after danc­ing past several de­fend­ers.

They were made to pay for be­ing so waste­ful as Meek pushed Pon­ty­pool in front with the boot once more six min­utes later after Tom Price was pe­nalised at the break­down. A lon­grange ef­fort from Pry­die pushed the West Wales club back in front a cou­ple of min­utes later and Llanelli never looked back.

Wales in­ter­na­tional Pry­die, who this time last year was in­volved in the PRO14 play-offs with the Scar­lets ahead of a tour to Ar­gentina and North Amer­ica, nudged Llanelli a lit­tle fur­ther ahead 10 min­utes later with another fault­less penalty.

And then two quick tries took the game away from the Cham­pi­onship out­fit to end their hopes of pro­mo­tion

First, Con­beer crossed after latch­ing on to St­ef­fan Hughes’s grub­ber.

And then the try of the night: neat in­ter­play from Pry­die and Kalum Evans saw Rees run in their third score from halfway.

To their credit, Pon­ty­pool never gave in and got a de­served con­so­la­tion when flanker Scott Matthews dived over from close range.

Llanelli push over to score a cru­cial try against Pon­ty­pool at the Tal­bot Ath­letic Ground.

Ryan Con­beer of Llanelli cel­e­brates scor­ing a try.

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