Cardiff 26 Llandovery 54
By Huw S Thomas
Llandovery showed why they are top of the Premiership with a quite outstanding win over Cardiff under the Arms Park lights on Thursday night writes Huw S Thomas
They go 10 points clear of Ebbw Vale with a game in hand and now look certain to qualify for the top four and Premiership play offs in early May.
The Drovers had not looked terribly good in recent narrow wins over Pontypridd and Ebbw Vale but back on a quick, dry surface – firstly at RGC and now the Arms Park – their flowing style was back in bright evidence.
They shrugged off a sluggish opening by inflicting on the Blue and Blacks their heaviest ever Premiership defeat on the ground and stunning the home crowd into silence.
The Drovers trailed 19-7 in the first quarter but ran in eight tries, seven of them converted, in a thrilling display of high octane rugby that Cardiff tried to emulate but could not cope with.
In a purple patch that straddled half time Llandovery ripped through the Cardiff defence to score five tries in just over 20 minutes, including doubles from prop Jamie Hughes and back row replacement Nathan Hart (pictured).
Fly half Ioan Hughes was the key man with some brilliantly long touch finders that often put his side in close striking range of the Cardiff line.
The post match comments of attack coach Gareth Potter reflected the high standards that Head Coach Euros Evans and Potter are demanding of their players.
“It’s a measure of where we’ve come from that we weren’t particularly happy at the end.”
“We were second best in the collisions on both sides of the ball in the first half and tried to play too much too quickly.”
“We were much more structured in the second half and the attack had far more fluency and accuracy”
“There were a few loose passes and off loads but the attack as a whole worked well.”
“The bench made a big impact, with Nathan Hart- playing his best game for us since joining from Llanelli – excellent in everything he did.”
“A word too for two Wales U20 youngsters in prop Josh Morse and flanker Luca Giannini who showed nice touches whilst Ilan (ILAN) Phillips looked sharp and threatening when he came on in the centre”
The Drovers had the worst possible start by going behind in the second minute when Cardiff wing Joe Goodchild gathered a chip ahead from Arwel Robson.to race in from 45 metres, the fly half converting.
They shook off the disappointment almost immediately when a close range line out gave the pack time to drive for the Cardiff line, allowing hooker Taylor Davies to get the touchdown under a heap of bodies.
It was the ex-Scarlets hooker’s eighth try of the Premiership and – typical of most of them – came at the back of a post line out surge by his fellow forwards.
Fly half Hughes converted but Goodchild soon got his second converted try of the night when sloven Llandovery tackling surrendered an easy run to the lime.
Things got even worse, more poor defence letting centre Arron Pinches slalom through the middle to build up a move that ended with co centre Harrison James crossing to make it 19-7 with just 19 frenetic minutes gone.
The Drovers did not panic, prop Jamie Hughes bringing them back into the game with a close range effort before they drew level thanks to a try by young wing Jac Davies, converted by his fly half.
It was the try of the evening with quick line out ball and fast recycling letting Ioan Hughes and fullback Harri Doel put Davies into the corner.
Confidence restored and tails now up, Llandovery got the lead and their bonus point try when prop Hughes crashed through for a second time, namesake Ioan’s conversion making it 26-19 at half time.
The breathtaking Llandovery play continued, replacement No 8 Nathan Hart – on for injured skipper Jack Jones – twice went in for converted tries, one of which was a fine solo effort that saw him running 35 metres from the back of the scrum.
Cardiff played a full part in a very fast game but could not stop the flow of thrilling attacking rugby and when Ioan Hughes took a surprise tap penalty lock Joe Powell got just reward for his work rate with Llandovery’s sixth converted try and a 47-19 lead.
Multiple substitutions stopped the momentum as Cardiff rallied to get a bonus point line out try from replacement hooker Connagh Vaughan, converted by Robson, but the game had long been safe in the Llandovery bag.
And to prove their superiority the Drovers finished in style when a strong burst and pass from Giannini got replacement hooker Craig Thomas his sixth try of the season, converted by replacement Jack Maynard.
*** With Wales playing England on Saturday (KO 4 45pm), the Drovers travel to Swansea to take on the All Whites in an early kick off game (1 00 pm)
Tries: J Goodchild (2), J Harries, C Vaughan
Cons: A Robson (3)
Tries: J Hughes (2), N Hart (2), T Davies, J Davies, J Powell, C Thomas
Cons: I Hughes (6), J Maynard
Cardiff: J Lloyd; J Goodchild, A Pinches, H James, K Stone; A Robson, J Hill; C Tyler Grocott, A Rees, F Barnes, J Hoodgendoom, E Phillips, S Moore, N Hudd, I Pascoe
Replacements: C Vaughan, E Drake, C Brooke, I Pring, S Newton, J Williams, T Hughes, J Beal
Llandovery: H Doel; J Davies, Adam Warren, R Jones, Aaron Warren; I Hughes, L Rees; J Hughes, T Davies, B Watkins, J Jones (capt), E Scragg, O Davies, J Powell. S Worrall
Replacements: J Morse, C Thomas, L Green, N Hart. L Giannini, I Phillips, J Maynard, D land