Huw S Thomas reports:
The Drovers came away from the Gnoll with a losing bonus point but deserved far, far more after looking the better side for most of the game.
The one point moves them up to ninth position in the Premiership when a draw or win would have moved them into eighth and the play off places.
Playing slicker, more attacking rugby than a Neath side that looked laborious up front and disjointed behind, Llandovery shrugged off the disappointment of conceding an early try to take a hold of the game. After All Blacks wing Kevin James had scored a fifth minute try following a cross kick from fly-half Gareth McCarthy, it was all Llandovery for the next three-quarters of an hour.
The set pieces were sound, the chase for the loose ball effective and the backs handled and ran threateningly to put Neath on the back foot.
A try from scrum half Rob Walters plus conversion and penalty from fly-half Cerith Rees was not half of what Llandovery deserved such was their dominance but a loose pass here or scrambling home defence there kept the score to 10-5 at the break.
Centre Rhys Williams caused a lot of problems in midfield and after play had been switched from one side of the field to the other, Wales 7s wing Ifan Evans slipped four tacklers to race in for a try converted by Rees.
When Rees snapped over a drop goal to make it 20-5 a first ever Llandovery win at the Gnoll was on the cards but then a cruel twist of fate gave Neath a lifeline. A badly misdirected kick from wing Kristian Phillips ricocheted off a Drover to put all the Neath players who were in front of the kicker on side and it offered centre Steve Thomas a clear run-in. McCarthy converted and Neath drew even nearer when two minutes later a box kick from replacement scrum-half Kevin Farrell bounced badly for three Llandovery defenders and very kindly for Phillips to sprint over wide out.
Llandovery were visibly shaken by Neath’s good fortune and could not take advantage of the sin-binning of Neath lock Haydn Pugh.
But despite conceding another penalty to McCarthy Llandovery recovered their composure only to see two golden chances go a begging. Just short of the try-line, flanker Matthew Harbut was controversially tackled in the act of receiving a pass and then wing Matthew Jacobs failed to spot two men outside him and was swallowed up by desperate cover.
It still looked Llandovery’s game to win and good continuity put them deep into Neath territory going into injury time. Then flanker Nio Aiono was sin binned for a high tackle on full-back Alec Jenkins and when Neath forced their way back to the Llandovery line, an attacking scrum allowed Farrell to squirm over for a very fortunate home win.
“We played all the rugby yet lost” said team manager Andrew Thomas. “It was a cruel result but at least we showed that last week’s heavy defeat at Cross Keys has been put well behind us and we look forward with confidence to the local derbies against Llanelli on Boxing Day and Carmarthen Quins a week later.”
Ratings by Huw S Thomas: H Thomas 6; I Evans 7 (L Rees 6), J Ajuwa 6, R Williams 8, M Jacobs 6; C Rees 7, R Walters 6; O Evans 6 (R Jones 6), A Yelland 7, P Edwards 6 (C Cross 8), G Vaughan 6 (R Gierat 5), L Tonkin 7, N Aiono 6, L Phillips 7, M Harbut 6