By kind permission of the Brecon and Radnor Express

Premiership league leaders Llandovery face their biggest challenge of the season so far when they travel to Ebbw Vale on Thursday night writes Huw S Thomas.

The Gwent side, under coach Jason Strange, are just three points behind the defending champions in second place and come fresh from a 26-10 win over RGC.

 On form guide lines through Cardiff, there promises to be very little between the Steelmen and the Drovers

Whilst Llandovery earned a 31-12 home win over the capital city club, Ebbw Vale came away from the Arms Park with a hugely impressive 36-20 away victory.

Ebbw Vale, Pontypool and Newport have started the season in fine form, filling the immediate positions behind Llandovery and it suggests a general resurgence in the fortunes of Gwent rugby.

The Drovers face a difficult test under the Eugene Cross Park lights and Euros Evans’s men know full well that they will be challenged to the full by the hugely competent and efficient home pack.

Visits to Ebbw Vale have never been easy, last year’s fixture a typical close call before Llandovery came away with a gritty 23-20 win.

As the Brecon and Radnor Express report confirmed “ cold, driving rain made life difficult for all and the result was in the balance until the last seconds of a rousing game between two evenly matched sides.”

“With the clock in the red, Ebbw had a line out five metres from the Llandovery line and were odds on to get the winning score , the Drovers being down to 13 men after losing both fly half Ioan Hughes and lock Joe Powell to the sin bin.”

“But the home forwards were penalised for putting a supporting man in front of the ball catcher and with that, full Jack Maynard ended the game by gleefully booting the ball high into the terraces.”

“Too close to call” said winning coach Euros Evans “but our defence was outstanding in the last ten minutes when Ebbw threw everything they had at us.”

“The Steelmen are now a very accomplished side and will not be often beaten at home so we are delighted to keep our unbeaten record.”

It was good news for the Drovers last week to see skipper Jack Jones come through his first match back from injury with a big shift up front against Cardiff and his leadership from the engine room of the scrum will again be very important.

The new signings from Llanelli – seasoned lock Chris Long and veteran back rower Nathan Hart –  have bolstered resources up front and there is hope that injured former Scarlets hooker Taylor Davies might be ready to make his first appearance since signing up in the close season.

The Steelmen have a powerful back row in Cameron Regan, Lewis Young (son of Dai Young) and Ryan Jenkins, a well drilled front five and an outstanding half back partnership in the vastly experienced Jon Evans at scrum half and talented young fly half  Evan Lloyd.

The Drovers – and their best side – will have to be on top form to protect their unbeaten record and come away with the spoils in the face of the usually  hostile welcome.