A second half collapse left Tigers embarrassed in Llanelli as they surrendered a four point lead at half time to lose 40-19. First half tries from Waldrom, Forsyth and a penalty try were wiped out as Llanelli scored three tries of their own in a ten minute purple patch.
The embarrassment was not only on the score board though as Tigers scrum disintegrated when young Ryan Bower and Fraser Balmain were introduced to the extent that Balmain was singled out, rather harshly, for a yellow card and the scrums reduced to uncontested as Stankovich and Mulipola were “injured”. This is worrying either way; either they actually are injured or we’ve basically just wimped out of actually playing the game. This was a good example of the influence of the second rows on the scrum, as much as I rate Harry Wells he won’t yet have the shoving power of Louis Deacon, after all when Deacon was 19 he didn’t have the power he does now.
The first half was actually pretty good from Tigers, though hardly one for the ages. After finally getting our hands on the ball we won a penalty that Mat Tait pushed to the corner; the maul was set and Thomas Waldrom was powerfully driven over from 5 metres. Persistent infringing kept Llanelli in the game and they had built a 12-5 lead by the next time Tigers had the ball in the Llanelli 22. Hooker and captain Emyr Phillips was binned for coming in the side and dragging a maul down, then Andy Fenby was binned for deliberately knock on when Tigers had a 5 man over lap. The referee would have been well within his rights to go under the posts there and then but it didn’t take long as one powerful scrum from Tigers saw the referee march under the posts.
The third try was very well worked. Again a penalty was kicked to touch but this time the ball was used wide. Waldrom and Chuter took it up before the ball went wide right to Goneva. He broke a tackle and set up a ruck just inches short; Tigers went wide left this time and Llanelli were outnumbered, Andy Forsyth walking in untouched.
At half time both sides swapped a prop; Llanelli brought on Fijian captain Deacon Manu whilst for Tigers Fraser Balmain replaced Boris Stankovich. This ended Tigers scrum dominance but the real problems didn’t emerge until Mulipola left the field injured and Ryan Bower found himself in the unfamiliar position of loosehead. Rob Andrew was binned for taking a man out in the lineout, then Balmain was binned for persistent standing up in the scrum.
This was when Llanelli decisively pulled away. Their first try was very fortunate on two counts; first it came from a terrific counter ruck from Tigers, second the man who played the ball was part of the ruck and therefore offside. With all our men committed to the ruck Llanelli were able to run it in unopposed. The Welshmen’s second try was a simple cutting of an angle by full back Gareth Owen, slicing through the Tigers line and running in from 40 metres. The third came just a couple of minutes later and will be one of Geordan Murphy’s less memorable moments of his 400 odd first class career. A nothing kick through seemed to like it was just running into touch but centre Nick Reynolds didn’t give up on it and got a foot to it to keep it in. Murphy now flat footed was beaten to the touch down and Tigers embarrassment was complete.
This was meant to be a dress rehearsal for London Welsh next week and keep the wining momentum up. On those terms this game was a miserable failure.