After their rousing victory over Pontypridd in the second round of the Schweppes Cup on Saturday, gallant Llandovery have been rewarded with a third-round home tie against Llanelli on January 26.
In their 100-odd years as founder members of the Welsh Rugby Union, Llandovery can never have experienced such glory. They not only beat Pontypridd 21-6, they outplayed them in all departments.
Outside half Carwyn Williams kicked four penalty goals, one drop goal and he converted the game’s only try by flanker Elfyn Jenkins.
Carwyn’s brother, skipper Geraint Williams, and his co-centre Alun Thomas, were not afraid to run and it was from a burst by left wing Carwyn Davies that the attacking position was gained rrom which Jenkins scored his try.
Llandovery were unlucky to lose their pack leader, Wyn Williams, who hurt his ankle and eventually had to limp off. But this setback seemed to inspire the West Wales side and their confidence grew.
Nigel Clarke proved a worthwhile replacement and with the front row of Gareth Williams, Wyn Morgan and Dai Thomas holding firm in the scrums, Pontypridd were doomed.
Llandovery have no illusions about their task against Llanelli in the third round of the Schweppes Cup despite their trouncing of Pontypridd on Saturday.
“It’s a good attractive fixture for us but Llanelli are obviously a much tougher proposition that Pontypridd these days – as they proved last Saturday,” said secretary Mr Roland Griffiths.
The Scarlets notched ten tries in their second round defeat of Risca at the weekend and have never been beaten by a junior club in the cup.
But Llandovery are full of beans after Saturday’s stirring win and will be ready to give them a run for their money. “Having beaten Pontypridd so convincingly the boys will be less overawed than usual for a game like this,” Mr Griffiths added.
Victory had not surprised Mr Griffiths last Saturday, but the scale of their win was a shock. “We never dreamt we were going to win like that. The first five or ten minutes were even but once we got control the result was never in doubt – almost the entire second half was played in the Pontypridd half,” said Mr Griffiths.
Saturday’s success was the reward for a magnificent team performance, though Mr Griffiths singled out Wyn Williams and David Wigley in the pack. He also acknowledged the debt owed to the right boot of Carwyn Williams who missed his first two kicks at goal but went on to slot four penalties, a drop goal and conversion for a personal tally of 17 points.
Llandovery will be looking to Williams for inspiration again on Saturday when they face top-placed Llangennech in Section B of the Usher’s Championship. So far only Llandovery have managed to take a point off the centenary celebrating seasiders, and that was on the Castle Fields in September.
“There can sometimes be a reaction after a big game like last Saturday. I remember we didn’t win a match for five weeks after playing Maesteg a couple of years ago. But that was after a hard struggle to contain them. On Saturday we played our own game and won convincingly so perhaps we won’t suffer such bad after effects,” said Mr Griffiths hopefully.
Llandovery will probably have to reproduce their giant killing form if they are to become the first team to beat Llangennech who last Saturday scored 11 tries in a 50 points to nine defeat of Penclawdd.
The long awaited arrival of a thaw has had an interesting side-effect in Llandovery – the town has come down with Scarlet fever.
Mighty Llanelli, four times winners of the competition, stand between the little West Wales rugby team and a place in the quarter finals of the Schweppes Cup and the issue will be decided at Castle Fields on Saturday.
Llandovery caused a shock in the second round of the competition by beating Pontypridd but the Scarlets, who have won the cup more times than any other club, present a far more formidable hurdle.
On Monday, with the snow cleared from the field for the first time in a fortnight, Llandovery secretary Mr Roland Griffiths looked forward to Saturday with something approaching reasonable confidence.
“It would be foolish to try and make predictions. Llanelli are a very good side on their day but we’ll be going flat out to upset them. If the boys play as well as they did against Pontypridd and there’s no let-up on them and they’re given as little room as possible to move then you never know what might happen,” he said.
The Arctic weather has meant Llandovery not playing a game since January 1, when they beat Whitland in a friendly, but they have been training twice a week in the gymnasium at Llandovery College and are very fit.
Lack of action also means the club is relatively injury free at the moment though scrum half Randall Jones hurt a shoulder in training last Saturday. He was expected to regain full fitness in time for selection, however.
The only real worries were about the pitch: “We were clearing snow off it on Sunday so there would not be too much water on it when the snow melted. But now it depends on how much rain we have and there are frosts forecast for the end of the week so we’re keeping our fingers crossed,” said Mr Griffiths. “A postponement wpuld be a big anti-climas,” he added.
It would clearly be a huge disappointment to the thousands Mr Griffiths expects to throng the touchline and temporary grandstand. “We have to charge £3.50 for the grandstand seats just to cover the costs of erecting it for the match – but we’re confident they’ll all go,” commented Mr Griffiths.
It will be almost exclusively a town occasion with the people turning up to see a side containing at least twelve players from Llandovery itself.
“We are not one of those cosmopolitan teams. Twelve of the lads are former pupils of Llandovery County High School and have come through our own youth team. Scrum half Randall Jones has moved into the area to teach at the College, Eddie Morris is a Lampeter boy and David Thomas is a policeman who used to play for Abercrave.
“The team is close knit as a result and that is one of their big strengths. The likelihood is they’ll have to play a different game from the Pontypridd match. We were lucky with the weather then but whatever happens on Saturday the ball will be wet. That would obviously affect our backs but one thing that’s certain is that our back row will get among the Llanelli players,” Mr Griffiths promised. Kick off is at 2.15.
Llandovery have named virtually the same team which beat Pontypridd for Saturday's long awaited clash with Llanelli in the Schweppes Cup.
Ace line-out man Wyn Williams and place kicking hero Carwyn Williams, both outstanding in the victory over Pontypridd, are included as is flying winger Carwyn Davies. Centre Geraint Williams again captains the team.
There is an enforced change at scrum half where Randall Jones is injured. Handel Davies comes into the side in his place. A lot will depend on his ability to strike a happy understanding with Carwyn Williams at fly half.
The side is: Alan Morgan, Carwyn Davies, Geraint Williams capt, Alun Thomas, Eirian Jones, Carwvn Williams, Handel Davies, Gareth Williams, Wyn Morgan, David Thomas, Noel Page, Wyn Williams, Elfyn Jenkins, David Wigley and Eddie Morris. The replacements are Colin Henry, Eifion Evans, Nigel Clarke, Chris Davies. Gareth Williams and Dewi Evans.
Llandovery’s six-week dream of giant-killing was reduced to painful reality at Castle Fields when the mighty Scarlets crushed them mercilessly.
Llandovery struggled valiantly but a mounting tide of pressure exerted by a side which included five Welsh caps swamped them. In fact the final result was in no real doubt from the sixth minute of the game when Sospan centre Ray Gravell opened up a huge midfield gap to sweep through with the first of nine Llanelli tries.
Llandovery had to be content with memories of the glory which earned them this exotic draw, when they knocked Pontypridd out of the second round of the Schweppes cup early last month. Certainly glory was in short supply for Llandovery on Saturday – except at the box office. It was a pay day the club will long remember with an estimated 5000 people packing the ground at £1.50 a head.
Apart from one brilliant try in the 35th minute of the game when winger Carwyn Davies scored from a move set up by David Wigley and hooker Wyn Morgan, the home fans had precious little to get excited about.
The game was played almost exclusively in Llandovery’s half of the pitch with the talented Scarlets skilfully smothering any enterprising moves which could have produced results. In particular Llandovery’s efforts were curbed by the superior height and lineout technique of their famed opponents. None of the Llandovery forwards was tall enough to match Llanelli’s big four of Phil May, Russell Cornelius, Alun Davies and Mark Lynch.
Ray Gravell’s early try, converted by Gary Pearce, was followed in the first half by tries from Phil Lewis and Laurence Delaney. A try from Ieuan Evans inside two minutes opened the floodgates in the second half, with Alun Davies, Jonathan Griffiths, Phil Lewis and Mark Lynch successfully opening up leaks in the Llandovery defence.
The scoreline was completed in the final seconds of the game by skipper Phil May and conversions by Gary Pearce (his second) and full back Martin Gravelle.
Llandovery dreams of cup glory to herald the opening of the town’s 500th anniversary celebrations were crushed by the superior height and lineout technique of their famed opponents.
Not one of the Llandovery forwards was tall enough to match Llanelli’s big four of Phil May, Russell Cornelius, Alan Davies and Mark Lynch. This lofty quartet brought to bear tremendous firepower and the gallant home side had no answer to it.
Forced to exist on crumbs of possession, Llandovery could never create the momentum which destroyed Pontypridd in the previous round of the cup. From the moment Ray Gravelle sold a convincing dummy to open up a huge midfield gap and sweep through it for a sixth-minute try at the posts, the final outcome was inevitable.
This cup tie between these two Dyfed teams created so much interest that an estimated crowd of more than 3000 packed the touchlines and the small temporary stand in the rural confines of the Castle Ground.
Llandovery, defeated only once in their past dozen games, offered no small challenge, but from the outset they were held in a merciless grip. Under stress in the scrums and overshadowed in the lineout, they were subjected to a mounting tide of pressure. It produced nine tries, six of them in the second half and the final one in the last move of the game, scored appropriately by skipper Phil May who had done so much at the head of the forward effort.
The Llandovery back row of Elfyn Jenkins, David Wigley and Eddie Morris never flinched in their efforts to staunch the Scarlet tide, but as soon as one leak was plugged in the defence another would appear under the weight of the .Llanelli probing.
Jonathan Griffiths skilfully varied his play at scrum half, Gary Pearce controlled events with customary class, and Martin Gravelle moved into attack with all the delicacy and cutting power of a surgeon’s scalpel. With David Pickering lending continuity with his speed to the point of breakdown, Llanelli revealed much of the fluency which makes them a side to be reckoned with in the cup.
Until he went off injured after half an hour to be replaced by Nigel Davies, Ray Gravell was a strong influence at centre, having a hand in all three tries which went into the building of a 14-4 interval lead.
Llandovery skipper Geraint Williams, at centre, and his brother Carwyn, at outside half, tried all they knew to keep their side in the game.