What the Papers Say - Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
The Drovers got their Premiership TOP 8 campaign off to a great start with this battling win over the North Walians at Church Bank.
They took sweet revenge for their 28-25 defeat at Colwyn Bay back in September in a tight, thunderous and compelling game between two talented and committed sides.
And just as the England bench turned the tide in the Principality Stadium later in the afternoon, so did a tactical switch by coach Euros Evans that gave the side the impetus they needed to edge out RGC.
It was Mike Evans in particular who brought real zip into Llandovery attacks. A crucial switch saw Evans coming on at full back in the 55th minute just after RGC had drawn level 10-10, allowing Lee Rees to take over at scrum half from Scott Gibson. Gibson had done well enough but Rees posed a far greater threat around ruck and maul and his slightly longer and quicker pass gave the backs that precious extra second of time.
Evans was in the fore of the action immediately and his powerful thrusts from full back punched holes in the RGC defence. And it was entirely fitting that it was Evans who delivered the coup de grâce to the North Walians.
After fly half Jack Maynard had put the Drovers 13-10 up, a great galloping run from wing Aaron Warren up the left touchline was supported by Rees. His pass fed Evans on the burst and the Ammanford product swatted off covering tackles to go racing in under the posts.
Both sets of coaches were full of praise for their opposition in a game of high intensity and ferocious tackling.
RGC coach Mark Jones was in phlegmatic mood on his return to the club that gave him his first chance of senior rugby after gaining Welsh Youth caps in 1998. The wing scored 30 tries for Llandovery before going on to gain 47 caps for Wales and was warm in his praise for his old club.
“What a great battle between two clubs very close to my heart,” said Jones. “When we got back to 10-10 going into the last quarter we had high hopes but we failed to keep possession in good areas and the Drovers hit us with a great try. Down 20-10, we got back to put a lot of pressure on them but their tackling was exceptional.”
Llandovery defence coach Gareth Potter extolled the virtues of the Drovers’ commitment. “Two excellent sides gave it their all and two fine tries got us home but it was our persistent tackling and defence in the last ten minutes that proved all important,” said Potter. “RGC kept on our tails throughout in a game that was every bit as tight as our encounter in North Wales.”
The Drovers had territory and possession in the first half thanks to the grit and hard work of the outstanding back row of Duane Eager, Richard Brooks and Stuart Worrall but for all that only led 10-0, a try from impressive centre Rhodri Jones and five points from the boot of Maynard keeping them ahead.
After the break an interception try from RGC centre Tom Hughes and five points from the boot of fly half Jacob Botica tied the scores but spurred on by tireless skipper and lock Phil Day, Llandovery responded in style.
Maynard kicked a penalty before adding the points to Evans’s brilliant home try and despite a huge amount of pressure on their line, Llandovery held out bravely.