What the Papers Say - Huw George reports:
Penygraig came within an ace of causing the big upset of the Swalec Cup fifth round. The Rhondda side, who play in Division VII of the National League, were pipped at the post 10-9 by Second Division Llandovery at the end of a pulsating duel.
Llandovery’s preparations were disrupted with both regular second rows – captain Ian Jones and John Westgarth – along with prop Arwel Evans unavailable through injury.
It was felt their best chance was an open attacking approach, utilising the wide pace to stretch the defences of the Division 7A Central team, who were defending a two year unbeaten home record.
Llandovery decided to play against the wind and from the kickoff the almost obligatory lineout saw the home side’s No 5 G. Newhams take the ball and this set up the early passage of play, which saw Penygraig put a stranglehold on the game. It was no surprise when, following a series of driving mauls the ball was eventually worked clear to expectant outside half A. Dunne who dropped a sweet goal.
Further pressure was applied by the home side and it was only a lengthy clearance by Stuart Richards that relieved the pressure. It was only temporary relief as Newhams was under the ball and, in concert with his fellow forwards, they drove play back into the Llandovery 22. Whilst they were unable to capitalise on the opportunity, Penygraig’s game plan was apparent.
Such was the home side’s desire to maintain their ground record it was difficult to see how Llandovery could overcome their torrid approach. The only opportunities came when the ball was worked wide to Jeremy Griffiths, who was felled on each occasion.
Dai Lloyd-Jones, a Rhondda boy himself, was asked to kick at goal for Llandovery from 40 metres. His kick was held up on the gusting wind, drifted wide of the posts and magnificently cleared to halfway by full back Simmons.
This chance encouraged the visitors who now enjoyed their best period of play, keeping the ball in hand and attacking from a variety of positions only to be thwarted by solid Graig tacklers who eventually regained control and drove play back into the visitors’ final quarter.
A shortened lineout saw the ball swept to within metres of the Drovers’ line and when the ball was made available from the ensuing ruck it was outside half Dunne who took his second drop goal chance and took the score to 6-0.
Penygraig exerted huge pressure before the interval with a series of attacking scrums but the Drovers manage to hang on.
The second half followed the pattern of the first. Whilst the visitors received a plentiful supply of the ball from locks Dai Giles and Aled Griffiths, close marking by the Graig midfield snuffed out any opportunities.
Having scored over 60 tries this season, the home side abandoned their traditional skills in favour of a ‘keep it tight’ approach. It was no surprise when Dunne hit a well struck penalty for 9-0.
However Llandovery kept their composure and eventually they got onto the scoreboard, as the result of some outside-half brilliance from Lloyd-Jones. He sold two dummies, side-stepped off his right foot and crossed under the posts for an amazing score that stunned the home supporters. His rapid drop goal conversion closed the gap to two points.
Once again it was Lloyd-Jones who was in the thick of things and when his drop goal attempt from 40 metres sailed wide it looked as if the game was lost. But a towering kick from the same player was knocked on at the 22 and with a defending player coming in from the wrong side the referee had no hesitation in awarding a penalty kick.
There have been more difficult kicks, but there may not have been many more important. Lloyd Jones took his time and as the game was already in injury time this was likely to be the last chance. The roar of the visiting supporters was matched only by the silence of the home support as the kick sailed between the uprights and Llandovery led for the first time.
There was still drama to come. From the restart the home side drove forward, delivered the ball, and with the last kick of the game Dunne saw a snap drop goal sail wide.