Photo of Drovers second row pair of Jack Jones (left) and Joe Powell in happy mood after winning 23-20 at Ebbw Vale.
The Drovers racked up their fourth consecutive win of the Premiership season after withstanding the firmest of challenges from the Steelmen writes Huw S Thomas.
They join Cardiff on 17 league points but remain third – eight points behind leaders Aberavon – because of the Blue and Blacks better try count (13-10).
A boisterous Eugène Cross Park crowd gave full support to a home side which has been much revamped by head coach Jason Strange who has been adroitly combining his duties at Ebbw Vale with a role as kicking coach to Super League Grand Final winners St Helens.
Cold, driving rain made life difficult for all and the result was in the balance until the last seconds of a rousing game between two evenly matched sides.
With the clock in the red, Ebbw had a line out five metres from the Llandovery line and were odds on to get the winning score , the Drovers being down to 13 men after losing both fly half Ioan Hughes and lock Joe Powell to the sin bin.
But the home forwards were penalised for putting a supporting man in front of the ball catcher and with that, full Jack Maynard ended the game by gleefully booting the ball high into the terraces.
“Too close to call” said winning coach Euros Evans “but our defence was outstanding in the last ten minutes when Ebbw threw everything they had at us.”
“The Steelmen are now a very accomplished side and will not be often beaten at home so we are delighted to keep our unbeaten record.”
The home forwards had the edge in the first half and the pack pushed the Llandovery eight back at a five metre scrum to earn a penalty try.
Wing Ryan Davies also claimed a try from a well worked play from a scrum and with fly half Evan Lloyd adding a conversion, the Steelmen went up 14-6, Maynard having kicked two penalties for Llandovery.
Just when things looked to be swinging in Ebbw’s favour, the Drover scored a counter attacking try;
Right wing Rhodri Wall slipped tacklers in a tight channel out wide before cleverly offloading to fly half Hughes who crossed under the posts.
Maynard’s conversion brought the Drovers back to within a point only for Lloyd to end the half with a straight penalty and a 17-13 half time lead for the home side.
After the break, Llandovery found new energy up front after a number odf substitutions, including a new front row in Jamie Hughes, Ricky Guest and Berian Watkins.
Some sloppy play by Hughes who failed to find a touch that would have brought a close range line out and a late tackle by Wall stopped momentum momentarily.
A Lloyd penalty made it 20-13 before a tremendous surge from a line out by the Llandovery pack brought a penalty try and a yellow card for Ebbw prop Joel Harries.
And when Maynard added a penalty to put make it 23-20 it looked as if the Drovers were in control.
Ebbw were also guilty of squandering possession with some ill judged kicking at the back of a strong wind but they were given a life line when Hughes was yellow carded for a judo tackle on full back Morgan Richards.
It set up a nail biting last seven minutes during which time the Drovers defended their goal line from drive after drive by the home forwards.
There was also a wonderful cover tackle by wing Kian Abraham on flanker Lewis Young and another crucial tackle from centre Adam Warren who forced a knock on inches from the goal line.
But back came the hosts with a driving line out which was only foiled by Powell illegally collapsing the maul.
Down to 13 men, it looked curtains for Llandovery before Ebbw made a crucial miscalculation at the final line out to let the Carmarthenshire side off the hook – and remain unbeaten in the process.
Tries: R Davies, pen try
Con: E Lloyd
Pens: E Lloyd (2)
Tries:I Hughes, Pen try
Con: J Maynard
Pens: J Maynard (3)
Ebbw Vale: M Richards; R Davies, E Phillips, D Franchi, C McDonough; E Lloyd, J Evans (capt); J Harries, M Blake, D Whiting, D Bartlett, C Gregory, L Young, G Williams, J Thomas
Replacements: C Kearns, A Court, C Thomas, M Thomas, M Flanagan, H Simons, Amir Jiwa-Wadji
Llandovery: J Maynard; R Wall, Adam Warren, R Jones, K Abraham; I Hughes, L Rees; D Dallavalle, C Thomas, L Green, J Jones (capt), J Powell, L Pike, M Dallavalle, S Worrall
Replacements: R Guest, B Watkins, J Hughes, J Evans, S Melmoth, C Woodall, K Jones, S Maynard