What the Papers Say – Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
Llandovery completed a Premiership double over the Steelmen of Ebbw Vale with as good an away performance as one could wish to see writes Huw S Thomas.
The win took the Drovers past both Newport and Ebbw Vale, and level on points with Pontypridd on 79 points behind Merthyr and Cardiff.
And with five of their remaining six games at home there is every possibility of a top three place at the end of the season
It was a match of thirds – Llandovery looking bright and threatening for two thirds of the game before Ebbw rallied thunderously with two tries to close the gap to a solitary point.
The shock of going behind 10-0 after five minutes to a Rhys Jones penalty and converted try from flanker Owen Young – son of watching Wasps coach Dai Young – did not faze the attack minded Drovers.
The whole back division, orchestrated by the new half back pairing of Lee Rees and Kristian Jones were ready to run the ball from anywhere on a surprisingly dry and smooth Eugene Cross Park surface.
It was a big compliment to outside half Jones that the side hardly missed Jack Maynard who coach Euros Evans had kept under wraps for the busy end of season programme of cup and league games.
Jones ran and distributed crisply and confidently brought centres Rhodri Jones and Ryan Evans, full back Gavin Thomas and wings Richard Williams and Aaron Warren onto the ball before kicking a penalty to make it 10-3.
As well as the backs were playing, it was to the delight of the band of visiting supporters that the pack did their own version of the Ronnie Keynes try on their hosts.
The close range line out drive has been Ebbw’s most potent source of points over the years but it was the Drovers who operated a well organised catch and drive to surge over the line, hooker Ricky Guest getting the touchdown in a mass of collapsed bodies.
Jones drew the scores level with a very good conversion, then added a penalty as the home side was forced into conceding penalties in the face of the flowing Llandovery attacks.
Ebbw wing James Lewis was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on inside his own 22 and shortly after the Drovers forwards conjured up another catch and drive to work in prop Jamie Hughes.
It was 18-10 at the break and that soon became 25-10 when prop Llyr Green set up a quick ruck which allowed Rhodri Jones to run in under the posts after a sharp movement up the right touchline involving Jones and Evans.
The Drovers looked to have got the bonus point when Rees put Thomas clear only for otherwise excellent referee Rhys Jones to rule the most marginal of forward passes.
That let off signalled a powerful Ebbw rally led by their imposing lock and captain Ashley Sweet.
His forwards pounded away, met by ferocious tackling led by Llandovery skipper and No 8 Richard Brooks and it was Sweet himself who eventually got a try from close range with 20 minutes to go.
Fly half Jones added the conversion to make it 25-17 and the rest of the game was spent most of the time in the Llandovery half as the home forwards helped by Jones’s kicking kept the visitors penned back.
Try as they might the Ebbw forwards meet fierce resistance all over the park from both starting and replacement Drovers, ready to put their bodies on the line.
Three minutes from the final whistle the otherwise excellent Joe Powell was yellow carded for offside and the line was finally breached when centre Dom Franchi ended off multiple phases of brutal attacks.
The Jones conversion saw his side trail by the one point and in a tense finish the Llandovery forwards battened down the hatches – replacement Stuart Worrall outstanding – to deny the home forwards the momentum they needed.
“A tremendous effort from backs and forwards alike” said assistant coach Simon Davies.
“Not many sides do the double over Ebbw Vale so the boys can be very proud of their achievement.”
“We now have nine days rest before the quarter final Cup game against Swansea in March 23.”
“The All Whites beat Newport comfortably earlier this evening and we know there is a huge challenge for us at Church Bank this Saturday”
*** The WRU Cup quarter final between Llandovery and Swansea kicks off at 2 30 pm on Saturday
Ebbw Vale: D Haymond; S Thomas, P King, D Franchi, J Lewis; R Jones, D Jones; L Garrett, J Franchi, R Sevenoaks; R Clarke, A Sweet (capt), C Regan, L Young, O Young
Replacements: R Francis, R Jones M Davies, K Parker, L Evans, M Flanagan, D Langdon, L Shore
Llandovery: G Thomas; R Williams, R Evans, R Jones, A Warren; K Jones, L Rees (capt);J Hughes, R Guest, L Green, J Jones, J Powell, L Ellis-Jones, R Brooks (capt), S Miles
Replacements: D Dallavalle, M Moore, D Thomas, J Evans, S Worrall, C Evans, S Maynard
Tries: O Young, A Sweet, D Franchi
Cons: R Jones (3)
Pen: R Jones
Tries: R Guest, J Hughes, R Jones
Cons: K Jones (2)
Pens: K Jones (2)