Huw S Thomas reports:
The Drovers finished their regular season last Wednesday night where they went down by the odd point in 69, beaten by a last gasp penalty from Bedwas fly-half Adam Greendale.
It was a cruel fate for Llandovery and their departing coach Rob Appleyard as they had looked the more adventurous and inventive side for most of a hugely entertaining game played at a furious pace.
It was a novelty for the Drovers to go into their last Premiership game of the season without the relegation Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. They used that freedom to outscore Bedwas 5-3 on tries and three of them were outstanding in their creativity and execution.
Flanker Lloyd Phillips, scrum-half Gareth James and replacement wing Sam Soul were the scorers but a host of players had played full parts in the build ups to the scores. None more so than centre Rhys Williams and especially wing Lee Rees whose slashing breaks were the highlights of some great rugby. The counter-attacking of Wales IRB Sevens recruit Rees was at times breathtaking in its speed and audacity and one brilliant run set up the try for Sam Soul to put the Drovers into the lead late on.
The other Llandovery tries came from Phillips when he played emergency wing – put in by a deft overhead pass from skipper on the night lock Steve Martin - and hard-working replacement back-row Dean Fitzgerald.
Bedwas always kept in touch thanks to the goal-kicking of ex-England U18 fly-half Greendale but tries from wing Dan Dearden, full-back Stuart Thomas plus flanker and skipper Hywel Jenkins looked to have not been enough as they trailed 34-32 with time up.
Just when the Drovers looked to have the game sewn up, they lost a line-out on half way. A desperate Bedwas threw everything into attack to force a penalty which allowed Greendale to clinch a home win with the last kick of the game for a personal points tally of 20 points.
Cerith Rees did not have his best day with the boot but his nine points from a penalty and three conversions brought his season’s tally to 261 points.
In the 26 league games Llandovery racked up an impressive 636 points and scored 71 tries, in stark contrast to last season’s 389 points and 35 tries – testament to the attacking approach of coaches Rob Appleyard and Lyndon Lewis.
Sadly for Llandovery, Appleyard has been called back by his employers to Parc Y Strade for next season and will be sorely missed at Church Bank such has been his influence on the playing style and mind-set of the players.
The ex-Wales flanker will want to leave Church Bank with a bang and will this week plan for the Premiership play-offs. The Drovers have to wait until tonight (Wed) to find out who they will meet in the first round of the play-offs. In tonight’s (Wed) final games of the regular season Pontypridd entertain Llanelli and Swansea face Cardiff. We will then know who finishes fifth – it looks a choice between Llanelli, Pontypridd and Cardiff - and that club will have home advantage over the eighth placed Drovers on Tuesday night April 27.