What the Papers Say - Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
Llandovery shrugged off the disappointment of the 31-10 defeat at Cross Keys on Tuesday night by claiming an exciting six tries to two win at the Gnoll writes Huw S Thomas.
The win closed the gap on top team Merthyr to 14 points after the Ironmen had gone down to a surprise home 33-21 defeat at the hand of Carmarthen Quins.
The Drovers remain in seventh place but still have one, two or even three games in hand over all the clubs above them.
Mindful of the fact that All Blacks had surprised them 19-5 at the Gnoll in the early part of the season, Llandovery were determined to put things right on Saturday and did so, but only after a right old fright.
They were lethargic and out of sorts in the 40 minutes and could not complain at trailing the All Blacks 23-7 at the break.
Their game was full of inaccuracies, over complication and indecision with their only points coming from a close range effort from loose head prop Jamie Hughes and a conversion by Jack Maynard who made a rare appearance at centre rather than his usual fly half position.
Neath had played with much vim and vigour to get deserved tries, one from a close range line out scored by prop Ryan Thomas and the other by wing James Roberts.
The Roberts try was made by former Drover Mike Evans who weaved his way up field some 50 metres before sending his fellow wing into the corner
Neath also included another Drover in scrum half Scott Gibson who had a very good game against his old colleagues and was voted Neath Man of the Match by home supporters.
With full back Ed Howley adding both conversions and three penalties, Neath had the upper hand.
It changed dramatically in a second half that saw the Drovers cast off the first half sloth by running in five tries through a mixture of slick handling, straight running and fine support.
Skipper and No 8 Richard Brooks started off the come back with a try four minutes after the break and more followed from centre Rhodri Jones and wing Lee Williams.
And although three more Howley penalties kept the Mourners ahead until the 70th minute, a close range effort from hooker Dafydd Hughes try and Maynard conversion put the Drovers ahead 33-32.
And it was fitting that the coup de grâce came from the excellent Jones who finished off clever approach work with a try which ended with Maynard putting over his fifth conversion out of six.
Backs coach Simon Davies thought the Llandovery performance the curate’s egg.
“We were pretty dreadful in the first half and Neath came at us with huge determination to deservedly lead at the break.”
“Some harsh wake-up calls were made at half time and the second half performance was as good as the first half was bad.”
“We cut out the many basic errors, retained the ball better and had enough craft behind the scrum to race in five tries to add to the lone one in the first 40 minutes.”
“The dry conditions suited our game and the boys did brilliantly despite the intensity of playing a ridiculous nine games in 35 days.”
Coach Paul Williams - in charge of the side in Lyn Jones’s absence in Namibia - bemoaned another narrow Neath defeat.
“It’s the story of the season – we get ourselves into winning positions then cave in at the end.”
“There was plenty of energy and commitment in the first 40 minutes and no one could begrudge us a 16 point lead at the break.”
“Llandovery got more possession after the break and their clever running angles put us under a lot of pressure.”
“We kept in the game in the second half through Ed Howley’s goal kicking but as in many a recent game we lost tempo in the last 10 minutes and a good footballing side like Llandovery turned the screw.”
*** Llandovery entertain North Wales visitors RGC at Church Bank this Saturday (KO 2 30 pm)
Neath:E Howley; M Evans, I Evans, M Pearce, J Roberts; L Scully, S Gibson; L Tobias, G Lloyd, R Thomas, R Bean, J Barley, J Collier (capt), A Cockwell, L Ward
Replacements: S Bond, S Crocker, G James, M Davies, A Morris, C Morgans, D Guarneri, G Llewellyn
Llandovery: K Jones; L Williams, R Jones, J Maynard, A Warren; J Hammett, L Rees; J Hughes, D Hughes, D Thomas, J Jones, J Powell, L Ellis-Jones, R Brooks (capt), S Worrall
Replacements: L Green, R Guest, B Watkins, J Baker, B Griffiths, D Eager, S Maynard, R Evans