Llandovery 28 Bridgend 13
Bridgend have surprised the Drovers at Church Bank on many an occasion but the home side did just enough this time to win a disappointing and disjointed game writes Huw S Thomas.
It was Llandovery’s seventh league win in eight games but they looked a shadow of the side that had lost just the one Premiership game.
The fluency of the recent away win at Llanelli was missing, not helped by a stop-start game of over 30 line outs and a deluge of penalties, handed out by referee Elliot Mayor, in charge of his first ever Premiership game.
Coach Euros Evans looked decidedly unhappy about two decisions which robbed his side of the try that would have given them a bonus point.
The Llandovery pack was penalised for coming out of a scrum after it had driven Bridgend back to the goal line.
Then, from a driven line out, the Llandovery forwards were penalised for a “truck and trailer obstruction” as they surged towards the Ravens line.
“ Those decisions were crucial “ said Evans “ but we have to take them on the chin and move on”
“We were far from our best against a gritty side who made life difficult for us all over the park.”
“All said and done it was a win that keeps us in touch with the leaders.”
With Aberavon losing 34-26 to RGC and also failing to get a bonus point, Llandovery move into second place in the Premiership table, four points behind Cardiff with a third of the season gone.
A traffic jam on the M4 meant Bridgend rushing to make a late 8 o’clock kick off and within a minute they had conceded a penalty to fly half Jack Maynard.
To their credit, the visitors soon found their legs in attack and opposite number Luke Price kicked two penalties for the lead.
That soon became 13-3 when consistent pressure on the home line ended with scrum half Chris Williams slipping through for a try, converted by Price.
The Drovers were rattled and made poor choices when in possession as well as conceding a number of penalties to a hard tackling defence.
Llandovery could not find any rhythm in their play and even a series of close range drives failed to bring any points to leave them trailing by 10 points at the break.
Bridgend slowed down the possession that the Llandovery backs usually thrive upon and their usual fluency was sorely lacking.
Even scrum half Lee Rees – making his 301st appearance for the club – lacked his usual ebullience in attack.
A fine run by full back Ed Howley all but made a try for the confident Ravens before a second Maynard penalty made it 13-6 after 50 minutes.
A tactical change in moving Kristian Jones to fly half and the introduction of replacement centre Rhodri Jones livened up the midfield as the Drovers desperately tried to re-find their composure
A yellow card for fly half Price checked Bridgend momentum and the home forwards drove a line out to work in replacement hooker Craig Thomas, Kristian Jones converting to celebrate his 100th game for the club..
The Drovers left it until the 75th minute to go ahead when more line out pressure eventually saw wing Aaron Warren diving over wide out.
It was cruel luck for the brave Ravens but when they then lost replacement Nathan Edwards to the sin bin, a Jones penalty and a try for lock and man of the Match Joe Powell made the game safe for off colour Llandovery.
They even had a last gasp chance to claim a bonus point fourth try only for the final pass to Aaron Warren to be adjudged forward a yard from the line.
*** Cardiff will be the visitors to Church Bank on Saturday December 3 when Llandovery will need a convincing bonus point home win if they are to have any chance of qualifying for the Welsh Cup quarter finals.
Tries: C Thomas, Aaron Warren, J Powell
Cons: K Jones (2)
Pens: J Maynard (2), K Jones
Tries: C Williams
Con: L Price
Pens: L Price (2)
Llandovery: H Doel; R Wall, Adam Warren, K Jones, Aaron Warren; J Maynard, L Rees; D Dallavalle, R Guest, L Green, J Jones (capt), J Powell, I Rees, M Dallavalle, J Evans
Replacements: C Thomas, J Hughes, M Swan, C Williams, S Melmoth, R Jones, C Dodd, S Maynard
Bridgend: E Howley; S Floyd Ellis, J Gatt, I Griffith, M Powell; L Price, C Williams; R Apsee, E Yardley, A Eubank-Anderson, B Thomas, J Pope, A Evans, J Collier (capt), I Merriman
Replacements: L Murphy, H Olding, R Tucker, B Uphill, D Davies, P Short, N Edwards