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Late Slip-Up For Ulster Ravens In Llanelli

Late Slip-Up For Ulster Ravens In Llanelli

The Ulster Ravens drew 21-21 with Llanelli in the sides’ British & Irish Cup Pool C tie at Parc y Scarlets on Friday. Neil Doak’s side recovered well from a forgettable first half display to move 21-14 ahead, before the Welsh outfit struck for a late seven-pointer.

BRITISH & IRISH CUP – POOL C: Friday, February 12

LLANELLI 21 ULSTER RAVENS 21, Parc y Scarlets

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Scorers: Llanelli: Tries: Rhys Thomas, Aaron Shingler; Con: Dan Newton; Pens: Dan Newton 3
Ulster Ravens: Tries: Paul Marshall, Mark McCrea; Con: Ian Humphreys; Pens: Niall O’Connor 2, Ian Humphreys

Ulster Ravens opened the scoring with a 40-metre penalty from out-half Niall O’Connor in the tenth minute, but Llanelli number 10 Dan Newton quickly replied with one of his own at the other end.

O’Connor was on target with another long range effort in the 17th minute, but no sooner had the Ulstermen put their noses in front, their discipline slipped, they strayed offside allowing Newton to tie the scores once again at 6-6.

The home side took the lead for the first time in the 24th minute after Ravens scrum half Cillian Willis was penalised for a high tackle. Newton bisected the uprights to take his side ahead.

The opening exchanges had been littered with infringements, and in the 33rd minute referee David Walker had seen enough and yellow carded lock Ryan Caldwell for collapsing a maul.

As the Ravens struggled towards half-time with 14 men, the home side started to lift their game and took play deep into the Ravens’ 22.

On the cusp of half-time, the Llanelli pack set up a maul close to the Ravens line, with tighthead prop Rhys Thomas driven over for an unconverted try.

The Ravens turned round 14-6 down at half-time, needing a big improvement in performance for the second half and Ed O’Donoghue and Willie Faloon were introduced.

Paul Marshall also replaced Willis at scrum half in the 54th minute, and the introduction of fresh legs seemed to perk up the Ulster performance.

It was now Llanelli’s turn to infringe, causing referee Walker to brandish his yellow card for a second time – on this occasion, Llanelli flanker Nic Cudd was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes.

The Ravens took full advantage, lifting their game and they started to press the home defence more and more.

With just eight minutes remaining, the visitors struck. Good work by the pack secured turnover ball, allowing winger Tommy Seymour put in a lovely chip ahead.

As the home defence struggled to clear the danger, replacement Marshall arrived and grubbered the ball free, he managed to control the ball beautifully and gathered across the line for an excellent try.

His fellow replacement Ian Humphreys failed to add the extras, leaving the Ravens trailing by 14-11.

From the restart, the visitors took play straight back into the home 22 where the pack pushed Llanelli onto their line through a series of well-controlled pick and drives.

In the 74th minute as the home defence struggled to hold the Ravens at bay, centre Mark McCrea burst through to score a well-worked try. Humphreys kicked the conversion to take the Ulstermen into an 18-14 lead.

The Ravens, who brought on recent Ireland ‘A’ debutant Nigel Brady, looked to have secured victory when Humphreys converted a penalty goal in the 79th minute to put seven points between the sides. 

But, as the clock ticked into injury-time, the home side mounted one final attack. As play centred on the edge of the Ravens 22, Llanelli flanker Aaron Shingler burst clear, he brushed past one weak tackle as he headed for the Ravens line.

With the whitewash in his sights, he got past a second attempted tackle and managed to smash his way over to score a dramatic last-minute try. Newton added the conversion to draw his side level and the final whistle blew.

This was certainly a bitter pill for Ulster Ravens to swallow. They are top of the Pool C table, with a two-point lead. Their chief rivals London Welsh host the Bedford Blues on Saturday.

Speaking after the drawn game, Ulster Ravens manager Gary Longwell said: “We are all bitterly disappointed with the result. It was a lethargic first half performance, and then we did well in the second half to assume control of the game with two well-taken scores.

“The lack of concentration in the final minutes was difficult to take after doing so much hard work. We have to learn from this, these games are all about bringing the young players on, and they have certainly learned from this game this evening.

“We now move on and look forward to London Welsh visiting Ravenhill on February 26, it is certain to be a crucial game for us.”

LLANELLI: Johnny Lewis; Jason Howells, Nick Reynolds, Chris Keenan, Dale Ford; Dan Newton, Tavis Knoyle; Shaun Hopkins, Craig Hawkins (capt), Rhys Thomas, Adam Powell, Vernon Cooper, Aaron Shingler, Nic Cudd, Duane Eager.

Replacements: Jamie Corsi, Rhys Lawrence, Rhydian Geriat, Nathan White, Ben Morgan, Justin James, Steve Martin.

ULSTER RAVENS: Jamie Smith; Tommy Seymour, Mark McCrea, Ian Whitten, Timoci Nagusa; Niall O’Connor, Cillian Willis; Bryan Young, Andi Kyriacou (capt), Declan Fitzpatrick, Neil McComb, Ryan Caldwell, Thomas Anderson, David Pollock, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Adam Macklin, Ed O’Donoghue, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Ian Humphreys, Darren Cave.

Referee: David Walker (Scotland)