Huw S Thomas reports:
Newport stay unbeaten in the Premiership but had to fight tooth and nail to come back from a 19-10 half time deficit to pip the Drovers by the very narrowest of margins at Church Bank.
“We knew that we would have our hands full at Church Bank” said Newport coach Dai Rees. who is being tipped as the man to coach the newly reformed Wales seven a side team for next year’s Commonwealth Games. ”I have been up to Llandovery too many times in the past to take anything for granted and am more than satisfied to sneak a win by the odd point in 51” admitted a very relieved Rees.
“It could make a vital difference at the end of the season as I believe there to be five or six candidates for the title this year” said Rees who pinpointed Neath, Pontypridd, Bridgend, Aberavon and Cross Keys as other contenders.
Rees thought Llandovery would have no trouble in maintaining their status in the Premiership. “A lot of sides will have as difficult passage as we did and lose rather than win.”
Home coach Gareth Davies had seen his Drovers match Newport in all areas apart from the line out where Matthew Veater stole the home throw at vital times.
“Their edge in the line out made the crucial hairline difference between success and defeat but the boys produced a top performance against a side that has finished first and second in the first two years of the Premiership” said Davies, whose son Paul was in the home pack.
“We are very disappointed to lose by just a point but the boys can take huge benefit out of the game before we receive another unbeaten team in Pontypridd next Saturday.”
“If we can sustain the momentum built up against Newport , improve our line out and tighten up the defence, I think we can give any side a game.”
Plusses for Davies were the promising debut of full back Andrew Williams and the goalkicking of fly half Tomas Marks who put over six penalties in seven attempts and kicked a touchline conversion of the home try for a 20 point haul.
Wing Owain Rowlands was swift and positive in defence and attack whilst up front hooker Adam Yelland showed his class with some stabbing runs in the loose and the back row of Paul Davies, ex Narberth No 8 Gareth Bennett and Matthew Davies scavenged and fought for everything.
Captain and lock Arwel Davies, too, led the side with his usual unbounded gusto to help the Drovers lead 19-10 at half time, fly half Marks kicking four penalties and the conversion of an opportunist try by wing Rowlands to reward the effort of his pack.
Newport hung on with a try from flanker Sam Waldron after a well controlled rolling maul and five points from fly half Dan Griffiths to go in 19-10 down.
A clean break by centre Richard Payne, supported by Waldron, sent hooker Rhys James crashing under the posts right at the start of the second half and with Griffiths adding the conversion and two penalties, Newport looked ready to pull clear at 23-19.
Not a bit of it as the Drovers rallied bravely, two more penalties from Marks shading another by Griffiths to set up a hectic finale.
With the last kick of the game replacement centre Peter Smiriglia had the chance to snatch the game for Llandovery only to see his ambitious attempt from 50 metres drop short.