John Kendrick reports:
An injury to regular outside half and goal kicker Gareth Morgan caused the Drovers' management to go in search of a replacement for this match with table toppers Neath. They came up with Waunarlwydd player coach Simon Daniel and what a find the ex-Narberth player proved to be.
The scoring opened after 2 minutes when, in a set move, winger Gary Beaumont-Morgan came in-field to break the Neath defence and set up a passing movement that resulted in winger Ifan Evans crossing in the corner.
The rest of the first half became a battle between the two outside halves, James Hook for Neath and Simon Daniel for the Drovers. They swapped penalties before Hook, taking advantage of prolonged Neath pressure, cut through for a try which he converted. Following this he kicked a second penalty to put the visitors into a 13-8 lead.
Unlikely as it seemed at the time, this seventeenth minute penalty was the last time Neath were to score in the game as Man of the Match Simon Daniel took over the game. His first strike was a try when quick thinking by Rob Walters in taking a tap penalty enabled the fly half to cross before Neath were aware of what was happening.
The conversion of his own try put the Drovers back into the lead, and adding a second penalty and a drop goal established a lead of twenty one points to thirteen by half time.
The second half started with the All Blacks absolutely determined to wipe out the home side’s lead. Right from the kick off they hammered away at the try line. From penalties, lines out, scrums, rucks and mauls they threw everything at the Drovers whose defence in this period as throughout the match was magnificent. Centres Steve Thomas and Emrys Evans along with the back row of Ian Boobyer, Aled Davies and captain Ceri Davies were ferocious in their tackling and stopped the visitors in their tracks.
Failure to record a score in this onslaught appeared to sap the Neath team's collective will to win and, with Simon Daniel dictating the pattern of the game with some superb kicking out of hand, the Neath side rarely entered the home 22 again. Pushing them back with huge 60m kicks, allied to a dominant line out where locks Tom Walker and Arwel Davies regularly won the opposition ball as well as their own, gave the free scoring Neath backs no chance to show their attacking skills.
Former Llandovery full back Neil Clapham, the league's leading try scorer, Osprey centre Dave Tiueti and wing Gareth Morris all tried their best to break the home side's defence but rarely made much ground.
Following a near miss when he blasted a penalty from his own half just wide, Simon Daniel kicked two more to put the Drovers into an unassailable 14 point lead as the Neath side tried everything not to go down to a second successive defeat to a Carmarthenshire side but it was all to no avail as the Drovers finished the game much the stronger side.
Afterwards it was all smiles in the club house as, with games in hand, Llandovery went 11 points clear of the fifteenth side in the relegation zone. With home games against Bridgend and then Cardiff to come in the next two weeks coach Iestyn Thomas is determined to see his side move even further away from the bottom three in the relegation places.