John Kendrick and Huw S Thomas both give their perspectives.
John Kendrick reports:
Continuous heavy rain and an increasingly muddy pitch ensured that any open play would be kept to a minimum and that the side which gained dominance in the forward play would be in the driving seat.
In the event the Llandovery pack was in outstanding form in both the tight and loose phases of the game and as the game continued they denied the visitors any worthwhile possession and forced them to live off scraps when the inevitable handling mistakes occurred.
To single out any of the pack would perhaps be unfair but the skill and work rate of backrow players Jon Mills, Eifion Gwynne and his half time replacement Ian Boobyer were responsible for large slices of territorial gain. Locks Tom Walker and Arwel Davies were once again in good form in the lines out whilst the work of the front row ensured that by the end of the game the Caerphilly scrum was in total disarray.
Behind the scrum the home side player to catch the eye was debutant full back Justin Lewis. The Ammanford youngster caught the greasy ball every time, kicked well in return and showed that he has the running skills to trouble defences on a drier pitch. Coach Iestyn Thomas, praising Lewis said, " Full back has been a difficult position for us since Ricky Williams left for Newport and I was very encouraged by the display of Justin today. I believe he could have a future in the game at Premier level."
It was therefore rather surprising that it took well into the second half before Llandovery had a large enough points differential to feel secure that the three league points were in the bag. The fact that, totally against the run of play, with the home side dominating both territory and possession, the score at half time stood tied at 15 -15 was largely down to the home side midfield players having a poor day.
A dropped pass and a charged down kick gave the Cheesemen the opportunity to record twelve points when first centre Roddy Boobyer booted the ball down field to score a try and then outside half Justin Thomas repeated the process. Thomas converted one of the tries and also kicked a penalty.
In contrast Llandovery scored two well worked tries both by the outstanding Eifion Gwynne. Both tries came as the result of well organised forward drives, the first following a line out and the second a scrum. Gareth Morgan converted one and also kicked a penalty to give identical scores to the sides at the break.
In the second half the dominance of the home pack was even more marked and Caerphilly were rarely able to break out of their own 22. However poor options outside and handling errors both aided a tenacious visitors' defence and a dropped goal from Gareth Jones and a second penalty from Gareth Morgan was scant reward for all the good work of the pack.
The single exciting piece of back play in the game came when Scarlets Mark Jones was given a run from half way. The International winger, starting to re-build his career after a long lay off through injury, outpaced the defenders but was tackled into touch on the line in a brilliant piece of covering by Mike Silcox who raced across the field from the opposite wing. No doubt Gareth Jenkins and everyone will be pleased that Mark came through his first competitive match unscathed after such a serious injury.
With the match entering its final minutes and the Drovers, despite all their efforts, only leading by six points there was the fear that a breakaway converted try could undo all the good work. In the event the issue was settled after 77 minutes when, following prolonged pressure by the pack, the ball popped out to centre Emrys Evans who dived over from close range. Gareth Morgan converted the try and the final minutes were played out with the knowledge that three essential points had been gained to help ease the Drovers up the Premier table to tenth position.
Huw S Thomas reports:
Caerphilly slipped into even deeper trouble at the bottom of the Premiership after being totally outplayed by the Drovers at a soaking wet Church Bank. Main interest however was the return to action after an absence of almost a year of the Scarlets wing Mark Jones and to the relief of Gareth Jenkins and Mike Ruddock the 16 times capped wing came through the test unscathed.
Jones did have one exciting run up the touchline only to be foiled by a quite magnificent cover tackle by the other left wing Mike Silcox but he was delighted with his day out at Church Bank. “It was great to be back at Church Bank where I had such happy times before going professional” said Jones “- and relieved to walk off the pitch with the knee in good shape after all the twisting and turning on the greasy surface. Everyone kept telling me what a shame it was that I did not get enough ball to attack with but I really enjoyed the physicality and competitiveness of the game - and scrapping for the loose ball like a good flanker! It had to be a day for the forwards and the Drovers pack was tremendous in the way they completely outplayed the Caerphilly eight.”
Jones now hopes that another game for the Drovers next weekend against Newport at Rodney Parade will put him in the frame for one of the Scarlets’ two Heineken Cup games against Glasgow before Christmas.
“The Llandovery forwards had a complete stranglehold on the game” admitted stand in Caerphilly coach Richie Collins who took over from sacked Mark Ring in mid week. “They pinned us into the corner all second half and we could do nothing about it.”
That Caerphilly were level 15-15 at half time was down to two breakaway tries completely against the run of play. One was by centre Roddy Boobyer after a hack down field from fly half Justin Thomas, the other from a charged down kick that was booted up field for Thomas to get the touchdown.
Llandovery who had the best players on the field in No 8 Jonathan Mills and lock Tom Walker had created two tries for flanker Eifion Gwynne after patient, grinding build ups by the forwards. After the break, Llandovery were close to tries on countless occasions only for poor option taking, a slippery ball and imprecise finishing to let the Cheesemen off the hook.
Fly half Gareth Jones popped over a close range drop goal and although Caerphilly defended doggedly for long periods, it only represented a stay of execution. Centre Gareth Morgan kicked his second penalty and a second conversion, this time to a close range effort by centre Emrys Evans, to record his 110th league point in 11 games to round off a decisive home win.