em>What the Papers Say – Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
Llandovery did the double over Bridgend adding this bonus point win to October’s comfortable 40-13 success at Church Bank writes Huw S Thomas
The Drovers travelled to the Brewery Field, fully aware that the Ravens had done the double over them last season and made sure they started with a will and determination that had been a little lacking in recent weeks.
But it was a curate’s egg of game. Llandovery were in serene control in building up a 28-0 lead before it was all Bridgend for most of the second half until they gifted the Drovers a try at the death.
The turning point after the break was the yellow card dished out to replacement Llandovery centre Kristian Jones straight after which the Ravens scored two converted tries to close to 28-14.
The wind in their sails they pressed hard to exploit the increased space behind the scrum and further close the gap with quarter of an hour to go.
The key to Llandovery survival in the end was the pack’s impressive ability to defend three close range line outs.
And with the return of Jones, the Drovers battened down the hatches and a very late try was cruel fate for the battling home side.
With the surprise news that fellow strugglers Ebbw Vale had beaten Ponytpridd, the Ravens now look favourites to be relegated at the end of the season.
“We started off with a bang” said winning coach Euros Evans “and were excellent in the first half in building up a 21-0 interval lead.”
“Bridgend came back at us hard after we had gone 28-0 up but we were strong enough to contain them and then finish with a flourish”
“We have three league games and a Cup game – all away from home – over the next four weeks so this was a timely return to form.”
Quick, inventive and direct in midfield where the return of Ryan Evans produced a cutting edge that had been absent for weeks, the Drovers took an early two try lead.
Bridgend had no answer to a front of the line out catch by lock Jack Jones and driving maul which produced a try for hooker Ricky Guest.
Soon after, a wonderful piece of skill from full back Tomi Lewis conjured up a try for scrum half Dafydd Land.
The Wales 7s star from Gwernyfed beat defenders on a sixpence, accelerated away and put a chistera pass in front of the supporting Land who raced in, two conversions from fly half Jack Maynard establishing a 14-0 lead inside a quarter of an hour.
Bridgend looked to have hit back with a try from wing Dewi Cross but referee Gareth John ruled out the score after the intervention of a touch judge who had spotted some foul play in the build up.
The Drovers won plenty of ball with lock Jack Jones, blind side Iestyn Rees and open side Stuart Worrall catching the eye in the loose.
Jack Jones, putting in one of his very best displays, pinched a Bridgend throw and Llandovery were soon in for a third try just before half time.
A driving maul from a line out trundled Bridgend back 25 metres ended with the excellent and ever improving Land switching a pass into the way of wing Aaron Warren who crossed close enough for Maynard to make it 21-0 at the break.
Imprecise final touches – one bodging a three on one – robbed the Drovers of two more tries but the bonus point came seven minutes into the second half.
Deft handling between backs and forwards with Jack Jones and prop Dino Dallavalle taking ball at pace saw replacement hooker Alun Rees send Lewis diving over in the corner, Maynard converting.
It looked all over for the Ravens but Worrall had to do a great bit of covering to prevent Cross from scoring before the yellow carding of replacement centre Kristian Jones gave the home side a lifeline.
Exploiting the extra space out wide and thankful for some friendly Llandovery tackling centre Brad Roderick grabbed two tries inside four minutes – both converted by replacement fly half Jacob Chilcott.
Chilcott controlled things well at fly half as the Ravens stepped up the tempo but the Drovers galvanised themselves in defence, replacement Alun Rees producing his busiest and best display in a Llandovery shirt since his move from Bedwas.
Another replacement in flanker Lewis Ellis-Jones delivered the coup de grâce when he charged down a Chilcott relieving kick, a swift pick up giving Maynard the chance to end with another five conversions out of five to replicate his display away at RGC a fortnight ago.
*** Attention this Saturday switches to the quarter final of the WRU Cup when the Drovers travel to Aberavon for what promises to be another close game at the Talbot Athletic Ground.
WRU Cup Quarter final draw (Jan 25)
Aberavon v Llandovery; Llanelli v Cardiff; Pontypool v Carmarthen Quins; Merthyr v Neath
Tries: B Roderick (2)
Cons: J Chilcott (2)
Tries: R Guest, D Land, A Warren, T Lewis, L Ellis-Jones
Cons: J Maynard (5)
Bridgend: O Howe (J Chicott h/t); A Evans (C Woolerton 50), B Roderick, N Edwards (capt), D Cross; J Murphy, C Williams ( C Tantum 63); O Jordan (R Apsee 58), G Harvey (G Lloyd 63), C Lewis, B Jones, J Pope (J Little 54), T Huntley (J Grabham 52), R Dudley-Jones, A O’Driscoll
Llandovery: T Lewis; G Thomas (L Smith 63), R Evans (K Jones 61), R Jones, A Warren; J Maynard, D Land (S Maynard 73; D Dallavalle (J Hughes 62), R Guest (A Rees 21), L Green (B Watkins 62), R Jones, J Jones, I Rees (L Ellis- Jones 58), R Brooks (capt) (J Powell 69), S Worrall