Llandovery won the tightest of games in their brave effort to top Pool D of the Welsh Premiership Cup and get to the semi finals of the competition but it was not enough against the current league leaders writes Huw S Thomas
To make the last four, the Drovers needed to beat Cardiff with a bonus point and also stop the Blue and Blacks from not only scoring four tries but also stop them getting a losing bonus point.
It was a feat they all but pulled off but that vital fourth try eluded them in a full blooded Cup tie.
The home defeat was in some ways down to the scrum management of referee Adam Jones who penalised loose head Jamie Hughes at crucial moments of the game when Llandovery seemed to have the upper hand.
But praise too must go to the Cardiff defence which closed down attacks with ruthless efficiency whenever Llandovery had long spells of attacking pressure.
“The win does not give us any satisfaction as we are out of the Cup but we nearly made it and the players can take huge credit from the performance” said coach Euros Evans.
“One more try would have taken us through so getting so near to the top Premiership side of the moment is frustrating in the extreme.”
Home supporters were hugely disappointed with the result, urging the WRU to re-introduce a traditional draw for the Cup involving Premiership and Championship sides.
Long serving member Tim James was adamant.
“We don’t agree with the Pool system of qualifying for the semi-finals.”
“Imagine the interest in Wales if an open Cup draw threw up Llanelli at Bargoed, Bridgend at Pontypool, Carmarthen Quins at Narberth, Ystalyfera at Swansea – you would have big crowds and travelling support in the hope of a Cup upset.”
The old days of Penclawdd beating Newport and St Peter’s pipping Cardiff may have gone but the top Championship clubs would be dangerous opponents for many a Premiership team, particularly if they had a home draw.
Back to the game, Llandovery started with a real bang, constant pressure ending with fullback Jack Maynard sending wing Harri Doel over with a well weighted long pass.
Soon after Cardiff wing Dewi Cross was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle on Doel, hooker Craig Thomas got a second home try, converted by Maynard, after a close range line out surge from his pack.
Cardiff fly half Harrison James hit the post with a 35 metre penalty but a few minutes later full back Dan Fish dummied through under the posts in a rare attack to give James an easy conversion.
Llandovery responded but found the defence a very hard nut to crack to leave them just 12-7 ahead at the break.
The very strong wind at their backs, Cardiff were soon on attack, forcing errors from the home defence.
Two James penalties gave them the lead, before the Drovers had an excellent patch, dominating possession, without being able to get the vital breakthrough.
Then, hopes were lifted when a close range line out worked in replacement hooker Ricky Guest for a third home try, converted by Maynard.
Another James penalty brought it back to 19-16 with 12 minutes to go with Llandovery needing a try to go through to the last four but it was not to be as the Blue and Blacks ended on attack to dash home aspirations of an upset.