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

In a dress rehearsal for the WRU Cup quarter final at Church Bank on March 23, the Drovers looked the more likely side to progress into the semi-finals writes Huw S Thomas.

They duly completed the double over the All Whites after the 23-10 win at St Helen’s in October but were still pushed hard by the most improved side in the Premiership.

It was Llandovery’s 16th consecutive win over Swansea who last beat the Drovers back in August 2010.

In a full blooded game, defences were on top for most of the time but Llandovery had that bit more invention and composure at key moments to shade the win.

Coach Euros Evans was more than satisfied with four points.

“This was a very good win against a side who beat league leaders Merthyr 27-5 the week before and who have been getting better and better week after week.”

“We face them again in the Cup and are certain of another tough challenge.”

“The win takes us up level with Ebbw Vale on 75 points and next week’s game against them at Eugene Cross Park should be a humdinger.”

A feature of the game was the unrelenting battle in the loose of two excellent back rows whose mobility, combativity and fitness was a credit to the Premiership

Lewis Ells-Jones, Emyr Price and Stuart Worrall stood toe to toe with the Swansea back row of Morgan Morris, Jon Fox and Will Jones with each trio doing one good thing after another whether in attack or defence.

Not that they were the only players to shine in a quality contest,

Both full backs, Gavin Thomas and Phil Jones had some lovely touches, home centres Ryan Evans and Rhodri Jones found Tom Williams and Joe Thomas equally strong and determined and there were big games from locks Jack Jones (Llandovery) and James Ratti (Swansea) – both former Llandovery College players.

There was a right royal battle, too, between the two hookers – young Osprey Ifan Phillips – son of the watching former Wales hooker Kevin – and the vastly experienced Ricky Guest who has added huge solidity to the Drovers pack since his arrival in 2017

Fly half Jack Maynard again proved a key player for the Drovers in slotting a penalty and drop goal in the first half to nose his side into the lead 6-3 after the All Whites had had the edge up front.

The visitors had started with a real bang, a driving maul from the pack taking them 30 metres up field and allowing fly half Steff Williams to give them a 3-0 lead with a simple penalty.

The turning point of the game came in injury time in the first half when against the run of play Thomas supported wing Richard Williams up the right in a sharp counter attack before the fast supporting Evans was at hand to go over near the posts, Maynard converting for a rather flattering 13-3 interval lead.

Following wing Aaron Warren’s yellow card for a deliberate knock on in the first half, Llandovery lost prop Dexter Thomas in the second half for twice coming in to the side of a maul.

The Swansea forwards threw everything into a series of close range scrums and line outs knowing that a score would bring them right back into the game only to find the 14 man defence impregnable.

And the home victory was sealed in the 72nd minute when skipper and scrum half Le Rees put up a high box kick on half way, the ball then took a wicked bounce away from the covering defence and let Warren race in – untouched – from 30 metres.

Maynard’s conversion put a space between the two teams that the shaken All Whites could not narrow in the dying minutes.

Tries: R Evans, A Warren
Cons:J Maynard (2)
Pen: J Maynard
Drop goal: J Maynard
Pen:S Williams
Llandovery: G Thomas; R Williams, R Evans, R Jones, A Warren; J Maynard, L Rees (capt); D Dallavalle, R Guest, L Green, J Jones, J Powell, L Ellis-Jones, E Price, , S Worrall

Replacements: D Thomas, M Moore, J Hughes, S Miles, R Jones, C Jones, K Jones, D Land

Swansea: P Jones; A Claypole, T Williams, J Thomas, J Jenkins; S Williams, C Morgans; T Sloane, I Phillips, A Jeffreys, J Ratti, W Griffiths, M Morris, J Fox (capt), W Jones

Replacements:, T Northy, J Clark, M Walsh, C Bowden, R Williams, M Dodd, T Ham, G Rees

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