Few had heard of Martyn Madden before Saturday, 23 May, 1998. He had come on loan to Llanelli from Penzance & Newlyn RFC. That loan period was quickly turned into a two-year contract after he scored the try that won the cup for the Scarlets with the kind of dash of which even Nigel Walker would have been proud.
Over the next few years he became a mainstay of the Llanelli pack, making 145 appearances, and went on to win five Welsh caps on the tight head side of the scrum.
It remains one of the greatest stories in the history of the WRU Challenge Cup dating all the way back to its first season in 1971-72. With the game against Ebbw Vale poised on a knife edge at 12-12, the game needed something special to give victory to either side.
The game was played at Bristol’s Ashton Gate ground as the home of Welsh rugby was being torn down to turn into the Millennium Stadium. It was Llanelli’s 13th final, while the Steelmen had gone all the way for the first time in their history.
Two very good teams travelled over the Severn Bridge for the first Welsh Cup final in England and the bookies were split on who was going to win.
Ebbw vale had an all international back row in skipper Kingsley Jones, Richie Collins and Mark Jones. They also had Taulupe Faletau’s father, Kuli, in the second row. Behind the scrum they had future internationals David Llewellyn and Byron Hayward.
Llanelli had Rupert Moon running the show behind the scrum, Robin McBryde as skipper and featured the 33-year-old Nigel Davies at centre playing in his ninth final.
THIS IS HOW THE INDEPENDENT REPORTED THE GAME
EBBW VALE 12 – 19 LLANELLI
Martyn Madden was the toast of Welsh rugby over the weekend after he rescued the 27th Swalec Cup final from ending in a bore draw at Bristol City’s ground.
Until the Llanelli tight-head prop found the energy to race 25 metres to score two minutes from time the odds were on the final finishing without a try for the first time in its history.
That Madden, the 25-year-old Cardiff-born player on loan to the Scarlets from Penzance and Newlyn, was the only try scorer in the game spoke volumes for the standard, but filled the coffers of one lucky punter from his home city.
The unnamed man walked into Jack Brown’s bookies in Cardiff on Saturday morning and put down £15 on Madden to be the first player to score a try in the final. It was a wise choice which scooped him £1,005.
Cup finals have a habit of being remembered for one man’s action and, allied to his try, Madden’s mouth also earned him banner headlines. Describing his try which, to give him credit, was rather special for a member of the front row union, he told the TV cameras that he had “shimmied” past the wing, “outpaced” the full back to reach the line.
“That’s showbiz,” was the final flourish from Madden before both he and his grateful team-mates burst into laughter in their jubilant dressing-room.
On a more serious note, Madden’s try and overall performance should this week earn him a two-year contract with the Scarlets. More importantly, his try made it a record 10th win in 13 cup final appearances for Llanelli and rescued their season.
“The players knew we had under-achieved this season and that the whole town hadn’t been happy with the fact we didn’t qualify for the top tier in Europe,” the Llanelli coach, Gareth Jenkins, said. “Winning the cup has saved our season.”
While Llanelli once again confirmed their title of “cup kings”, Ebbw Vale left their first final appearance kicking themselves. They dominated the game, could and should have won the biggest prize in their history. Three unusual penalty misses from their dead-eyed dick outside-half Byron Hayward did not help, although neither did the fact they were unable to work the ball down their back line during their periods of dominance.
In their Tongan full-back Siua Taumololo they had the most potent attacking weapon on the field, as well as the nominated man of the match, yet he was confined to a handful of counter-attacking opportunities, instead of spearheading first or later phase attacks.
Only once were Ebbw ahead during the game, following Hayward’s third penalty to add to an earlier drop goal, but it was a short-lived experience for them. A minute later Craig Warlow landed his fourth penalty to make it 12-12 and there was all to play for in the final 10 minutes.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man and it was Madden who stole the glory with his remarkable burst in support of a Rupert Moon break. It was Madden’s match but a pretty poor ending to a season of unrivalled discontent.
Scorers: Ebbw Vale: Pens: M Hayward 3; DG: B Hayward. Llanelli: Try: M Madden; Con: C Warlow; Pen: C Warlow 4.
Ebbw Vale: Josh Taumololo; Alun Harries, Jon Hawker (Jason Strange, 75), John Funnell, Lenny Woodard; Byron Hayward, David Llewellyn; Alan Phillips, Leyton Phillips (Steve Jones, 76), Mike Wilson, Chay Billen, Kuli Faletau, Richie Collins, Kingsley Jones (captain), Mark Jones
Reps Unused: Iestyn Thomas, Lee Banks, Paul Pook, Gareth Bisp
Llanelli: Darril Williams; Wayne Proctor, Neil Boobyer (Matthew Wintle, 63), Nigel Davies, Garan Evans; Craig Warlow, Rupert Moon; Aled Jones, Robin McBryde (captain), Martyn Madden, Vernon Cooper, Mike Voyle, Chris Wyatt (Andrew Gibbs, 63), Iwan Jones, Hefin Jenkins
Reps Unused: Huw Williams-Jones, Jason Hyatt, Aled Thomas, Stephen Jones
Referee: Clayton Thomas (Bryncoch)
RUPERT MOON ON MADDEN AND HIS TRY
It was a move we had worked on in training and called after a two-man line-out. We knew that everyone in the Ebbw Vale side was going to be targeting me and we thought that might leave some space for Martyn, or ‘Bom-Bom’ as we called him.
The idea of the shortened line-out was to get them to focus on me, which they did. I was able to slip past one player and make some ground and then found Martyn on my shoulder. He still had 30 metres to go, but boy did he go!
He was always a game changer, someone who could add something different to a game. I first saw him playing at No 8 for Cardiff Youth at the Arms Park and thought he was capable of being a game changer.
He had a similarly low centre of gravity to Scott Quinnell when he was running, he was powerful and skilful. When he moved from No 8 to prop it allowed him to eat a bit more and build up his bulk.
Some people thought he was a bit of a joker, but deep down he had a really stubborn streak that allowed him to dig really deep in difficult situations. That’s what he did in Bristol.
MARVELLOUS MARTYN’S MAGICAL MOMENT
74 min, 07 sec: It’s 12-12 and Byron Hayward kicks directly into touch to gift Llanelli a line-out on the Ebbw Vale 10 metre line.
74:14: Robin McBryde calls a two-man line-out
74:17: Vernon Cooper rises high and delivers the ball off the top to Rupert Moon
74:18: Moon ducks under one tackler and races forward 10 metres
74:20: Martyn Madden receives ball from Moon and sidesteps Lenny Woodard
74:22: With three Ebbw Vale players chasing him Madden reaches the 22 and heads for the corner
74:25: Richie Collins dives to catch Madden’s shirt to try to bring him down
74:26: Josh Taumololo arrives to try to barge Madden into touch as the prop reaches for the line
76:07: Craig Warlow adds a touchline conversion to make it 19-12