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

Third placed Llandovery dented league leaders Merthyr’s Premiership title hopes with this quite outstanding bonus point win under the Church Bank floodlights writes Huw S Thomas.

The Drovers move up to 94 points after 27 of their 30 games and stay in third place but bar a miracle, the title still seems to lie between the top two – Cardiff and Merthyr.

The Ironmen salvaged a bonus point by dint of scoring four tries, a point that could be the value of gold to them come the end of the season.

But this was Llandovery’s night, their forwards competing tigerishly in all phases under No 8 Richard Brooks and the backs running and probing incessantly to keep Merthyr fully stretched.

And with the line out working its best for many a game through the efforts of the Jones boys – Jack, Rhys and Lewis – the warpath Drovers took their biggest scalp of the season.

“Our best performance of the season” said Llandovery coach Euros Evans “and the game a wonderful advert as to what the Premiership has to offer it terms of tempo and skill levels.”

The Drovers had pushed Merthyr all the way at The Wern back in November before going down 34-24 and this was another nip and tuck game between two of Wales’s best club sides, both founder members of the WRU back in 1881.

Perfect conditions suggested a fast game and both sides were instantly keen to open up with Merthyr drawing first blood after just four minutes.

Wing Jay Baker made ground up the left and quick recycling allowed fly half Gareth Davies to cross quick into the waiting arms of wing Kyle Evans.

Full back Matthew Jarvis converted but the Drovers were soon back on level terms when wing Aaron Warren hit a fine angle to race in and make the conversion by fly half Jack Maynard a formality.

Llandovery’s attacks were swift and sharp and although full back Gavin Thomas was held up on the goaline, lock Rhys Jones crashed through, Maynard converting.

Merthyr wasted no time in levelling, Baker again running elusively for a Jarvis converted try to make it 14-14.

Jarvis hit the cross bar with a half way line penalty only for a wave of home attacks to work in centre Ryan Evans who touched down at the base of a Merthyr goalpost, Maynard converting for a regain of the lead.

A series of close range line outs brought little joy to the Ironmmen but up popped Baker to slalom his way up field and although he was stopped initially he picked up to dab down his second converted try of the night.

It was a helter skelter stuff and a great cover tackle by centre Teri Gee on Rhys Jones saved a certain Llandovery try but a yellow card for Merthyr fly half Davies, gave Maynard the chance to slot a penalty for a tenuous 24-21 half time lead.

Play continued its frantic way at both ends, chances coming and going at regular intervals until Merthyr flanker Osian Davies was yellow carded for pulling down a line out jumper in the 62nd minute.

Taking quick advantage, Llandovery threw all into attack and from a close range line out replacement prop Dino Dallavalle burrowed over for the bonus point try and a 29-21 lead.

Skipper Richard Brooks then picked up at No 8 at the back of a surging scrum for a fifth home try converted by Maynard to pull the Drovers clear with seven minutes left.

Merthyr salavaged a valuable bonus point when centre Gee crossed wide out with just two minutes to go but the night belonged to the quite splendid Drovers.

*** Llandovery entertain Carmarthen Quins on Saturday April 20 (KO 2 30 pm)

Llandovery: G Thomas; R Williams, R Evans, R Jones, A Warren; J Maynard, L Rees; J Hughes, R Guest, B Watkins, R Jones, J Jones, L Ellis-Jones, R Brooks (capt), S Worrall

Replacements: D Dallavalle, M Moore, L Green, E Price, S Miles, M Hughes, K Jones, C Evans

Merthyr: M Jarvis; K Evans, T Gee, A Pinches, J Baker; G Davies, R Downes; J Howe, R Williams, L Jones, H Barnes, C Locke (capt), J Davies, P Rees, O Davies

Replacements: S Evans, C Phillips, L Owen, J Thomas, J Perkins, J Soanes, R Powell, J Martin

Tries: A Warren, Rhys Jones, R Evans, D Dallavalle, R Brooks
Cons: J Maynard (4)
Pen: J Maynard
Tries: J Baker (2), K Evans, T Gee
Cons: M Jarvis (3)

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