BRITISH & IRISH CUP
STUART CAMERON reports from Parc y Scarlets
If you bet on Gala leaking 24 points in the first eight minutes at Llanelli you would have been offered very long odds.
But, unbelievably, that is exactly what happened on Saturday and everyone inside the stadium was in shock.
Amazingly, Gala came back to within three points early in the second half, but it was Llanelli who got over the finishing line, winning 38-28 in the most amazing of matches in which 66 points were scored in the first 50 minutes, but nothing at all in the last half-hour.
Within 20 seconds, Llanelli had won a penalty and up stepped full back Jordan Williams to slot the three points. Not a good start for the Maroons, but it got worse a minute later when speedy wing Bowdy Davies found space down the left and ran in for the first try in the game, converted by Williams.
Gala, playing in black and white jerseys, had found themselves 10-0 up seven days earlier at Netherdale against London Scottish inside eight minutes, but nothing would have prepared them for what happened in that same timeframe in South Wales. Davies raced in for his second try two minutes later – again goaled by Williams – and on eight minutes he popped up on the right and could have completed one of the quickest hat-tricks in history. But he unselfishly passed to scrum half Aled Davies who scored, converted by Williams again.
Luckily Gala re-grouped and when they had the opportunity to kick to touch following a penalty we wondered if they would attempt that trademark move which has brought them two tries so far this season. And they did. The long ball to Euan Dods at the back, popped down to scrum half George Graham, who ran in for a try under the posts. Millar converted and on 14 minutes the healthy Gala support had something to cheer. Llanelli scored a fourth try through Nathan White, converted by Williams, on 20 minutes, to restore their 24-point lead, then an almighty dust-up saw two Welshmen and Gala’s Luke Pettie sent to the sin bin. The Borderers took advantage of the one-man overlap to score two converted tries before the break from Craig Robertson and then a penalty try – Millar kicking the extras.
Just after half-time Robertson intercepted to score Gala’s fourth try, and Millar’s conversion brought them to within three points – an incredible comeback.
Llanelli’s Owen Williams scored a try on 50 minutes – again converted by his full back – which took the score to 38-28. Remarkably, the final 30 minutes were scoreless.
It was an experience that all the Gala players will learn from. They were not helped by some of the decisions from the Irish referee, and their line-outs didn’t work, coughing up too much possession, but they showed enough character so that the return leg at Netherdale on January 12 will surely be worth the wait.
Coach George Graham said: “We were shell-shocked in the first eight minutes, but the character the boys showed after that was immense.
“I don’t think we deserved to win the game because we did a lot wrong, but I’m pleased with them.
“I wonder what would have happened if we hadn’t given them a 24-point start?”
Gala: A. McLean; G. Somerville, C. Auld, B. Turner, C. Robertson; L. Millar, G. Graham; L. Pettie, R. Anderson, E. McQuillin, C. Weir, O. Palepo, G. Graham, S. Cairns, E. Dods. Subs: C. MacKintosh, C. Keddie, C. Dods, J. King, G.Young, K. Mein, D. Owenson.