John Kendrick reports:
An in-form Cross Keys side playing their best rugby of the season brought an abrupt end to the four game winning sequence of Llandovery. At a bitterly cold Pandy Park the home side ran in five tries to a single one from the Drovers.
A disappointed Drovers Head Coach, Rob Appleyard commented after the game, “We just didn’t turn up – Cross Keys were hungrier than us from the start”. He continued, “There were some reasonable efforts but little flair and a lack of inventiveness and we certainly didn’t show the form of the last few weeks”. Rob pointed to a lot of missed tackles and a weak kicking game as basics where the Drovers let themselves down.
The only bright spot for the visitors was provided by the powerful running of Joe Ajuwa who was the only player capable of breaching the excellent defensive wall set up by the home side. With their tremendous first time tackles putting a stranglehold on the Drovers’ runners, a weak kicking display always finding a defender ready to set up a counter-attack, placed severe limitations on attacking options. Just on half time one of these Ajuwa breaks set up supporting wing Matthew Jacobs for the single Llandovery try. This try along with an earlier Cerith Rees penalty brought a half time score of 15-8 which failed to reflect the home side’s superiority.
It took only three minutes for the Keys to get their first try when centre Matthew Pewtner brushed aside a series of paper thin tackles to cruise over. Full back Gareth David converted to record the first of his 12 points, soon after adding 3 more when the Drovers defence was caught offside at a ruck. The second try for the home side again followed missed tackles which allowed the Keys to camp on the visitors’ try line from where prop Richard Cornock forced his way over.
Despite conceding both territory and possession to the home side the Drovers were still technically in the game at half time with only 7 points between the teams. However, Llandovery hopes of a revival were dashed within minutes of the start of the second half when they conceded a third try converted by David. This try scored by wing Marcus Johnstone completed a counter-attack set up from a poor kick.
Llandovery were finished as an attacking force and were locked into their own half for the rest of the second period. In the circumstances Coach Appleyard used the opportunity to give his subs a run whilst improved defence limited the Keys to two further tries, a second for Johnstone and one for opposite wing Nathan Trowbridge, bringing them a bonus point. David converted one and also kicked a second penalty.
The 4 try bonus point pushed the Keys above the Drovers in the Principality Premiership although Llandovery do have two games in hand over the Gwent team. However, if they are to take advantage of these games they will need to show a significant improvement on this display. This will not be easy as their next game is at the Gnoll against a Neath side no doubt smarting from the home defeat suffered against Llanelli. This is followed by a home fixture against Llanelli on Boxing Day then a visit to Carmarthen Park to take on the Quins, one below them in the Division.
These three games will have a big impact on the Drovers’ ambitions of finishing the season in the top half of the Principality Premiership.