Llandovery 20 Ebbw Vale 15
The eagerly awaited Indigo Premiership clash between third and fourth saw the Drovers keep ahead of their Gwent visitors in the league table writes Huw S Thomas.
It was Llandovery’s tenth win in 12 matches and a very important one in the hotting-up race to finish in the top four and go forward to the April play offs.
Up to six clubs have realistic prospects of joining leaders Cardiff in the play-off spots – Aberavon, Llandovery, Ebbw Vale, Merthyr, RGC and Newport, all of which will makes for an exciting fight over the coming few months.
With Aberavon surprisingly losing at home to Pontyprdd, the Drovers move up to second place but coach Euros Evans knows that there are challenges waiting on all sides.
Fellow coach Gareth Potter reflected the general disappointment of failing to clinch a bonus try.
“When we led 20-5 with 25 minutes to go, we thought we had a bonus point win in the bag” said Potter “but we lost our shape, were poor at the set piece and let Ebbw in to snatch a losing bonus point”
“We are not playing well at the moment so it’s a relief to get a win against a team that is always very hard to beat.”
“We are up to second in the table but will have to play far better with so many good sides snapping at our heels”
Llandovery had easily the better of the early play but found it hard to break down a well organized defence until full back Jack Maynard broke the deadlock with a 15th minute penalty.
The Steelmen responded in style when rangy centre Ethan Phillips took advantage of some hesitant mid field tackling to sweep over wide out.
The Drovers regained the lead when Maynard slid through a kick for wing Aaron Warren to beat two defenders in a hectic dash for the touchdown.
Home wing Callum Dodd was inches short of a try after some swift passing along the line and half time came with Llandovery narrowly ahead 8-5 in a game as tight as expected.
The Drovers then hit Ebbw with two quick tries in two minutes.
Mobile lock Griff Evans charged down a relieving kick by scum half Jonathan Evans for the first try before a quick thinking flick pass by Warren saw Maynard send skipper Lee Rees haring in, Maynard converting.
The Steelmen looked visibly shaken and the Drovers went hard for the bonus point try, rolling mauls from the line out nearly succeeding on two occasions.
To their credit, Ebbw refused to give in and scored 10 points with a late spurt.
Wing Morgan Richards ran fully 50 metres for a fine touchline try which he quickly converted and replacement fly half Keiran Meek salvaged a losing bonus point with a last play of the match penalty from 30 metres.
*** The Drovers continue their league programme on February 11 when they entertain Pontypridd at Church Bank in an early 1 pm kick off. Wales play Scotland later in the day (KO 4 45 pm)
Star choice: Lee Rees (Llandovery)
Tries: Aaron Warren, G Evans, L Rees
Con: J Maynard
Pen: J Maynard
Tries: E Phillips, M Richards
Con: M Richards
Pen: K Meek
Llandovery: J Maynard; C Dodd, K Jones, R Jones, Aaron Warren; I Hughes, L Rees (capt); D Dallavalle, C Thomas, L Green, G Evans, J Powell, J Evans, O Davies, S Worrall
Replacements: J Hughes, R Guest, B Watkins, T Poole, L Pike, I Phillips, L Smith, D Land
Ebbw Vale : H Simons; A Jima Walji, E Phillips, D Franchi, M Richards; E Lloyd, J Evans; C Kearns, R Francis (capt), A Court, D Bartlett, A Mann, L Young, R Jenkins, G Williams
Replacements: J Franchi, LGarrett, H Drane, C Gregory, C Thomas, J Thomas, M Flanagan, K Meek