DROVERS WIN THRILLING BATTLE
MERTHYR 36 LLANDOVERY 43
In a terrific79 point game of attack and counter attack, Llandovery outscored Merthyr by six tries to five to come away from the Wern with a sigh of relief writes Huw S Thomas.
They had scored five brilliant tries in the first half to lead 33-12 but had to withstand a great comeback from the Ironmen who got three second half tries to fall just short in an exciting end.
The bonus point Indigo Premiership win sets the Drovers up for the visit of Pontypridd on Sunday, a game which will be a dress rehearsal for the Cup quarter final against the Valley Commandos” on March 12.
There was genuine belief amongst both sets of supporters at The Wern that they had seen high quality rugby.
“Great 11 try game”; “wonderful entertainment”; “thrilling rugby”; “very well coached sides”; “what a contrast with some of the regional stodge” were comments overheard in Merthyr’s brand new clubhouse.
Even Stan Thomas, the Merthyr benefactor had a smile on his face despite the narrow defeat.
Rarely have the Drovers played better for 40 minutes in fashioning five first half tries, the speed, invention and handling of the backs drawing purrs of admiration from the crowd.
Scrum half Lee Rees was the centre of it all with his busy work rate, full back Will Thomas sidestepped his way forward, the Jones boys the centre Rhodri and fly half Kristian ran great angles, centre Rhodri Wall was sharp and incisive and wings Tomi Lewis and Callum Williams injected a pace and adventure all too much for the Ironmen.
Llandovery went ahead with a try from right wing Tomi Lewis who took an inside pass from left wing Callum Williams to cross on the left, fly half Kristian Jones converting well.
Minutes later, Lewis came near to his second try as Llandovery attacked strongly and they went further ahead when full back Will Thomas was at the end of a multi phased passage of play,
The Jones conversion made it 14-0 in as many minutes before Merthyr got a try back in their first serious incursion into the Llandovery half.
Skipper Craig Locke drove over following a line out, fly half Gareth Thompson converting but the Drovers hit back immediately when lock and skipper Jack Jones drove through for his side’s third converted try.
Play was fast and furious on the 4G pitch and Lewis again came close to a try, knocking on with the line at his mercy after scrum half Lee Rees had made a slashing break.
It mattered little as wing Williams made the running for Will Thomas’s second converted try to clinch a bonus point and within a minute centre Rhodri Jones took a pass from Williams for Llandovery’s fifth try.
A yellow card for Llandovery lock Osian Davies at the line out was followed by a close range Merthyr try by hooker Rhys Williams, making it 33-12 at the break.
It was soon 40-12 after Williams swept over wide out, Jones converting before Merthyr showed their mettle by coming right back into the game.
The forwards kept possession better in the loose, former Bordeaux-Begles Top 14 lock Mass Tataia carried hard and their mid field started finding holes in the Llandovery defence.
Two quick converted tries from replacement wing Alex Webber and combative centre Aaron Pinches suddenly closed the gap to 40-26 with 16 minutes to go.
Desperate defence in which flanker Stuart Worrall and skipper Jones were immense figures kept the line intact for 10 minutes and there was an almost audible sigh of relief when Kristian Jones kicked a vital penalty.
Replacement Dafydd Stonelake crashed over for another converted try as Merthyr swept forward to creep up to 43-33 but the Drovers hung on before Thompson salvaged a second bonus point for the losers with a very late 35 metre penalty
Tries: C Locke, R Williams, A Webber, A Pinches, D Stonelake
Cons: G Thompson (4)
Pen: G Thompson
Tries:W Thomas (2), T Lewis, J Jones, R Jones, C Williams
Cons: K Jones (5)
Pen: K Jones
Merthyr: B Jones; S Jones, R Davies, A Pinches, A Norton; G Thompson, J James; C Lewis, R Williams, K Williams, C Locke, M Tataia, P McBride, T Daley, J Perkins
Replacements: C Greenslade, C Phillips, R Lewis, C Bradbury, D Stonelake, J Soanes, A Webber, D Thomas (all used)
Llandovery: W Thomas; T Lewis, R Wall, R Jones, C Williams; K Jones, L Rees; D Dallavalle, C Thomas, B Watkins, J Jones (capt), O Davies, I Rees, J Powell, S Worrall
Replacements: T Pritchard, L Tobias, J Cox, L Pike, G Evans, A Warren, J Garland, S Maynard (all used)
— Huw S Thomas Rugby World Schools Editor 4 Maes y Coleg Llandovery Carms SA20 0HS 01550 720028 07866 553920