CARDIFF 29 LLANDOVERY 26
It has not been a happy fortnight for Llandovery as they went down to this, their first league defeat of the season straight after losing to Merthyr in the Welsh Cup writes Tom Hughes
Both games could have well gone the way of the Drovers with a kinder referee and bounce of the ball but they did at least come away from the Arms Park with two losing bonus points for staying within 7 points of the Blue and Blacks and scoring four tries.
They gave league favourites Cardiff a real fight, matching them try for try, leading 12-10 at half time before falling three points short in a thrilling finale.
They remain in third spot in the Premiership table behind Aberavon – who lost at Newport – and powerful Cardiff.
In a tempestuous last few minutes, Cardiff were penalised four times near their own line, luckily avoiding yellow cards.
The Drovers could have easily settled for a draw with a close range penalty but went for the winning try, only to be denied at the death after being held up on the Cardiff line too many times to count.
TV and radio commentator Phil Steele described the tussle as” a cracker and terrific advert for the Indigo Premiership which has gone up a notch on the evidence of this game.”
This was a hugely competitive encounter from the start and although Cardiff enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, they found a defence up to the task.
They had to work hard to keep their unbeaten record in front of a very good crowd who had full value for their money.
An excellent start from Llandovery saw wing Rhodri Wall snatch the ball out of the hands of fly half Dan Fish and lock Sean Moore to send his side into an 11th minute 5-0 lead.
Cardiff reacted petulantly to ceding a score but a Fish penalty and try from wing Dewi Cross – converted by Fish – swung the game in home favour.
Not for long as when Llandovery forced a close range line out, the forwards forced a penalty try with a drive that was illegally brought down.
It was 12-10 at half time and although Cross got a second try, the Drovers stayed ahead with a burrowing try from flanker Stuart Worrall, converted by full back Jack Maynard to get the Drovers into a 19-15 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Blue and Blacks were stung into reaction with back rowers Olly Robinson and skipper Morgan Allen prominent but they had to fight tooth and nail to make ground against fine Llandovery tackling.
Former Llandovery hooker Alun Rees eventually struck from a close range line out to get a try, converted by Fish and when centre Joe Goodchild got an outflanking fourth try – Fish adding the conversion – the Drovers looked out of it, down 29-19.
But Euros Evans’s men are nothing but brave and resilient and replacement stalwart, hooker Ricky Guest crashed over, which with Maynard’s conversion made it 29-26.
Cardiff looked shaken and were forced – in desperation – to defend a series of penalties near their own line.
Llandovery could have easily tied the scores at 29-29 but backed themselves for the winning try.
The referee penalised Cardiff defenders four times for offences five metres out, but there was no yellow card and a host of driving line outs eventually failed when the forwards lost possession with the line at their mercy.
Llandovery’s next game will be away to Llanelli at Parc Y Scarlets on Thursday November 10 (Ko 7 30 pm)
Tries: D Cross (2), A Rees, J Goodchild
Cons: D Fish (3)
Tries: R Wall, pen try, S Worrall, R Guest
Cons: J Maynard (3)