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Cardiff Blues under-18 edge eight-try thriller in Llanelli

Pathway | 24th June 2021

Cardiff Blues under-18 battled hard to maintain their winning streak in an eight-try thriller in Llanelli on Wednesday evening.

Since returning to under-18 action for the first time since February 2020, the under-18 outfit, led by coaches Dan Fish and Craig Everett, have recorded convincing victories over Scarlets and Dragons, running in 14 tries in the process.

However, they were forced to survive a late comeback by the hosts at Parc Y Scarlets on Wednesday, as the boot of Harrison James secured the double over the west Wales outfit.

The hosts dominated the opening exchanges in wet and windy conditions at Parc Y Scarlets, but were unable to unlock the stern Cardiff defence.

They were made to pay for their missed opportunities as the visitors opened the scoring with a sensational individual score. Academy blindside flanker, Mackenzie Martin, shrugged off two defenders in midfield to break the defensive line before stepping past the covering defender.

Scarlets duo Archie Hughes and Iestyn Gwilliam scrambled back, but were unable to stop the bulldozing back row from Ely, who finished for an impressive opener.

The visitors extended their advantage moments later as a driving line-out was stopped just short of the Scarlets try line. With the referee calling for a penalty advantage, outside half Jacob Symes demanded the ball to be fed down the blindside, and his clever chip behind was gathered by wing Ty Lewis, who dotted down in the corner.

The hosts finally got the scoreboard ticking as a strong driving maul saw hooker Lewis Morgan rumbling over to reply.

In an entertaining half of rugby, Cardiff added a third as the skipper, Ryan Wilkins, registered his fourth try in two games.

Outside half Symes released Lewis on his inside. The wing managed to make a dent in the Scarlets' defensive line, before freeing his hands to offload. While the pass did not find Zac Fifield in support, centre Wilkins was on hand to gather the loose possession, slicing through to dot down under the sticks.

The end-to-end rugby continued, with Scarlets proving particular strong at reclaiming the restarts. After further pressure on the Cardiff line, scrum half Hughes took a quick tap penalty and caught the away defence napping, with quick hands sending Osian Hill over in the corner.

While only five points separated the sides at the interval, a moment of magic in the second half restored Cardiff's 12-point lead. A combination of footwork and pace from Cameron Winnett saw the full back darting down the left wing.

The academy product, up against the final defender, kept his composure to send a well-judged grubber kick through to the Scarlets 22. Ethan Fackrell won the foot-race to hack on and scrum half Fifield was on the receiving end to dot down for his side's fourth.

A yellow card to try scorer Martin, for a high tackle in midfield, saw the visitors reduced to 14 men, and the home side took full advantage of the extra man. 

The maul once again set the platform for hooker Morgan to dive over for his brace, while a chip behind caused confusion in the Cardiff back-field, allowing Ioan Phillips to give the hosts the lead for the first time.

However, with 10 minutes remaining, playmaker Harrison James, who has been training alongside the Cardiff Blues senior side in recent months, slotted a penalty to give the visitors a slender one-point lead, and game management in the final stages saw them secure a third consecutive victory.

The block of under-18 fixtures will draw to a close on Monday as Cardiff Blues welcome Dragons to Merthyr's The Wern for a reverse fixture.