Ebbw Vale 37 Llandovery 21

What the Papers Say – Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas

Llandovery finished in fourth place in last year’s Premiership just one ahead of Ebbw Vale and on the evidence of this game the teams will again end up close to each other come the end of April writes Huw S Thomas.

The Steelmen won this tight match by dint of their better set piece and control of the ball when in possession, their first time tackling and sounder discipline.

Their blitz defence nullified the adventure and ambition of the Premiership’s exciting back division and at the end of the day it proved the key to home success.

They also finished the stronger coming from 21-20 behind with 10 minutes to go to score 17 points and clinch a bonus point in the last movement of the game.

Llandovery coach Euros Evans was bitterly disappointed with the way his side caved in at the end when Ebbw bullied possession and tore into an unusually fragile Drovers defence.

“We were ahead – perhaps a little against the run of play – but I was really surprised at our lack of bite and determination to let in two late tries.”

“The cause was not helped by our lack of discipline which saw yellow cards in the second half to Joe Powell and Jack Jones and we gave away far too many penalties.”

“The scoreline does not reflect the tightness of the competition but a losing margin of 16 points is unacceptable.”

“We play Bridgend on Saturday and they will come to Church Bank with a win over champions Merthyr under their belts. If we don’t get our act together we will lose.”

Winning coach Greg Woods was open with his views.

“Llandovery have an exciting and ambitious back division so with the help of a dominant pack we them under pressure with our rush defence – it was as simple as that.”

And yet for the first 20 minutes, the Drovers looked the better side with their free running backs conjuring up a fine try for centre Rhodri Jones, converted by fly half Jack Maynard.

Maynard almost stretched the lead to 10-0 only for his 40 metre penalty to come back off an upright and such was the poor kick chase that Ebbw were able to clear their lines.

The turning point came arguably when home fly half Ethan Phillips gave his under pressure side a huge boost when he intercepted a Llandovery pass on half way and sprinted home for a try which full back Dan Haymond converted.

Llandovery were visibly shaken and confidence dented, they went further behind when scrum half Sam Ireland put in wing Dafydd Thomas with a swift cut out pass for a try converted from wide out by Haymond.

The Steelmen led 14-7 at the break but the Drovers were level two minutes into the second half when a line out take and surge brought hooker Alun Rees the try, converted by Maynard.

A yellow card for flanker Powell for killing the ball at the ruck soon proved costly with Haymond kicking two well struck penalties for a 20-14 lead.

Despite Ebbw getting on top in tight and loose it was Llandovery who scored next when another line out and surge for the line let centre Jones through for his second try, converted by Maynard.

It was all Ebbw thereon, their big burly forwards getting over the gain line to stretch the Llandovery defence to the limit and poor tackling let in wing Euan Rosser for a corner try, converted by the impressive Haymond.

Both sides went in search of a fourth try but Llandovery’s fate was sealed with the sin binning of lock Jack Jones for verbal abuse of the referee.

Haymond put over the penalty to take away Llandovery’s chance of a consolation point and with the home forwards in control, helped by the tactical kicking of Man of the Match Phillips, centre Paul King dashed in at the death.

Haymond’s conversion for a personal tally of 17 points sent the Drovers back home with their tails between their legs.

Ebbw Vale

Tries: E Phillips, D Thomas, E Rosser, P King

Cons: D Haymond (4)

Pens: D Haymond (2)

Llandovery

Tries: R Jones (2), A Rees

Cons: J Maynard (3)

TEAM P W D L PF PA PTS
Cardiff 16 13 0 3 396 243 61
Carmarthen Quins 17 10 3 4 372 278 54
Aberavon 16 11 0 5 371 272 53
Llandovery 16 9 2 5 344 285 48
Pontypridd 18 10 0 8 394 376 47
Merthyr 18 8 0 10 362 374 44
RGC 1404 17 8 1 8 409 381 43
Newport 15 7 0 8 294 278 37
Swansea 17 7 0 10 246 292 35
Llanelli 15 6 0 9 293 412 27
Ebbw Vale 17 4 2 11 283 351 27
Bridgend Ravens 18 3 0 15 271 493 19