John Kendrick reports:
Former Llandeilo Youth player and ex-Drovers outside half Howard Thomas turned executioner against his former club when he rattled up a personal tally of 40 points in the 80-0 crushing of Llandovery by Neath at the Gnoll.
The first of Thomas’s hat trick of tries came after only 5 minutes when he slipped between would be tacklers, rounded the defence and touched down for a fine individual try. Ironically it was to be Thomas who completed the rout by scoring in the last minute of full time. Moved to the wing to accommodate replacement outside Arwel Thomas he rounded off a handling movement to score wide out. When he converted his try, his eleventh conversion from eleven tries, he broke the Neath individual scoring record previously held by James Hook with 39 points. In addition to his hat trick of tries and perfect record of conversions he also kicked a single penalty goal and was justifiably awarded the accolade of Man of the Match.
After the game Head Coach Iestyn Thomas sat down his shocked Drovers and told them that, although their tackling had left a lot to be desired and much of their decision making was poor, they didn’t become a bad side over-night. He was keen to raise their spirits to match the challenge of the one club below them in their next match, a relegation battle away at Maesteg. “I want four good training sessions before this vital game and I want you all there” he urged his players.
Whilst the Drovers' efforts were poor on the day this should not detract from the outstanding display of the home side. Watching the game former Drovers hooker Hywel James commented “On this form Neath would have hammered any of the Premiership sides”.
Whilst the set pieces were relatively even it was in open play where the huge discrepancy between the sides caused the crushing defeat. Outstanding direct running, superb support off the ball and well timed unselfish passes destroyed the defence and made this into a very one sided contest. Instrumental in much of this play was excellent Osprey scrum half Martin Roberts. Released by the Region for the game his quick passes and sharp breaks allowed those outside him to enjoy a the space created.
By half time the result could only finish in one way it was just a matter of by how many? Five converted tries, two from Howard Thomas and one each from wing Mathew Nuthall, full back Gareth King and No 8 Lee Beach plus a Thomas penalty posted a 38-0 half time lead.
Within 3 minutes of the restart former Llandovery College and Wales U21 Captain James Merriman added a sixth try although at the start of the half the Drovers enjoyed their best period of the game, coming close to scoring on several occasions. In this time back row player Marc De Marigny was prominent and was the only player in the Drovers team who came anywhere near his normal level of performance.
However after this brief period the visitors fell to a series of sucker punches as Neath ran in 21 points in only 3 minutes. Handling errors let replacement flanker Gerwyn Price race in for the first of the tries and then twice, each time virtually from the kick off, No 8 Lee Beach grabbed his second try and then Ashleigh James got his name on the score sheet.
As the game entered its final minutes a turn over in a ruck presented Gareth King with his second try and then came the record breaking Howard Thomas 7 pointer to round off the heaviest defeat for the Drovers since the formation of the Principality Premiership.