Huw S Thomas reports:
Llandovery put in one of their best performances of the season to beat fourth placed Ebbw Vale at a cold and windy Church Bank.
Four valuable league points pushed the Drovers’ league points up to 20 and drew them level with Maesteg who snatched a losing bonus point in going down 21-18 at Bridgend. With seven league games to play – four at home and three away – Llandovery have a game in hand over Maesteg who have four home games and two away games left.
The Drovers are still bottom of the Principality Premiership because the Old Parish have a superior try count but skipper Rob Walters and his men face the future with confidence after a thoroughly deserved win over Ebbw Vale.
The Steelemen may have been badly hit by both injuries and the unavailability of some key players but coach Patrick Hogan had no complaints. "Good luck to the Drovers as they were far more committed than us and if they continue that form, I can see them pipping Maesteg in the battle for survival."
Hogan was very impressed by home fly-half Gareth Morgan – the clear man of the match - and if Llandovery do escape relegation then much of it will be due to the contribution of the Llandeilo product who is currently on loan from Mike Ruddock’s Worcester. His tactical kicking in the first half was exemplary, pushing the Steelemen back into their 22 with unfailing regularity whilst his goal kicking from very difficult angles and lengths was out of the top drawer.
Llandovery had no Scarlets on loan and they also suffered the disappointment of losing both wing Owain Rowlands and centre Johan Taffetsauffer to injury after just 13 minutes but still led 21-7 at half-time. Tries from in-form centre Mike Jones and replacement Gareth James plus 11 points from Morgan against an opportunist effort from centre Kristian Owen was a fair reflection on the game.
After just eight minutes, Jones finished off a crisp handling movement involving Rowlands, flanker Marc de Marigny, hooker Emyr Phillips and scrum-half Walters.
The skipper was again the key man in the build-up to Llandovery’s other try when he probed the blind side to send James streaking home in the corner.
Early in the second-half, scrum-half Bryan Shelbourne pounced on a rare home error at a scrum to get the Steelemen within seven points but the home pack with locks Steve Covington and Tom Walker outstanding in all areas, had the upper hand.
The Drovers pulled clear with a try from non-stop hooker Emyr Phillips after a forward surge from a line out 25 metres out ended in the pack driving the UWIC student over the line. Five more points from the boot of Morgan gave the fly-half a 16 point haul and his side a 31-17 lead, Vale’s answer just a snap drop goal from fly-half Chris Anderson.
Llandovery defended hard and long in the last 20 minutes with the back row of de Marigny, Gareth Bennett and Gareth Williams leading the way and a last gasp try from Vale replacement prop Anthony Lott had neither importance nor relevance to the result.