Huw S Thomas reports:
After the unsettling mid week departure of coaching duo Jeremy Evans and Gareth Davies “by mutual consent”, the Drovers fought hard on Friday night only to go down to another home defeat, this time at the hands of high flying Bridgend.
It was Llandovery’s eleventh consecutive defeat in twelve league games and underlined the huge task that awaits former coach Iestyn Thomas who returns to Church Bank in a caretaker role after a gap of less than 6 months.
“We had our chance to beat Bridgend “ said Thomas “but when your confidence is low, things have a natural way of going wrong. But we must all take encouragement at running one of the best teams in the Premiership very close.”
“It will take a massive effort from everyone at Church Bank to get us off the bottom but the players are in positive mood. They believe we can rally strongly before Christmas when we have key matches against fellow strugglers Swansea, Ebbw Vale, Pontypool and Carmarthen Quins.”
“It’s a great challenge and one to be met.”
Against Bridgend, Llandovery got themselves into a strong position, as on so many occasions this season, only to let the opposition off the hook thanks to a combination of basic errors in thought and deed.
Despite no, or next to no, encouragement or support from a pitifully small crowd, the Drovers dominated most of the first half.
The scrum was solid, the line out profitable and the competitiveness of the back row – Ceri Davies, Matthew Jeffries and Gareth Thomas - far better than it has been for a some time.
Fly half Gareth Morgan kicked a good goal after 15 minutes to convert the hard work of his pack into points and things got even better when South African centre Jacob Van Wyk, wing Owain Rowlands and centre Mark Bowen handled well to work in No 8 Jeffries.
With Morgan’s conversion Llandovery were in control at 10-0 and could have been further ahead if two long range penalties from Morgan had not been just short.
Bridgend had threatened fitfully and had generously spurned an easy kick at goal in the search for tries but their excellent all round full back Gareth David got a penalty somewhat against the run of play in the 40th minute.
Things then slowly started to go wrong for the Drovers.
The second half restart went straight into touch and gave Bridgend the impetus they needed to rally. Despite being reduced to 14 men after a 41st minute yellow card for hooker Andrew Joy, the Ravens, marshalled by fly half Paul Williams, ran and supported imaginatively to stretch the home defence to its ultimate.
Llandovery helped, by badly losing their concentration with some more erratic kicking, poor ball retention in the contact area and some slipshod tackling.
David put over penalties on 49, 56 and 59 minutes to take his side ahead 12-10 and when home flanker Gareth Thomas got yellow carded, Bridgend attacked non stop, their handling deft and their angles of running intelligent.
Llandovery scrambled in defence as best they could with wing Rowlands, on loan Scarlets full back Garan Evans and Van Wyk covering manfully.
The line eventually gave way when, after sweeping attacks left and right, former Bro Myrddin and Welsh Schools centre Roger Davies accelerated away for a try, very well converted by David.
With the return of Thomas, Llandovery came back into the game and regained enough control up front to put the pressure back on the visitors.
With over ten minutes to go, a bad decision to kick for the corner, rather than take three relatively easy points, bore no fruit. A penalty would have brought Llandovery to within a converted try but the decision was repeated a few minutes later in favour of another field position.
Poor ball retention let Bridgend off the hook and a last gasp try for ever busy flanker Ceri Davies only served to remind the handful of die hard supporters of what might have been.