Merthyr caused a huge Premiership Cup upset when they beat a Llandovery side that had enjoyed a 33-12 league victory over the Ironmen back on September 24 writes Huw S Thomas.
The surprise win means that hitherto unbeaten Llandovery are virtually out of the Cup as they will need to beat Cardiff handsomely in the remaining Pool D game on December 3.
And not only beat them by eight points or over and score four tries but stop the Blue and Blacks from getting a single bonus point – a tough call.
Merthyr coach Rowland Phillips gave his thoughts on the turnaround in fortune.
“We played far, far better than back in September and Llandovery were not at their best and both sides made a bundle of errors in defence – as can be seen on the scoreboard.”
“That said, we fielded an experimental side with the intent of giving some players an opportunity to perform against a hitherto unbeaten Drovers outfit.”
His words must have made Llandovery coach all the more disappointed at a very substandard performance.
The Drovers copped three yellow cards in a poor display of discipline and also fell off numerous tackles to leave their flanks exposed many a time.
They may have scored six tries – as did Merthyr – but to concede close on a half century of points does not augur well for the league visit to high flying Cardiff this Saturday.
It all started so brightly when Llandovery took a third minute lead after centre Adam Warren had charged down a kick from Merthyr full back Ben Jones to race away for a try.
The home side hit back quickly when a patient build up ended with centre Dafydd Thomas taking a difficult pass to go over, fly half Gareth Thompson converting for a 7-5 lead.
They then forced a penalty try after Llandovery wing Rhodri Wall had been yellow carded for a deliberate knock on and it took a time for the Drovers to regain their confidence.
Fly half Kristian Jones reduced the leeway with a simple penalty before a run down the right by full back Kian Abraham saw supporting scrum half Lee Rees dashing over,
Jones converted to restore the Llandovery lead and the fly half then kicked a point blank range penalty to extend the lead to 18-14.
Just when it looked as if Llandovery had steadied the ship,a flowing Merthyr move ended with wing Sam Jones going over for a try converted by Thompson.
From the restart Warren swept away for his second try to regain the lead but the final word of the first half belonged to the Ironmen when Thompson kicked a penalty for a 24-23 half time lead after Llandovery had foolishly tried to run out of defence.
Two quick converted tries after the break from full back Jones and hooker Dan Wall – from a Llandovery failure to secure their own line out ball — gave Merthyr a 38-23 lead after just 46 minutes of play.
Llandovery were shaken to the core and although Thompson missed his first penalty of the day, poor tackling conceded another converted try to wing Jarrod Cushion.
Cushion was then yellow carded for a deliberate knock on and prop Jamie Hughes scored a try for the Drovers from a line out.
The Drovers picked up the tempo and full back Kian Abraham scored a fine solo kick and gather try to bring Llandovery back to 45-33 before lock Joe Powell got another try converted by replacement Jack Maynard.
Just when it looked as if Llandovery could yet do it, Thompson penalty took Merthyr to 48-40 before Llandovery replacements Callum Dodd and Dafydd Land were yellow carded for foul play.
Llandovery’s goose was cooked but they had a last gasp chance to get a second bonus point only for Maynard to miss a 40 metre penalty.
Two points rather than one would have given them a better chance of overhauling Cardiff and the task facing them on December 3 now looks well nigh insurmountable.
That said, they could have no complaints, beaten by a vastly improved Merthyr side at the end of a day of uncharacteristic sloppiness.
Tries: D Thomas, pen try, S Jones, B Jones, D Wall, J Cushion
Cons: G Thompson (5)
Pens: G Thompson (2)
Tries: A Warren (2), L Rees, J Hughes, K Abraham, J Powell
Cons: K Jones, J Maynard
Pens: K Jones (2)
Merthyr: B Jones; J Cushion, D Thomas. M Sieniawski, S Jones; G Thompson, J Soanes; C Lewis, D Wall, J Rogers, L Ashley (capt), P McBride, T Daley, P Rees, T Jevons
Replacements: R Williams, L Jones, C Phillips, B Sier, O Davies, G Davies, R Davies, J Keenan
Llandovery: K Abraham; R Wall, Adam Warren, R Jones, Aaron Warren; K Jones, L Rees; J Hughes, C Thomas, L Green, J Jones (capt), J Powell, L Pike, M Dallavalle, S Worrall
Replacements: R Guest, B Watkins, W Caron-Lewis, J Evans, S Melmoth, C Dodd, J Maynard, D Land