Merthyr 10 Llandovery 20

With the permission of the Brecon and Radnor Express and photographer Norman Harwood

The Drovers go into 2024 defending Premiership champions, current league leaders and WRU Cup semi finalists after yet another win – their 12th of the season – under coach Euros Evans writes Huw S Thomas

Despite the wettest and wildest of conditions, they had the composure to resist a strong challenge from a Merthyr side which has become, over the years, very difficult to beat on its own Wern patch.

The surprise resignation of coach Rowland Phillips did not seem to have affected the combative Ironmen as they put in a whole hearted performance against a side that has lost just the one game all season.

They stayed in the game right through and their defence frustrated Llandovery in the last five minutes as the visitors searched non-stop for the bonus point try.

The bonus point was not to be, although the Drovers duly completed the double over the tough Ironmen, having beaten them 38-12 at Church Bank on September 6.

The Carmarthenshire high flyers had found Carmarthen Quins difficult to put away the previous week but here they looked in fighting fettle with the return of lock and skipper Jack Jones.

Jones’s brawny and belligerent presence was missed in the Quins game and once again he led his forwards with gusto as befits the grandson of the former Wales lock Brian Thomas.

Jones had a running, sometimes literal, battle all game with his opposite number, the vastly experienced Craig Locke but edged the honours with his usual no nonsense and complete dedication to the Llandovery cause.

It was a special day, too, for centre Rhodri Jones who made his 250th appearance for the club after 10 years of loyal and skilful service to the cause.

His midfield partnership with Adam Warren has been a key factor in the club’s huge success in recent years and both were always busy in all that went on behind the scrum.

Coach Euros Evans was more than happy with the result.

“We were near to the bonus point but we have often slipped up here so we count a simple away win at the Wern a job well done.”

“The conditions were not in the favour of our style of play but we put our noses to the grindstone and eked out the win”

“We have seven away games left out of our remaining 11 so all away wins are vital to any chance of retaining our title.”

The Drovers, prompted by the once again outstanding Lee Rees looked far the more fluent and dangerous in attack and with a modicum of luck could have secured the four try bonus point in the first half.

A brilliant long range solo score from scrum half Rees was the highlight of the first half and the other try on the cusp of half time was scored by hooker Taylor Davies.

Centre Jones showed fine skill in flipping on inside pass to the supporting Davies who crossed for his seventh Cup and league try of the season, one ahead of Rees.
A conversion from fly half Jack Maynard made it 12-0 at the interval but it could have been a greater margin after a dominant 40 minutes.

Wing Kai Abraham lost the ball over the Merthyr goal line and Rees’s try scoring pass to Abraham was intercepted by a forlorn defender.

Just when it looked that the Drovers would step up a further gear in the second half, the Ironmen confounded predictions with a close range try from flanker and skipper Phil McBride.

Fly half Gareth Thompson’s conversion made it 12-7 and the game remained tight, Maynard and Thompson swapping penalties.

Merthyr had been abrasive in the contact area but the Llandovery replacements upped the tempo with back rower Nathan Hart making grand ground in the loose to put his side in the ascendancy.

A line out catch from skipper Jones and forward surge worked in replacement hooker Craig Thomas before the visitors threw everything at the home defence.

One try was refused for an earlier knock on and the charging Llandovery forwards were held up on the line time and time again in a frenetic finale.

*** Pontypridd who lost narrowly to Ebbw Vale in their last game are the visitors to Church Bank this Saturday (KO 2 30 pm)

Try: P McBride
Con: G Thompson
Pen: G Thompson
Tries: L Rees, T Davies, C Thomas
Con: J Maynard
Pen: J Maynard

Merthyr: B Jones; J Kathrens, C Swannack, J Soanes, L Rowlands; ; G Thompson, E Lloyd; C Lewis, , L Wiggins, R Lewis, C Locke, T Davies, P McBride (capt), A Lawrence, L Greggans,
Replacements: E Shipp, T Hawkins, D Whiting, B Sier, C Thomas, S Ripley,T Knoyle, D Thomas

Llandovery: J Davies; K Abraham, Adam Warren, R Jones, Aaron Warren; J Maynard, L Rees; J Hughes, T Davies, L Green, J Jones (capt), C Long, O Davies, J Powell, S Worrall
Replacements: D Dallavalle, C Thomas, B Watkins, N Hart, T Poole, G McDonald, M Page, D Land