In ideal conditions at Church Bank the spectators were treated to an exciting display of open, running rugby that was a credit to the first division. Unfortunately for the home supporters the majority of the points were claimed by the visitors and the once ‘fortress-like’ Llandovery ground has seen the Drovers concede 80 points in the last two home games. However the game was still wide open at half time with Aberavon just edging the first half by a score of 23 points to 27 in their favour.
Within the first minute of the game Aberavon took the lead. A good move started by the backs deep in their own half saw supporting flanker Andrew Thomas cross for a try. Outside half Jamie Davies converted and soon after kicked two penalties when Llandovery were twice caught offside to establish a 13 points to nil lead. Llandovery in their first incursion into the visitors’ half were rewarded when full back Stuart Harries landed a penalty goal but at this stage it was Aberavon who were very much in charge. They soon went further ahead when following some excellent running and passing wing Nicky Bonham scored wide out for Jamie Davies to put over a touch -line conversion to increase the score to 3-20.
The Drovers to their credit never gave up. Good close work from the forwards drove the ball deep into the opposition half and following a period of pressure the ball came out to wing Gary Davies who calmly dropped a goal. Continuing to grow in confidence the Llandovery team kept up their pressure and were further rewarded when centre Tracy Lewis charged down a clearing kick, followed up and scored a try in the corner as the ball rolled over the line. The dependable Stuart Harries added the extra points with a conversion from the touch-line to give the score a more encouraging look at 13-20.
At this stage of the game the home team back row of Ceri Davies, Matthew Monaghan and Chris Davies were dominant in the loose and their driving, rucking and ball carrying took the game to Aberavon and from this pressure Aberavon conceded another penalty for killing the ball. Stuart Harries unusually missed the kick, the ball bouncing back into play off the post and from this he made up for the miss by putting over a magnificent drop goal from near the half way line.
The good work of the Llandovery forwards was countered by the much more decisive and penetrative running of the Aberavon backs, particularly centres Matthew Back, New Zealander Scott Leighton and ex South Wales Police player, full back Ricky Price. The latter cut through some weak Llandovery tackling to hand on to wing Sam Greenway who crossed for the try. Again Jamie Davies converted to take the score to 16-27.
Not to be outdone the home backs began to figure more prominently and wing Jamie Roberts looked dangerous in attack with the limited number of chances he received. Following some good work by the home three quarters Stuart Harries broke clear down the touchline, kicked ahead but was cynically taken out by the last defender. From the resulting penalty on the 5 metre line the alert Ceri Davies took a tap and crashed over for a try before the defence could be marshalled. Stuart Harries converted and the half time whistle sounded to bring a halt to a half which had seen 50 points being scored. At this stage with the score balanced at 23-27 either side looked capable of winning the match.
Early exchanges in the second period were even, with neither side threatening their opponents’ line until with a quarter of an hour gone Scott Leighton once again breached the home defences, found full back Ricky Price up in support who scored a try near the touch-line. He converted his own try to make the situation much more difficult for the Drovers who, entering the final 20 minutes, found themselves now trailing by 23 points to 34. Their response was to use Tracy Lewis on the crash ball through the centre. Aberavon seemed alert to this ploy and time after time he was met by at least two tacklers. Following these attempts the ball was frequently lost and from one such situation Aberavon converted another penalty to establish a fourteen point cushion at 23-37.
At this stage and becoming increasingly desperate to increase their score Llandovery ignored easy points from kickable penalties to go for the extra points of tries and conversions but their attempts were easily dealt with by the defence and it was Aberavon who were to score the final points of the game. Replacement scrum-half Dan Hawkins, who looked lively from the time he entered the game, flicked a neat pass to Scott Leighton for the centre to run straight through from half way to score under the posts. Jamie Davies added the extra points with the conversion to bring the final score to Aberavon 44 points, Llandovery 23.
The second half was certainly disappointing for the home supporters as their side never gave up but lacked the penetration shown by the Aberavon backs and they were also let down by some of their first time tackling. The lines out were good but unusually the home scrum seemed under pressure much of the time and both scrum half Rob Walters and number 8 Matthew Monaghan had to work hard to relieve the situation. To be fair to the Llandovery side, in their eight games to date, they have played six of the seven clubs above them in the league table. If they wish to retain their position in the top half they now need to regroup and record victories against those sides below them starting away at Treorchy next Saturday and Llanharan at home the following Wednesday evening.