ABERAVON 31 LLANDOVERY 48
The Drovers were again in fluent form but had to fight hard to resist the firmest of challenges from a side which had beaten them 24-15 at Church Bank last month writes Huw S Thomas. Pic: Ian Williams
They outscored Aberavon seven tries to five and in so doing made themselves strong candidates for a home draw in the play offs on May 14.
The league leaders who have now won 18 of their 21 games have just the one game left – against a rejuvenated Newport on May 6.
Cardiff and Merthyr, the two other pretenders for a home draw, are two and six points respectively behind Llandovery with a game in hand but have still to play each other at the Arms Park at a date yet to be fixed.
In their other remaining games, Cardiff face a tricky trip to Ebbw Vale whilst Merthyr look to have an easy task at home to a weak Llanelli.
All permutations for a top two spot are possible in an exciting ending to the regular season.
“To score seven tries at Aberavon takes some doing” said Llandovery coach Euros Evans.
“There was pressure on the boys as we had to win if we wanted to stay in contention for a home draw, so credit to them for playing some excellent attacking stuff.”
“Newport away will be very tough as they are the form team at the moment but we’ll give it our best shot as always.”
In Newport are in form, so too are the Drovers who have scored 185 points and 25 tries in their last four games under the fine leadership of lock Jack Jones.
Prompted by scrum half Lee Rees – described by one Aberavon supporter whispering to his friend “the most exciting player in the Premiership”- the Llandovery backs have stretched many a good defence in their quest for fluency and accuracy.
In the game at the Talbot Athletic Ground, play was fast and furious from the very start in perfect conditions and Llandovery were soon ahead when a close range scrum and deft pass from centre Adam Warren made room for wing Rhodri Wall to squeeze over wide out, full back Jack Maynard converting.
Aberavon hit back almost immediately when a kick ahead from scrum half Iwan Temblett was seized upon by full back Steff Andrews for a try, converted by fly half Aled Thomas.
A Maynard penalty made it 10-7 before a run from scrum half Lee Rees and clever chip ahead by centre Adam Warren ended with co-centre Rhodri Jones twisting over out of tackles.
A driving line out gave home hooker Ieuan Davies the chance to touch down and with Thomas’s conversion Aberavon were back to within a point.
A strong run from No 8 Ashton Evans laid the foundations for a third Aberavon try for centre Joe Thomas but the Drovers went back ahead with a second Jones effort – converted by Maynard – following a run and inside pas from classy wing Harri Doel.
Ex-Worcester Warrior Doel came near to extending the lead, failing to take a very difficult pass near the home line to leave it finely edged, 22-19, to the visitors at half time.
Warren clinched a bonus point under the Aberavon posts following a steal by flanker Stuart Worrall but back came the Wizards with a penalty try, Llandovery prop Llyr Green yellow carded for pulling down the maul.
It brought a bonus point for the home side but fly half Ioan Hughes cleverly anticipated an Aberavon pass in mid field to race in under the posts for an interception score.
Ever consistent lock Joe Powell then crashed over from an inside pass from the busy Doel to make it 41-26 to the Drovers.
The veteran Ieuan Davies burrowed over to expose Llandovery weakness in defending the driving maul to bring it back to 41-31 in the furious and frenetic action.
But the final word went to replacement Lloyd Pike – fed through under the posts by another pass from the omnipresent Doel – to cap a fine Llandovery away victory.
Maynard converted for a personal tally of 13 points which took him to 216 points in Cup and league for the season – and way clear of any rivals.
Tries: S Andrews, I Davies (2), J Thomas, pen try
Cons: A Thomas (2)
Tries: R Jones (2), A Warren, J Powell, I Hughes, R Wall, L Pike
Cons: J Maynard (5)
Pen: J Maynard
Aberavon: S Andrews; J Baker, J Thomas, B Roderick, F Jones; A Thomas, I Temblett; R Fawcett, I Davies, C Davies, S Smallman, R Hughes, S Parris-Williams (capt), A Evans, S Pailor
Replacements: R Jones, J Phillips, C Banfield, L Davies, R Jenkins, S Lewis, J Walters, G James.
Llandovery: J Maynard; H Doel, Adam Warren, R Jones, RWall; I Hughes, L Rees; J Hughes, C Thomas, L Green, J Jones (capt), J Powell, G Evans, O Davies, S Worrall
Replacements: R Guest, W Caron-Lewis, B Watkins, L Pike, J Evans, K Abraham, K Jones, D Land
2022/2023 Indigo Premiership as at April 16 2023