What the Papers Say - Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
Llandovery went through to the WRU National Cup semi-finals with this narrowest of wins over Cross Keys at Pandy Park writes Huw S Thomas.
They will play Newport in the semi final at a neutral ground on either Sat April 7 or Sunday April 8 and are only 80 minutes away from a third Principality Stadium Cup final.
The other semi final pits Merthyr against Ebbw Vale.
The win at Cross Keys was outstanding in the context of Llandovery’s poor record at Pandy Park.
The Drovers had not won there since October 2 2002 when a hat trick of tries from future Welsh international Tal Selley proved crucial in a 38-19 league win.
The last five games between the clubs had seen Llandovery win two, Cross Keys win two with one match drawn and the expected close encounter turned out to be just that.
On a cold March night, there was never much between the sides but the Drovers edged territory and possession and goal-kicker Jack Maynard did the rest with three excellent penalties on a tacky surface.
There was also some outstanding defence at crucial moments of the game when Keys pummelled away at the try line only to be thrown back by the ferocity of the tackling.
One sustained period of pressure just before half time saw wave after wave of home forwards thrust forward and down for the try but every man jack of a Drover put his body on the line.
It fell to tireless flanker Stuart Worrall to force a turnover near his posts and allow the Drovers to go into the break 3-0 up.
Llandovery should have been further ahead only for well carved out openings to lose supporting players or else there was a failure to hang on to the ball in prime positions.
Half back brothers Scott and Jack Maynard, lock Jack Jones and wing Lee Williams all made breaks and only an interception by flanker Josh Skinner saved the day for the Keys defence.
The only score of the first half was a Jack Maynard penalty whereas his opposite number Josh Prosser was short with a 45 metre effort.
The Gwent forwards were more aggressive after the break but both sides lost ball in promising positions before Keys got the opening try.
Just after Prosser had missed a penalty, a rare missed tackle by the Llandovery defence gave busy right wing Matthew Powell the chance to squeeze in at the left corner.
Prosser’s conversion made it 7-3 but good handling and patient set ups with centre Rhodri Jones to the fore worked the Drovers up field and over the try line.
When both Maynard boys dived on the ball at the same time, each claimed that he had got there first, the referee awarded the try and Llandovery were back in the lead 8-7.
Two Prosser penalties to one from Maynard put Keys back in front 13-11but with home lock Scott Andrews in the sin bin the Drovers finished far the stronger, with the backs probing hard for the crucial score.
And when fly half Maynard had the chance to win the game with a far from easy penalty from just under 40 metres, he kept his composure to bring home the bacon.
“We knew the task would be huge, given our record at Pandy Park“ said coach Euros Evans.
“ Cross Keys have usually bullied us up front but we matched them in all areas with the front row of Berian Watkins, Dafydd Hughes and Scott Jenkins again coming through with flying colours against experienced operators.”
Evans was also proud of the efforts of the back row, Duane Eager, skipper Richard Brooks and Stuart Worrall who formed a rough, tough and terrier like back row.
Locks Bryn Griffiths and Jack Jones too were always in the heart and heat of ruck and maul to confirm one of the very best away performances by a Llandovery pack in recent years.