John Kendrick reports:
Showing eight changes from the side that lost to Bedwas the previous week the Drovers travelled to the Gnoll determined to put up a better show. To their credit they remained in with a chance for over the hour when the home side held a slender 20-18 lead.
In fact with a little more luck the Drovers could well have been in the lead at this point. Gareth Morgan, kicking against the wind, missed the corner conversion for his side’s second try and also failed with three long range penalties including one from his own half. All of these kicks had the distance and sailed agonisingly close, one even striking an upright.
Speaking afterwards Neath Coach Rowland Phillips praised the Llandovery effort, “The Drovers always give us a tough game and today was no exception. The score flattered us and wasn’t a true reflection of the game as a whole”.
Five minutes into the game Llandovery took the lead when Gareth Morgan converted an early penalty but Neath quickly hit back with two well taken tries. The first of these fell to James Hook. The Neath outside half, with the first try which he converted, went on to kick 3 penalties and a drop goal in a personal contribution of 19 points to the Neath total.
The Drovers lost a line out in the Neath half and when the ball reached Hook he beat the first two tacklers and then sprinted through the defence for an excellent individual effort which he then converted.
The second Neath try fell to wing and former Drovers centre Steve Thomas who went on to score a second and with former Llandovery Captain Paul Jones gaining a fourth try for the home side it was a good day for the ‘Drovers Old Boys’.
For the first Thomas try full back Gareth Morris entered the line and carved through the blind side defence to set up his winger. The second try came after a quickly taken tap penalty was moved across the backs to set the wing free to dive over in the corner. Neither try was converted.
Between the two Neath tries was sandwiched one from the visitors. Quickly moving a turn over ball from a ruck Tom Walker made a half break as he burst into the line. A well timed pass from the lock set Iwan Mainwaring free on the outside. The speedy scrum half sprinted 40m down the touchline outpacing the defenders before crossing for an excellent try. Gareth Morgan converted the try and, when a penalty against the Drovers was reversed on the intervention of the Touch Judge, Morgan kicked a second penalty to send the sides in for half time with the score well balanced at 17-13.
Hook put the home side further ahead with a penalty early in the second half before a second well executed try by the Drovers former Wales U21 wing Ifan Evans. The try was set up by outside half Gareth Morgan, making an impressive first start of the season. Making a clear break he threw a huge pass directly out to winger Evans who, given the opportunity, used his speed to outflank the defence and touch down in the corner to bring the score to 20-18 with just over 15 minutes left to play.
In these final minutes, playing against the wind and a Neath side with kicker Hook in great form, the Drovers committed the cardinal sin of losing their discipline and gifted a win to the home side.
Firstly a late tackle then offside at the set scrum were penalised by Hook, who added a drop goal in the 70th minute to give the home side a 29-18 lead which they were unlikely to lose.
The final act came in the 80th minute when another penalty gave Hook the chance to set up a Neath line out 5m from the line. From the resulting forward drive the home pack drove Llandovery back, and prop Paul Jones was awarded the try.
Soon after, the final whistle blew and the Drovers had fallen to an 8th successive defeat. They now have the high flying Aberavon coming to Church Bank on Friday night for a 7.15 kick off.