The Llanelli Warriors had a highly successful 1st tour to Ireland, recording an impressive victory at Musgrave Park and getting an important insight for the World Tournament next June.
The Warriors opponents – Sunday Wells Rebels are hosting the 3rd Mixed Ability World Tournament in June 2020 and so this was a crucial part of the Warriors preparations. Their hosts also have an impressive pedigree in the World Tournament, winning the 1st and finalists in the 2nd so the Warriors knew it was be a formidable challenge.
The Welsh side got the perfect start when Johnathon Kearney picked off an interception and crossed for an early score that settled the nerves.
The Warriors had the better of the 1st half. The back three of John, Day and Anthony tended to return any kicks with interest whilst up front Richard Evans was clearly up for it and led an aggressive pack where Jordan Jones was outstanding.
The pressure was turned to points through debutant centre Rhys Evans and stand off Jamie Evans as the backs benefited from the packs hard work.
The second half saw the Rebels come back into contention. No surprise at one of Munster’s home grounds to see the driving maul used effectively and the Irish team ground their way menacingly about the pitch.
They scored one try directly from a maul and another from the aftermath as the forwards drove hard. As the game entered the final quarter the Warriors lead was reduced to 7 points with the Rebels pressing. Another maul was driven over but this time the Warriors managed to deny the hosts the score. This gave the Warriors some breathing space although Lee Rowlands, on at full back for his 200th appearance, was still required to make a crucial tackle to halt another threatening move.
With the clock ticking down the Warriors finally made the game safe when the backs swept through and Nathan Murphy touched down.
It was the Warriors best performance of the new season, resulting in their 1st win from 3 attempts and they came away from Cork with a significant scalp. It bodes well for their return in June though they realise that will be a significantly bigger challenge.
Warriors XV: Tom Edwards (Rhys Evans, Lee Rowlands), Simon Day (Dan John), Johnathan Kearney (Adam Fussell), Nathan Murphy (Ben Winstanley), James Anthony, Jamie Evans (Arwel Thomas), Craig James, Dan Grinter (Cpt) (Mark Lewis), Richard Hapus (Youseff El Tawab), Colin Tacon (Huw Jenkins), Lloyd Crawley, John Horwood (Darren Pollitt), Jordan Jones, Tomos Hall, Gwilym Lewis
Tries: Kearney, Rh Evans, J Evans, Murphy (2 good Irish names there!)
An impressive performance from the Warriors, especially considering some great performances in tour mode on the long good Friday of travelling to Cork. 2 or 3 people having to have a half time hurl was testimoney to that and kick off delayed and still players turning up late.
Another famous ground on the Warriors CV - Musgrave Park where Australia have lost and even FC Bayern Munich couldn't get a win (yes of course it was the side pitch).
Despite several hangovers the Warriors certainly looked the part with face paint ranging from ferocious to flowers. Luckily tour Captain Dan 1 Dap and best pal Lloydipop were fresh and Gringo didn't really carry through his threat of drinking. Dirty Dan & Fussy were the main casualties of the night before with 1 of them even failing to get a replacement while he 'lost his lunch' during play.
Hapus and Polly spent the game shouting at everyone to COME ON which backfired on Rich a bit when he was caught napping for the Rebels 2nd score although he did have a decent game generally and probably didn't deserve to have to spend post match with a pair of pants on his head. The Dicks of the day finalists were the 2 outside halves. Jamie looked to have this nailed on (for the 79th consecutive match) with his slow motion clearance kick but Arwel obviously saw that and said "hold my water bottle" as when he came on turned everything he touched to pwp.
Villian of the day went to Nathan Murphy who could have put 200 man Lee Rowlands in for a try but scored himself whilst Gringo edged out Fussy, Milgi and Kearney as Seren y Gem.
The Rebels proved great hosts even if Ireland had the cheek to win the international and it looks like we have handed on the concept of Tour Slave to another club.
What goes on tour stays on tour except for the Warriors photo albums so check them out for a better idea of Cork, dancing, drinking, kangaroo courts and general Celtic Warrior tomfoolery: