Huw S Thomas reports:
In the sixth round of the Konica Minolta Cup, Premiership side Llandovery were shaken by a spirited first-half performance from their Division One East opponents before pulling right away in the second-half. The Drovers came back from a 6-5 interval deficit to score 31 second-half points and in so doing successfully underlined the different levels of forward power and strength between the two divisions.
The win puts Llandovery just two games away from the Konica Minolta Cup final at the Millennium stadium on April 28. The draw for the quarter-finals will be announced this week with everyone at Church Bank hoping for a home draw for the game on March 24.
Hopes of getting to the final looked very fragile at half-time on Saturday. Coach Iestyn Thomas did not look a happy man after 40 minutes of inept play by his side but was all smiles at the end as his forwards took control of tight and loose in a convincing second-half display.
"It was important that we signed off before the next game – at home to Maesteg in the Premiership – with a strong performance and that is what we did after the break when the pack was in almost total control. The Maesteg game will be a defining moment in the season and we will look forward to a royal battle with the Old Parish" added Thomas.
The Cheesemen used the wind well in the first half when Llandovery were too loose and imprecise in their use of the ball and deserved a hard earned lead through two penalties by fly-half Rhys Edwards against a try by home wing Viv Jenkins.
Former Llanelli and Aberavon scrum-half Adrian Williams made a pleasing start to his time at Church Bank distributing well, quick in support and very unlucky not to score a fine individual try. A quick tap penalty from ever-alert flanker Gareth Williams gave his fellow former Ysgol Maes-Yr -yrfa schoolmate the chance to chip the defence and outstrip the cover only to knock on in the act of scoring.
Caerphilly skipper John Griffiths was outstanding in all he did but the Drovers tightened up appreciably after the interval, their scrummaging more dynamic, their line out more stable and their ball carrying better supported.
Locks Arwel Davies and Tom Walker sewed up the line outs with and against the throw and the back row of Jon Mills, Gareth Bennett and Gareth Williams ruled the roost with their strength and presence in the loose as the score rattled merrily along.
The value of on loan Scarlet prop Phil John was also emphasised with his galloping runs often scattering defenders and Llandovery will be relying on more of his power in the weeks ahead in their efforts to avoid relegation.
A penalty from home fly-half Jon Elrick in his last game before returning to New Zealand - and a contract with North Harbour - made it 8-6 before the home eight trundled the Caerphilly pack back from two line outs to fashion tries for busy skipper Davies and replacement hooker Adam Yelland.
With Elrick and his replacement Simon Daniel keeping the points flowing through their goal kicking and another replacement in prop Ricky Davies crashing over it soon became 32-6.
The tireless Griffiths drove through for a consolation try but it was immediately trumped by a second Jenkins touchdown for the Drovers in the eighth minute of injury time when Caerphilly legs were buckling under enormous pressure.