What the Papers Say – Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
In an exact turnaround of scores from the game at Aberavon in September, the Drovers avenged their narrow 31-26 defeat with this bonus point win writes Huw S Thomas.
Highlight of the last game of the season was a brace of tries from local Llangadog boy Harri Doel with the first the classiest of finishes in a narrow space up the right hand touchline.
It was a disappointing return to Church Bank for Wizards fly half and captain James Garland and assistant coach coach Lyndon Lewis who had enjoyed lengthy and successful spells at Llandovery before joining Aberavon.
To their credit a weakened Aberavon matched the Drovers try for try after having the better of the forward exchanges but fell short in a tense finish.
Indecisive refereeing affected by frequent touch judge interventions made for a fractious and shapeless game and Llandovery –short of their best – survived two yellow cards to take the spoils
It was the last game of the season for both sides and for Llandovery it was confirmation of a fine season.
“Not the way we would have wanted to finish the season” said backs coach Simon Davies.
“Aberavon were hugely competitive and gave us a really hard game at the breakdown but we came through with a bonus point win and that is always tough to achieve against the Wizards.”
“With 21 wins out of a possible 30 and a 104 points total, a top four finish was little less than the players deserved.”
“112 tries for and only 67 against offer not only proof of attacking intent but of defensive excellence in the 30 match campaign.”
Only Merthyr, Cardiff and Pontypridd ended with ore tries and the Drovers defence under Gareth Potter conceded the lowest number of tries in the Premiership.
Goal kicker and fly half Jack Maynard ended up the Premiership’s leading points scorer with 279 points. It was he who got the Drovers going early on.
A sharp attack down the right ended with Wales U19 full back Harri Doel feeding him with an inside pass and the fly half dummied his opposite number Garland before swiftly adding the conversion.
In perfect playing conditions, the Drovers were intent on playing more sevens than fifteen a side rugby but the next score was a Maynard penalty for a 10-0 lead.
Garland all but atoned for his slip up with a break that nearly brought him a try but soon after some lovely link passing along the three quarter line put wing Shaun Pearce flashing home.
Garland landed an excellent conversion before home hooker Matthew Moore looked to be streaking away to score only for his foot to skim the touchline
The Aberavon forwards piled hard and in numbers into any ruck they could find to frustrate Llandovery ambition and a yellow card at the breakdown for home flanker Shaun Miles put more pressure on the defence.
A close range scrum saw scrum half David Prtitchard exploit an unguarded blind side to go over unopposed and take the Wizards into the lead.
On the stroke of half time, the Drovers conjured up a try of their own when a strong mid field burst and pass from prop Dino Dallavalle sent centre Kristian Jones racing away from the cover.
Maynard converted well for a slightly fortuitous 17-12 interval lead.
Young Doel then produced a bit of touchline magic, accelerating round and past the cover with a swerve of the hips for a brilliant solo try which with another good Maynard conversion made it 24-12.
Aberavon hit back immediately when an inside pass from Wales U18 centre Brad Roderick saw Pearce cutting a good line for his second try – converted by full back Chris Banfield – to narrow the deficit to five points.
Llandovery were denied a try at a rolling maul after the intervention of a touch judge and were then penalised at a scrum to let Aberavon off the hook.
It mattered little as patient recycling ended with scrum half Lee Rees putting Doel in for his second try with a long cut out pass
The bonus point secured, Maynard again converted but back came the rugged Wizards.
Garland chipped over the defence to make a try from promising young centre Roderick, converted by Banfield, to make it 31-26.
Llandovery lock Jack Jones was yellow carded in the movement leading up to the try and pressure was on the home side in a tense finish.
It held out despite Aberavon pressing hard for the winner in what has become in recent years the usual close finish between two well matched sides.
Llandovery: H Doel; R Williams, R Evans, K Jones, A Warren; J Maynard, L Rees; D Dallavalle, M Moore, L Green, R Jones, J Jones, S Miles, R Brooks (capt), S Worrall
Replacements: J Hughes, B Watkins, G Williams, L Ellis-Jones, B Griffiths, G Thomas, C Evans, D Land
Aberavon: C Banfield; F Jones, B Roderick, W Price, S Pearce; J Garland (capt), D Pritchard; R Jenkins, I Davies, C Davies, R Hughes, S Williams, A Evans, B Thomas, L Purnell.
D Hiscocks, L Klim, G Parks, L Davies, J Thomas, R Thomas, J Blackmore, G James.
Tries: H Doel (2), J Maynard, K Jones
Cons: J Maynard (4)
Pen: J Maynard
Tries: S Pearce (2), D Pritchard, B Roderick
Cons: C Banfield (2), J Garland