TACTICAL BLUNDERS COST LLANDOVERY A CUP FINAL SPOT
LLANDOVERY 23 ABERAVON 24
Llandovery had beaten Aberavon twice in the Premiership Cup West Conference before Christmas – 24-18 and 27-21 – but it was Aberavon who made their way to the WRU Cup final at the Principality Stadium on April 24 writes Huw S Thomas
It will give them another chance to lay their hands on a Cup that has eluded the famous old club ever since the competition started in 1971.
They meet Newport in the final after the Black and Ambers had pipped Cardiff 34-28 in the other semi final.
The 1,000 crowd at The Wern, Merthyr saw a game that was on a knife edge at the end, Llandovery having come back from 21-0 down to take the lead 23-21 only to let Aberavon off the hook in the last ten minutes when they refused two kicks at goal in search of a try.
The disappointment in the Llandovery camp was immense.
“We had quasi-total control of the second half but failed to take our chances” said heartbroken coach Euros Evans.
“As well as Aberavon played to build up a 21-0 lead, we played just as well to nose ahead after the break and then made some crucial tactical mistakes in a nail biting end.”
“We had set our hearts on getting to the Principality but good luck anyway to Aberavon in the final.”
“There are five Premiership games left to play and we need to improve our 8th position in the table and at least get into the top half of the table.”
“We need to pick ourselves up quickly for the visit of second placed Cardiff on Saturday.”
On neutral Merthyr’s 4G pitch, play was predictably fast and furious in the most rousing of semi finals.
Two equally matched teams put all they had into a game for which the WRU had failed to print any kind of programme or even team sheets for the interest of a the four figure crowd.
The early pressure was all on the Drovers and Aberavon took the lead when they attacked from deep to put wing Stef Andrews racing away and his kick ahead was swooped upon by full back Jon Phillips who crossed wide out.
Fly half Aled Thomas converted and the Wizards nearly got their second try when Phillips spilled a golden opportunity.
A yellow card for Jones for a deliberate knock on made things worse for Llandovery who went further behind when conceding a penalty try at the scrummage.
Centre Will Price then swerved through the middle for a solo try, converted by Thomas but Llandovery scrum half Lee Rees brought much relief by sniping through from close range for a try converted by full back Tomi Lewis.
The Llandovery revival continued when Lewis himself slipped tackles to cross wide out and leave the score 21-12 in Aberavon’s favour.
At that stage, it looked as if the Lewis family was set for more sporting success after mother and race horse trainer Sheila Lewis had landed a 10/1 winner at Hereford on Friday with 5 year old grey Gris Majeur.
The second half was one way traffic as the Drovers attacked at will.
A Jones penalty inched them closer and things got better when a charging run from replacement hooker Craig Thomas gave Rees the chance to sprint home from 30 metres.
The wind was in Llandovery sails only for Jones to miss a 30 metre penalty but he soon made amends from 25 metres and a 23-21 lead.
The lead lasted two minutes, replacement fly half Dan Edwards kicking a goal from 45 metres after a rare Aberavon incursion into Llandovery territory.
In a grandstand finish Llandovery refused two kicks at goal – one almost straight on from 30 metres- as they strove for the try.
Aberavon were out on their feet in desperate defence but with the final kick of the game Jones missed a difficult penalty to let a mightily relieved Aberavon off the hook and on their way to the Principality Stadium.
Tries: L Rees (2), T Lewis
Con: T Lewis
Pens: K Jones (2)
Tries: J Phillips, Pen try, W Price
Cons: A Thomas (2)
Pen: D Edwards
Llandovery: T Lewis; A Evans, R Wall, R Jones, A Warren; K Jones, L Rees; D Dallavalle, R Guest, B Watkins, J Jones (capt), O Davies, J Powell, S Worrall
Replacements: L Tobias, J Hughes, C Thomas, M Dallavalle, L Pike, G Evans, J Garland, D Land
Aberavon: J Phillips; C Banfield, J Thomas, W Price, S Andrews; A Thomas, R Cole ; R Jenkins, I Davies, G James, S Smallman, S Williams, L Purnell, A Evans, J Tomalin-Reeves (capt)
Replacements: I Tremblett, J Gage, D Edwards, L Davies, L Evans, S Pailor, R Fawcett, C Davies
— Huw S Thomas Rugby World Schools Editor 4 Maes y Coleg Llandovery Carms SA20 0HS 01550 720028 07866 553920