Huw S Thomas reports:
In the shock of the week-end, the Drovers belied their lowly position in the Premiership by outplaying high flying Newport with a rousing second-half performance at Church Bank. They overturned a 13-0 deficit to turn the form-book upside down and keep alive their hopes of avoiding relegation.
Hero of the hour in an historic first-ever win over the Black and Ambers was Kiwi centre Jon Elrick who once again scored all his side’s points through a try, conversion and six penalties to set a remarkable Premiership record. In the last five games he has scored - at either centre or fly-half - every single one of Llandovery’s 83 points in the defeats against Bedwas (13-9), Ebbw Vale (13-9), Pontypridd (27-19), Cardiff (42-21) and the win on Saturday.
He was the first to admit the tremendous second-half performance of his pack - under lock and skipper Arwel Davies - that laid the platform for fly-half Simon Daniel and himself to use a gusting wind to keep Newport penned in their own half.
The Drovers turned a 13-0 deficit after 30 minutes into a convincing win and, although they remain bottom, the psychological value of the victory was not lost on home coach Iestyn Thomas. “There have been some agonisingly close defeats at Church Bank but the squad has never lost its belief in being able to avoid the drop and this win will give us a huge shot in the arm in the remaining eight games” said a beaming Thomas.
With a strong gusting wind at their backs Newport looked fairly comfortable in the first half-hour, wing Richard Fussell scoring a try and fly-half Dan Griffiths kicking eight points. But there was a crucial indifference to using the strong wind, an error which was to prove crucial after the break.
Llandovery centre Mike Jones celebrated his return to the side after long injury by making one superb 70 metre break which all but brought reward but the Drovers salvaged a lot out of a solid first-half defensive performance by putting enough pressure on the Newport defence to allow Elrick to kick two penalties to make it just 13-6 at the interval.
After the break, it was all Llandovery, the pack outstanding in the loose and efficient at the line-out. On permit Banwen hooker Andrew Jones, prop Phil John – one of two Scarlets on loan alongside full-back Garan Evans – locks Arwel Davies and Tom Walker and the back-row of Eifion Gwynne, Gareth Bennett and the tireless Gareth Williams took control of the contact area.
Elrick’s third penalty made it 13-9 before a towering kick from Daniel eluded the Newport cover for Elrick to sweep in under the posts.
The New Zealander turned the screw calmly with a conversion and three confident penalties to pull the Drovers clear and leave Newport coach Ian Hembrow fuming.
Hembrow was brutally honest and scathing in his criticism of his charges. "I had been preaching all week that we would be committing suicide to underestimate Llandovery” fumed Hembrow “but then what happens? We showed the Drovers little respect, thought it was stroll in the park after going 13-0 up and then were shut out of the game in the second-half. The players need to take a long hard look at themselves and realise this is a hugely competitive league with no side an easy touch.”