Drovers look forward to the festive season

There is growing excitement at Llandovery at the thought that the current top and second placed clubs in the Premiership will be the visitors to Church Bank on consecutive Saturdays writes Huw S Thomas.

This Saturday (Dec 21) league leaders and unbeaten Cardiff will be the opposition and a week later it will be the turn of Carmarthen Quins to take on the Drovers.

Both clubs were in impressive form last week with Cardiff comfortably dismissing the defending champions Merthyr 20-3 and the Quins notching up their sixth consecutive win in overcoming Newport 26-20.

“What great entertainment for our fans over the festive season to have the two best teams in the Premiership at Church Bank” said club President Handel Davies.

“It is a challenge that the team will relish despite our league position” said Davies.

“Although we are in the bottom half of the table, we have two or three games in hand over everyone else and two wins would send us racing up the table.”

That said the Drovers face a real tough couple of games.

Cardiff have been revitalised since the arrival from Bedwas of coach Steve Law who has brought discipline, rigour and a hard edge to the Arms Park outfit who were serious under performers for years.

The local derby against the Quins on December 28 will have extra spice as the visitors are now coached by their former hooker Emyr Phillips who was in the first Llandovery side in history to win the Welsh Cup in 2007.

Phillips has moulded an outstanding pack of forwards who have been expert in controlling a rolling maul from close range line outs.

Of further interest will be the return to Church Bank of a number of former Drovers.

Forwards Richard Bloomfield, Shaun Jones, Ed Siggery, Lawrence Reynolds, skipper Haydn Pugh and Tom Ball had successful careers at Church Bank.

Fly Steffan Marshall centre Josh Batcup and scrum half Ifan Beynon-Thomas also featured so for all of them a Quins win would be the icing on their Christmas cake.

But two holiday wins would be another excellent end of year present for the Drovers under No 8 Richard Brooks who made his 200th appearance for the club on December 7.

They were in grand form against Pontypridd a fortnight ago with the pack putting in an outstanding second half performance of possession rugby to deny Ponty any chance of victory.

Their record this season reads won four lost three but two wins – even one – aginst quality opposition would be a big boost for the rest of the season.

With 21 league wins out of a possible 30 and a 104 points total, a top four finish was little less than the players deserved in season 2018-2019.

112 tries for and only 67 against offered not only proof of attacking intent but of defensive excellence in the 30 match campaign.

Only Merthyr, Cardiff and Pontypridd ended with more tries and the Drovers defence under Gareth Potter conceded the lowest number of tries in the Premiership.

Goal kicker and fly half Jack Maynard ended up the Premiership’s leading points scorer with 279 points.

They also reached the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup before going down to the eventual winners Cardiff.

In finishing fourth in last year’s Premiership, Llandovery will join another five Welsh clubs to participate in a new cross-border competition against Scottish Super 6 sides in April and May 2020

The Drovers will be joined by fellow top six finishers Merthyr, Cardiff, Pontypridd, Ebbw Vale and Aberavon.

The six semi-pro Scottish teams have been set up by the SRU with the aim of bridging the gap between the amateur and professional game in Scotland

Franchises have been awarded to Ayr, Stirling County, Southern Knights (from the Borders) and three Edinburgh clubs – Boroughmuir, Heriot’s and Watsonians.

Cross Border fixtures

23 April Heriot’s (away); May 2 Ayr (away); May 9 Southern Knights (home); May 16 Stirling (away); May 23 Boroughmuir (home); May 30 Watsonians (home)

Cardiff 16 13 0 3 396 243 61
Carmarthen Quins 17 10 3 4 372 278 54
Aberavon 16 11 0 5 371 272 53
Llandovery 16 9 2 5 344 285 48
Pontypridd 18 10 0 8 394 376 47
Merthyr 18 8 0 10 362 374 44
RGC 1404 17 8 1 8 409 381 43
Newport 15 7 0 8 294 278 37
Swansea 17 7 0 10 246 292 35
Llanelli 15 6 0 9 293 412 27
Ebbw Vale 17 4 2 11 283 351 27
Bridgend Ravens 18 3 0 15 271 493 19