What the Papers Say - Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
With a side missing eight top players who had been called up into the Scarlets LV Cup squad, Llandovery went down to a comprehensive defeat at the hands of bottom side Neath.
The Drovers have the best defensive record of all Premiership sides but that stood for nothing against a pumped up Neath side that fully deserved their first league win since September 2.
Llandovery slip down to third place in the West table after both RGC and Carmarthen Quins gained notable bonus point wins.
Llandovery chairman Peter Rees conceded that his side had been well beaten but remained tight lipped over the controversy surrounding the game.
Not so a bunch of long standing Llandovery supporters who roundly criticised how the Drovers had been forced into fielding a weak side.
“We released our top players into the Scarlets squad for the game against the Dragons so it was pretty obvious that we would suffer in comparison to RGC,” said one aggrieved supporter in Steve Hughes. “Llanelli also provided a lot of players but RGC refused to join in even though they have had some outstanding performers who have taken the club to the top of the West League. The Quins also lost some top players to the LV Cup but not to the same extent as Llandovery.”
“You could argue that with no relegation and promotion into the Premiership, the result did not matter but what will happen when relegation and promotion return in two years? You could see a club regularly weakened by LV Cup call ups lose vital games and end up relegated. That could be a fatal blow for that club and lead to a steady decline in its fortunes.”
Neath had the lion’s share of possession and the margin of victory at the Gnoll should have been greater in their favour but a raw Llandovery battled hard throughout with No 8 and skipper Richard Brooks and flanker Duane Eager outstanding in defence.
The Drovers had enough spirit to have the better of the final minutes when rewarded with a try from replacement prop Jamie Hughes.
They had been under the cosh for most of the first half but had one golden chance of a try only for a surge from the pack to be foiled on the Neath line.
Winning ball at both set and loose and directed by the canny control of scrum half Chris Morgans, Neath got tries from lock Matthew Davies and No 8 Leon Ward with full back Ed Howley adding a conversion for a 12-0 interval lead.
The Mourners pulled clear after the break with a try by flanker Rhys Jones, converted by Howley, but to their credit the visitors rallied well in the final minutes. With the big Neath pack tiring, Llandovery possession increased and replacement prop Jamie Hughes crashed through tackles to make it 19-5.
The pack - whipped on by the never say die Brooks - went through phase after phase of close range attacks in the dying minutes in search of a losing bonus point only to founder on the rocks of a resolute home defence.