What the Papers Say - Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
Llandovery just failed to get their third final in 11 years when they were pipped by Newport in the semi-final of the Welsh National Cup at neutral Aberavon writes Huw S Thomas
The Black and Ambers made their first final since 2003 and deserved the win against a Drovers side that threw everything at them in the final stages without scoring.
The two clubs met 8 days ago in the league when the Drovers scraped a last minute 24-19 win at Church Bank but this time Newport hung on bravely in the face of a tidal wave of attacks in the final five minutes.
It was to Llandovery’s credit that they managed to put so much pressure on Newport after having had to play a crazy schedule of six league and cup games in 20 days.
Their usual sparkle was missing, the forwards finding it difficult to make the hard yards and the backs lacking the cutting edge that has been such a part of the side’s success in recent years.
Newport should have been well ahead at half time such was their dominance of both territory and possession but all they had to show for it was two penalties from fly half Matt O’Brien.
Llandovery made just two forays into the Newport half but scored one try and were robbed of another by a quirky bounce.
Fly half Jack Maynard intercepted a Newport pass to sprint in from 60 metres, holding off two tackles for the try which he then converted for an unlikely 7-6 half time lead.
On the other occasion scrum half Lee Rees chipped and hacked on the ball only to be beaten by a cruel bounce into the arms of an in-goal defender.
Llandovery’s defence was outstanding in that first half from one to 15 with prop Scott Jenkins making one brilliant tackle in midfield.
Ill discipline then cost the Drovers three points when the referee Adam Jones moved a penalty kick ten metres on after some silly back chat over his initial decision.
The line out had malfunctioned in the first half but it improved after the break as Llandovery came right back into the game.
Centre Ryan Evans made a break and Rees threatened in taking some quick tap penalties only for the usually reliable Maynard to miss a straightforward penalty and then a drop goal to let Newport off the hook.
But the Drovers then took the lead when a sliding kick from Rees was not covered by the defence and full back Lee Williams hacked the ball through to get the touchdown under the noses of the cover.
Maynard hit the upright with the conversion and three minutes later Newport got the crucial score when they worked a hole in mid field for O’Brien to send full back Geraint O’Driscoll in.
O’Brien’s conversion made it 16-12 with ten minutes to go.
Llandovery somehow found the energy to attack but were too narrow in their approach and the charges of their forwards into the heart of the defence found little success.
Wing Aaron Warren came close to a try when the ball was spread wide before Newport repulsed 21 phases of play to earn – and deserve - their trip to the Millennium Stadium on April 29 where they will play Merthyr.
Tries – J Maynard, L Williams; Con – J Maynard
Try – G O’Driscoll; Con – M O’Brien; Pens - M O’Brien (3) ;