DROVERS SHADOW SIDE PUT IN FINE PERFORMANCE AT EBBW VALE
Ebbw Vale 27 Llandovery 15
Llandovery made multiple changes from the side that beat Pontypridd in last week’s WRU Cup quarter-final and suffered predictable defeat in this league game at Eugene Cross Park writes Huw S Thomas
With an eye on Saturday’s semi-final against Aberavon, coach Euros Evans rested all his front line players and had a bench full of on-permit players but his skeleton side did him proud.
They looked in real trouble at half time when they trailed 17-0 to a typically robust, rough, and tough side in the Steelmen.
To the side’s huge credit, it came right bang back into the game after the break to run in three tries to come agonisingly short of claiming two bonus points and give Ebbw a real scare.
There were outstanding performances from all the forwards and their replacements as they fought tooth and nail against a bigger, more physical yet predictable route one home pack.
Back rowers Marco Dallavalle and Lloyd Pike, along with prop Liam Tobias were particularly prominent whilst behind the scrum, veteran fly half James Garland along with centres Rhodri Wall and Craig Woodall went through a ton of work both in attack and defence.
The quick service and sharp running of replacement scrum half Dafydd Land was also a big factor in the Llandovery resurgence and confirmed the promise that many had started to question.
Coach Euros Evans does not often look happy – even in victory – but his satisfaction with the achievement of his shadow side was written all over his smiling face.
“To come and front up to the recognised physicality of Ebbw Vale and outscore them 15 -10 in the second half tells us a lot about their character.” said Evans.
“Better sides than this have ended up well beaten here so I have nothing but praise for all 23 players used.”
“A number of players put up their hands for a place in next week’s squad for the semi-final against Aberavon and selection will be tricky.”
Two first half tries from scrum half Matthew Flanagan and centre Joe Westwood, plus seven points from the boot of fly half Evan Lloyd established a seemingly comfortable 17-0 home lead..
And with the loss of experienced hooker Ricky Guest who was sent off for punching along with Ebbw wing Matthew Powell just before the break, things looked black for the visitors.
Flanagan’s effort came after the home pack had spent minutes pounding at the Llandovery line and Westwood grabbed a very good try from a set move from a scrum.
The expulsion of Guest seemed to galvanise the Drovers’ resistance and with Marco Dallavalle particularly prominent with his angled ball carrying and Garland pulling the strings behind, the fight back began
Wall plunged over wide out and although Lloyd kicked a penalty after Llandovery transgressed at a scrum, Wall got his second after a Garland blind side probe to make it 20-10
Aaron Warren was denied a try after a stupendous cover tackle from wing Joe Thomas and just when it looked as if Llandovery might yet create a shock win, a momentary lapse in concentration let replacement prop Lewis Kinsella in.
With Lloyd’s conversion the Steelmen were clear only for the never say die Drovers to have the last word when a patient build up worked in replacement wing George Thomas in the left hand corner.
It summed up a performance just as impressive as the one over Pontypridd.
To go to a hostile Eugene Cross Park with a skeleton side and come away with the satisfaction of pushing a full Ebbw Vale all the way with a squad full of players of minimum Premiership experience is testament to the excellence of the Llandovery set up, both on and off the field of play.
Tries: M Flanagan, J Westwood, L Kinsella
Con: E Lloyd (2)
Pens: E Lloyd (2)
Tries: R Wall (2), G Thomas
Ebbw Vale: D Howells; J Thomas, J Westwood, D Franchi (capt), M Powell; E Lloyd, M Flanagan; A Coundley, M Blake, D Whiting, L Randall, E Doyle, D Hill, A Grey, J Thomas
Replacements: L Kinsella, J Harries, R Sevenoaks, C Talbot, G Williams, J Evans, O Andrews, D Haymond
Llandovery: L Thomas;L Williams, R Wall, C Woodall, A Evans; J Garland, D Brooks; C Thomas, R Guest, L Tobias, O Davies, G Evans, J Evans, L Pike, M Dallavalle
Replacements: W Caron – Lewis, J Cox, T Pritchard, I Davies, S Melmouth, I Thomas, D Land
— Huw S Thomas Rugby World Schools Editor 4 Maes y Coleg Llandovery Carms SA20 0HS 01550 720028 07866 553920