What the Papers Say - Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
In the first ever meeting between the two clubs, it was Esher who took the honours at Church Bank with a try and winning conversion right at the very death.
But there was much optimism in the home camp after this first friendly of the season.
Backs coach Simon Davies was delighted with the effort of a side that was not only missing some of their very best players but gave debuts to a number of youngsters. “To run an English National One side close with a shadow XV speaks volumes and the game told us that there are a number of players pushing for Premiership recognition,” said Davies. “We even had three18 year olds in the ranks and they did not let the side down in any way which is a good sign for the future.”
The English side - coached by ex-Leicester prop Ricky Nebbett - will be facing the likes of Rosslyn Park, Coventry, Birmingham Moseley and Blackheath in the coming season and were predictably well organised and efficient in most of what they did but it was only in the final seconds that they squeezed ahead of an inexperienced and tiring Drovers side.
Despite having key players in both the Scarlets and the Premiership Select side in the match later in the day, the experimental Drovers had exceeded all expectation in taking a 19-0 lead half way through the second half.
Despite limited possession against a bigger pack, tries from wing Jack Parkinson, a penalty try and one from new fly half Kristian Jones plus two conversions by Jones made victory look highly likely.
The cover and commitment of the back row of Duane Eager, Emyr Price and Tom Powell, the leadership qualities of skipper and stand-in lock and Richard Brooks, plus the attacking flair of the two Lees - full back Rees and new wing Williams - had all contributed to establishing the lead.
The young centre pairing of Kieran Charles and Steff Pryce-Griffiths, new fly half Kristian Jones and scrum half Alex Davies also caught the eye with neat touches.
Going into the last quarter Esher’s replacement flanker Samir Karbouch got a try back, converted by fly half Paul Roberts but Llandovery looked to have made the game safe when ex-Trebanos fly half Jones not only crossed wide out for his second try but hit a touchline conversion for a 26-7 lead.
But with both Lees off, a host of replacements on and with legs tiring, the home side could not gain any possession against a strong finishing Esher.
Three tries inside the last ten minutes from wing Tom Hothersall, centre Kariym Irving and hooker Billy Harding plus three conversions from fly half James Brooks got Esher home by the skin of their teeth.