Llandovery 43 Ebbw Vale 7

Huw S Thomas at The Talbot Athletic Ground

In a surprisingly one sided WRU Cup semi final at Aberavon, the Drovers went through to the final with a display that even superlatives would not do justice to writes Huw S Thomas

They will now face Merthyr at the Millennium Stadium on April 7 after the Ironmen beat Swansea 23-17 in the other semi-final at Bridgend

The Steelmen had been the only side to beat Llandovery in the Indigo Premiership back in October but here they were comprehensively outplayed by a Llandovery team that played with a poise, skill and confidence rarely seen at semi-pro level.

“We have been waiting for that kind of performance for a while” said coach Euros Evans,  “and the first half play was one of the best that this side has produced since my time with them”

“After two very close contests in the Premiership, we knew that we had to be on top of our game against them and to do so would require us to step up a gear.”

“Our first half performance laid the foundations for an outstanding Cup win and it will take us into the final in good stead.”

Attack coach Gareth Potter beamed “On a firm pitch and in dry conditions, the boys’ attacking play was on another level with their creativity a delight to see and they quite literally danced their way to the Ebbw Vale line.

“Jac Davies’s extra pace and incisive running from full back lit the touch paper for all around”

Not even the most rabid Ebbw Vale fan, player, coach or committee man would deny the superiority of the Drovers in all departments.

Once the Llandovery forwards gained early control with their hard carrying, the backs put on a display of swift and balanced running, passing and supporting that had the Ebbw defence clutching at straws.

If the WRU want to show an example of what they might want in quality and attitude from next year’s semi pro Elite League, then they have Llandovery’s display on camera to distribute to all clubs as the exciting template for the future.

Individually and collectively Llandovery dazzled with their ambition and invention, none more so than the centre pairing of Adam Warren and Rhodri Jones whose understanding of space, time and support was out of the top drawer.

They and fly half Ioan Hughes continually asked questions of the Ebbw midfield with the intelligence of their angles and passing – long, short, quick, delayed – confounding would be tacklers.

Little bobby dazzler Lee Rees was in the middle of everything at scrum half, wings Aaron Warren and Harri Doel made ground whenever in possession whilst in full back Jac Davies Llandovery have found a star of the future.

Two brilliant solo tries from the 20 year old, one from his own try line brought the house down in admiration and proved his selection in front of goal kicker Jack Maymard a master stroke by the coaching team.

Many had been in favour of keeping Maynard at full back for his goal kicking but soon had to change their minds when Davies slipped one tackler on half way and slalomed in from 50 metres.

If that was brilliant then his second half try was even more remarkable, picking up the ball near his own try line, slipping onrushing attackers and chipping ahead before gathering on his way to the try line.

Llandovery old timers shook their heads in disbelieving admiration of the length of the field score from the quick and elusive Ysgol Glantaf product.

Not that the backs were the only heroes. Scrums were rock solid and line out only a tad less so but in the loose the back row of Osian Davies, Joe Powell and Stuart Worrall did everything at a speed and conviction that their opposite numbers could not match.

At the beating heart of the forward effort were locks Jack Jones and Chris Long whose work in defence alongside front rowers Jamie Hughes, Taylor Davies and Berian Watkins stifled Ebbw’s sporadic attempts to bully their way through tacklers.

In a first half of scintillating rugby, Llandovery scored four tries, through Jac Davies, Ioan Hughes, Adam Warren and Jamie Hughes – all crafted  and executed perfectly – and could easily have scored three more such was the ease in which the backs continued to cut through.

Fly half Hughes added nine points from the boot, and the tie was already dead at 29-0.

A yellow card for flanker Lewis Young, son of the watching Dai, just before the break for hands in the ruck and then another for centre Ethan Phillips for back chat made Ebbw’s chances of recovery even slimmer.

Davies’s virtuoso 100 metre effort made it 36-0 before the Drovers emptied their bench with a quarter of an hour to go.

Throwing the ball about as if on a Pendine beach holiday, the Drovers paid for their abandon when replacement wing Reece Dunne -on loan from Gloucester – scored an interception try, converted by replacement Kieran Meek

It meant little and a strong run from Long and a swift inside pass to Powell saw the No 8 gallop over for his side’s sixth and last try of one of the most unequal semi finals in the 53 year  history of the Welsh Cup.

*** Llandovery face a non too easy task on Friday when they travel to Pontypool who still have a chance of making the Premiership play offs. The Drovers will need to be on full guard against Pooler

2023-24 WRU Premiership Cup Semi Final
02.04.24 Llandovery v Ebbw Vale


Tries: J Davies (2), I Hughes, Adam Warren, J Hughes, J Powell

Cons: I Hughes (4), J Maynard

Pen: I Hughes

Ebbw Vale

Tries: R Dunne

Con: K Meek


Llandovery: J Davies; H Doel, Adam Warren, R Jones, Aaron Warren; I Hughes, L Rees; J Hughes, T Davies, B Watkins, J Jones (capt), C Long, O Davies, J Powell, S Worrall

Replacements: D Dallavalle, C Thomas, L Green, Marco Dallavalle, N Hart, I Phillips, J Maynard, D Land

Ebbw Vale: M Richards; E Bowden, E Phillips, D Franchi, J Thomas; E Lloyd, J Evans; L Garrett,  R Francis (capt), A Court, D Bartlett,,C Gregory, C Regan, A Howes, L Young

Replacements: M Davies, R Francis, H Drone, E McIntyre, R Jenkins, R Harries, B Main, R Dunne, K Meek