BRIDGEND 8 LLANDOVERY 31
By Huw S Thomas
The Premiership leaders resisted the gritty challenge of eighth placed and much improved Bridgend to keep narrowly ahead of chasing Cardiff and Merthyr.
With only three games left – one fewer than their two nearest challengers – the Drovers face a real dog fight to claim a top two spot and a resulting home draw for the play-off semi finals on May 14th.
Bonus point wins for Cardiff – at Swansea and Merthyr – at Llanelli inched both clubs nearer to Llandovery’s 73 points.
Cardiff are now just one point behind on 72, Merthyr trail by three on 70 but the two clubs face each other at the Arms Park on May 6 .
The one Llandovery regret from Saturday’s game will be that they fell short of a fourth and bonus point try.
Not that this was an easy win as Bridgend had bundles of possession through their hunky pack but their back division, missing fly half Luke Price was not inventive or quick enough to pierce Llandovery armour.
Coach Gareth Potter conveyed Llandovery thoughts after the game.
“We knew that this was not going to be tough against one of the league’s most improved side so we cannot be too unhappy with four points.”
“Bridgend have often surprised us in the past so we were very wary as to the danger they represented at The Brewery Field.”
“The 23 point margin between the two teams was flattering to us but we did the job and move on to face Swansea on Saturday.”
“It’s exciting for everyone involved at Church Bank.”
Llandovery attacked from the start but the Ravens defence soaked up pressure well and it took two penalties from full back Jack Maynard against one from opposite number Ed Howley to establish a 6-3 lead on the half hour.
A galloping run from skipper Zac O’Driscoll put Bridgend into a strong position before a handling error in mid field stopped the momentum.
Maynard kicked his third penalty and in the key moment of the first half, the Llandovery backs ran a clever decoy move to send centre Adam Warren swanning in in under the posts.
Maynard’s conversion made it 16-3 at the break in a game tighter than the scoreline suggests.
Another Maynard goal stretched the lead but Bridgend were inches away from a try after a series of forward drives.
Adam Warren was a classy and constant danger in mid field but it was young replacement wing Macs Page who got the second try after some slick passing out wide
The home forwards kept plugging away and Llandovery replacement Jordan Evans did marvels to win a turnover under his very posts.
Wing Mike Powell finished well in the corner to at last reward home efforts and make it 24-8 with 10 minutes to go but that was to be the last of their scoring.
The Drovers went in search of the two tries needed for the bonus point and wing Aaron Warren went in under the posts as another decoy move behind the scrum confused defenders..
Maynard’s conversion brought his season’s tally to 155 points, the Premiership’s leading scorer ending with 16 points for the day’s work.
It was Warren’s eighth Premiership try of the season – two ahead of elder brother Adam – and his 101st for the club for whom he first played back in 2011.
Short of both regular hookers, Llandovery lost a key line out deep in Bridgend territory and with ball handling increasingly difficult in a sudden torrential downpour, a fourth try proved elusive for the league leaders.
*** Llandovery entertain Swansea on Saturday April 8 when nothing less than a full bonus point win will be needed to keep the wolves at bay
Pens: E Howley
Tries: Adam Warren, M Page, Aaron Warren
Cons:J Maynard (2)
Pens: J Maynard (4)
Star Choice:Adam Warren (Llandovery)
Bridgend: E Howley; R Edwards, S Floyd-Ellis, N Edwards, M Powell; R Williams, C Williams; H Olding, G Harvey, L Tobias, B Thomas, J Pope, R Tucker, Z O’Driscoll (capt), J Collier
Replacements: E Yardley, O Jordan, C Hicks, K Martin, D Davies, C Tantum, H Ford, J Gatt
Llandovery:J Maynard; R Wall, Adam Warren, R Jones, Aaron Warren; I Hughes, L Rees; J Hughes, R Owens, L Green, J Jones (capt), J Powell, G Evans, O Davies, S Worrall
Replacements: L Morgan, W Caron-Lewis, B Watkins, L Pike, J Evans, M Page, K Jones, D Land