What the Papers Say – Handel Davies reports
On a wonderfully warm end of season Saturday afternoon at the home of the Ironmen of Merthyr the Drovers of Llandovery produced some of their best away form of the season in defeating their hosts by the margin of five tries to three.
Under the cosh for the opening spell Llandovery, somewhat against the run of play, took the lead when centre Huw Thomas in his first game back from injury crossed for an excellent try after a passage of play which saw the ball moved from one side of the pitch to the other. No 10 Aled Williams added the extra conversion points.
Shortly afterwards a clever kick by the fly half around the blind side was latched onto excellently by lively winger Ioan Davies, who sprinted in at the corner.
Merthyr responded immediately when their captain Davies burst through some poor Llandovery tackling to set up a try for centre John Bryant under the posts. Jeremy Lloyd kicked the simple conversion. Then, much to the delight of the large gathering of home supporters, scrum half Mark Simmonds split the defence again to dive in near the posts, allowing Lloyd’s conversion to give Merthyr the lead for the first and only time in the game.
It was the Drovers who then turned on the style through Kiwi Dan Stead, playing in his last game of the season for Llandovery before returning home to play in New Zealand. Playing at second row this outstanding player has the physique, speed and ball skills which see him feeling as comfortable in the three-quarters as he is amongst the forwards. As well as winning a constant supply of off the top line out ball, he suddenly appeared between the centres, then chipping like a half back he proceeded to outsprint the covering full back and winger to cross for an excellent individual try. Aled Williams’s conversion made the half time score 14-22.
Playing with the advantage of the slope in the second period Merthyr were soon exerting pressure in order to reduce the deficit. This they succeeded in doing when referee Rowlands awarded them a penalty try for a collapsed five metre scrum, the conversion bringing them within a point at 21-22.
Llandovery however now possess a side which has a fine blend of youth and experience throughout the team. They are capable of playing an open expansive style but are equally adept at keeping the game plan tight when the situation requires. They also possess an uncoachable ingredient, namely pace.
The Division’s top try scorer Mark Jones took his season’s tally to 21 when he crossed for his customary try. Powerful centre Tracy Lewis also kept up his recent try scoring feast by crossing for a score which extended the Drovers’ lead beyond reach. Aled Williams converted and added two penalties, with Merthyr gaining a consolation bonus point when full back Thomas crossed for the Ironmen’s third try.
The large band of travelling Llandovery supporters left extremely satisfied that they had witnessed another excellent performance from their team. In a season which has seen more than its fair share of turmoil off the pitch, with the Drovers discontinuing the services of their New Zealand coach mid-season and the club revamping its organisational structure, supporters were left to ponder what might have been had the situation been more stable.