SUPERB GAME OF SCHOOLBOY RUGBY AT LLANDOVERY
LLANDOVERY COLLEGE 25 CHRIST COLLEGE 19
The two famous rugby playing schools resumed battle at Tredegar Close, Llandovery on Saturday after a hiatus of 11 years and it was the home side that took the honours – just – to win the 125th match writes Huw S Thomas.
The lead changed hands five times, and the game ended in one of the most dramatic ways in the 144 year long history of the fixture.
Down 18-12 with two minutes to go, Christ College conjured up a great try by wing Matt Price which with a Jack Perkins conversion got them ahead by a single point.
Then, in the very last movement of the match, the Lilywhites drove a short range line out for hooker Henry Nelson to plant the ball bang on the goal-line for the decisive score, followed by a conversion from full back Owain-Hari Davies.
It was a thunderous contest throughout in front of a crowd just short of 1,000 and a draw would have been eminently fairer such was the unrelenting closeness of the game.
It was Llandovery’s 87th win in the series but rarely have they had to work so hard for victory.
Both coaches, Nathan Thomas for Llandovery and Brecon’s John Patterson were full of praise for the standard of performance..
“This was a game of the highest intensity and caliber ” said Patterson “a credit to both schools in the positive way they made it an open and thrilling game.”
“We are delighted, not so much by the win” said former Wales back row Thomas “but by the success of the whole day after 11 years absence.”
“After the thrilling nature of Saturday’s game, the fixture is rightfully back to its position as the most famous of all schoolboy clashes in Wales.”
The fixture that started as far back as 1879, two years before the formation of the Welsh Rugby Union, was last played in 2012 but had stopped at the request of the Brecon school who had begun to suffer regular defeat at the hands of their old public school rivals.
Christ College showed what a vast improvement they have made since linking up with Cardiff Blues by giving Llandovery such a run for their money in a fixture once memorably described by the Times chief columnist Vivian Jenkins “fierce, frantic and wonderful”.
The game was indeed fierce and frantic, commitment was huge and unrelenting, skill levels high in an eye catching advert for the schoolboy game and if the Brecon school had marginally the better individual players, then Llandovery’s indefatigable resilience up front claimed victory.
In forwards lock Harry Holden and No 8 Owen Conquer the visitors had players of huge promise but the power of the Llandovery forwards proved decisive in a rousing end.
A try by home wing Rhys Stephens opened up a rough, tough start before balanced and powerful centre Gareth O’Callaghan shrugged of Llandovery tacklers wide out for a corner try, well converted by full back Jack Perkins to leave it 7-5 to the visitors at half time.
Action in the second half swung frenetically back and fore with two sides hungry for a try, home centres James Price and Kai Clarke both running threateningly.
The scramble defence on both sides was of the highest quality and it took a lucky skewed penalty from full back Owain- Hari Davies to put Llandovery back ahead.
Brecon replied in style, consistent pressure ending with hard working lock and skipper Ewan McIntyre smashing his way over in the corner.
Two tries from influential Llandovery replacements – front row Taran Moa and wing Josh Jackson – looked as if the game was settled before the excellent Matt Price swept over under the posts with two minutes to go.
Perkins converted to take a 19-18 lead but the Lilywhites were not done with and they forced a close range line out which ended with a driving maul, the hooker Nelson inching under desperate tackles for a breathtaking winning score.
Tries: R Stephens, T Moa, J Jackson, H Nelson
Con: O-H Davies:
Pen: O-H Davies
Tries: G O’Callaghan, E McIntyre, M Price
Cons J Perkins (2)
LLANDOVERY COLLEGE: O-H Davies; O Griffith, K Clarke, J Price (capt), R Stephens, W Meek, M Edwards; B O’Leary, H Nelson, E Cowan, H Bullen, M Rodda-Lodder, J Tune, J Olding, J Denman
Replacements: L Dennett, T Moa, P Amelink, O Scholey. O Charles-Davies, J Jackson, H Gwynn-Jones, L Justice
CHRIST COLLEGE: J Perrins; L Howells, M Price, G O’Callaghan, D Skryme; D Pearson, D Buffrey; J Rees, B Aven, D Roberts, H Holden, E McIntyre (capt), L Powell, O Conquer, J Hayward
Replacements: O Rose, H Hindmarsh, A Barrell, N House, J Thomas, L Szebesta, O Jones, F O’Donovan, L Powell, R Conquer