Neath 10 Llandovery 47 – words and picture by Huw S Thomas

Yet another high-scoring victory for the Drovers as they swept aside bottom club Neath to stay 15 points clear of chasing Newport at the top of the Premiership table.

Barring a miracle of freak results, they will finish in the top two of the table and have a home draw in the Premiership playoffs in May.

Hooker Taylor Davies (pictured) made club history in scoring four tries – all from driving line outs – to take his Premiership try record for the season to a remarkable total of 14 tries, with up to seven games still left to play.

Llandovery had scored six tries in the 38-7 home win over Neath back in October and they went one better at the Gnoll, taking their try tally to an impressive 88 after 19 matches.

As things stand, the Drovers have scored more tries (88), more points (636) and conceded the fewest (281) than any team in the Premiership, testament to the work of the coaching team of Euros Evans, attack coach Gareth Potter, defence coach Tom Hancock and contact area guru Nic Cudd.

Head coach Evans made nine changes – one positional – from the side that started against Swansea with Joe Powell moving to flanker in his new role as captain.

Assistant coach Gareth Potter was well pleased with the performance.

“Conditions were not great but we played them well” said Potter.

“The driven line out has been very fruitful for us through Cup and league and much is due the accuracy of the throwing in and athleticism of the jumpers in the set ups.”

“Taylor has the instinct to be in the right place at the right moment and picks the right angle and time to drive at the line and through the opposition.”

“It’s nice, too, to see youngsters like centre Ilan Phillips, wings Kian Abraham and Jac Davies getting plenty of game time to develop their potential.”

“It won’t be as easy against Ebbw Vale in next week’s Cup semi-final but all the boys are looking forward to the challenge when we hope to have skipper Jack Jones back from injury.”

The Welsh All Blacks were captained by former Drover Ryan Evans who formed a centre partnership with another old Drover in Kristian Jones and although Evans had the satisfaction of scoring an early try against his old colleagues, Neath were well beaten at the end.

The catch and drive at the line out has become a potent weapon for the Drovers, reflected in the fact that the three hookers in the squad – Davies, Craig Thomas and Harry Thomas have –scored, between them, 22 tries in the Premiership, a quarter of the team’s total.

Neath had simply no defensive answer to the well drilled surges from the line out and even Llandovery’s last try by replacement prop Lyr Green came at the end of another close range catch and drive.

Hooker Davies and his replacement Craig Thomas invariably found their jumpers – Joe Powell, lock Morgan Jones and flanker Jordan Evans – to put immense pressure on the powerless home defence.

The Llandovery backs played a secondary role for once but both scrum halves got quality scores, Dafydd Land in the first half and replacement Lee Rees after the break.

Land sold an enormous dummy at the ruck to sprint in from 25 metres and inside pass from the excellent Powell let livewire Rees race in from 40 metres.

Neath had opened the scoring with a good Evans try, converted by fly half Steff Williams but their only other score in the half was a Williams penalty.

A Taylor hat trick and Land’s try had the bonus point in the bag by half time at 26-10, full back Jack Maynard kicking three conversions.

Converted efforts by Taylor and Rees made it 40-10 with still 20 minutes to go, the floodgates about to open.

To their credit the All Blacks showed great resolve to not only edge possession but put the Llandovery defence under some pressure in the wt and worsening conditions.

They deserved a consolation score but it was the visitors who finished with a flourish, Green crashing through for a further converted try for the composed and confident Drovers.

Jack Maynard’s six conversions took the full back’s total for the season to 120 points

*** Llandovery take a well earned break this Saturday and will then prepare for what has the makings of a thunderous Welsh Cup semi final against Ebbw Vale at neutral Aberavon on March 2.
Swansea face Merthyr in the other semi final at Bridgend.

Tries: T Davies (4), D Land, L Rees, L Green
Cons: J Maynard (6)
Try: R Evans
Con: S Williams
Pen: S Williams

Neath: A Bramwell; S Gibson, R Evans (capt), K Jones, R Griffiths ; S Williams, G Williams; J Powell, S Crocker, E Hopkins, M Davies, C Arnold, J Blackmore, M Kneath, B Williams
Replacements: C Morris, M Morgan, G Lloyd, F Kneath, D Ceredig, E Lewis, K Charles, S Wilcox

Llandovery J Maynard; J Davies, I Phillips, R Jones, K Abraham; I Hughes, D Land; D Dallavalle,T Davies, B Watkins, C Long, M Jones, J Powell (capt), N Hart, J Evans
Replacements: J Hughes, C Thomas, L Green, O Davies, S Worrall, Adam Warren, H Doel, L Rees