A lack of composure in attack, resolute home tackling and referee Mr Richard Elliot’s controversial decisions to disallow three Llandovery ‘tries’ saw the visitors just fail to overhaul the Gwent side in a nail-biting last fifteen minutes
Kicking off into a stiff breeze the Drovers were quickly on the attack and an excellent break by centre Gary Beaumont-Morgan saw wing Gary Davies tackled into touch a few inches from the line. Switching the attack to the other side of the pitch, quick hands by Herman Bosnian set wing loan Davies free to cross for an early try. Gareth Jones converted.
The play of the home pack now became a significant feature of the game as they controlled play for the rest of the half. Adopting a simple, low risk game plan consisting of rolling mauls, driving runs by forwards standing off the pack, and outside half Jeremy Lloyd’s excellent kicking for territory Tredegar were able to exert constant pressure on the Drovers’ line. It therefore came as no surprise when the home side drew level on points. Following a line out the Tredegar forwards set up a rolling maul and drove the 15 metres to the Llandovery try line where influential Number 8 Stuart Jarman crossed for the first of his two tries. Jeremy Lloyd converted.
Keeping up the pressure on the Drovers the home side were able to score two more converted tries. The first was from centre Neil Lewis who cut through on the blind side, and secondly by co-centre Morgan Lovell. Both tries came as the result of suspect tackling and followed good work by the forwards to create the attacking positions.
Against the run of play full back Neil Clapham was able to pull one try back for the visitors. Scrum half Rob Walters made a neat chip ahead near the halfway line and ‘Claps’, following up at speed, caught the ball and in characteristic manner sliced through, leaving the defenders flat footed in his wake. Gareth Jones converted.
The last action of the first half was a snap drop goal by Tredegar’s Man of the Match Jeremy Lloyd. A 22 drop out by Gareth Jones was charged down and, although the ball was re-gathered, a loose relieving kick found the outside half 30m out, from where he coolly dropped the goal to give the home side a 24-14 lead at half time.
With the wind dropping and the Drovers making a spirited fight back the crowd were treated to a most exciting period of rugby. With the Llandovery forwards gaining more possession the whole match altered in character and it was now the aim of their backs to show their skills. Unfortunately, whilst there were some delightful aspects to their play, there were also far too many mistakes and many scoring opportunities were wasted. After a series of unprofitable attacks it was the home side who were to stretch their lead.
Following a knock-on Tredegar won their scrum ball and were able to mount a rare attack into the Drovers’ half. A long kick to the corner by Jeremy Lloyd forced the Llandovery defence to scramble the ball into touch. From the subsequent line out the driving maul set up Stuart Jarman for his second try, a carbon copy of the first, and again converted by Lloyd. This set a seemingly impossible task at 31-14, with only 20 minutes of time left.
Undaunted the Drovers set about the task with determination and the home supporters were able to see some of the style of play that had taken the club to second in the division. Replacement scrum half Jamie Roberts was to set the fight back in motion when he cleverly dummied his way between defenders for a close range try again converted by Gareth Jones.
In a desperate effort to defend their lead the home side were to lose two players. First off was full back James Richards, yellow carded for a professional foul, soon followed by replacement prop John Jones who received the red card for illegal use of the boot. With the loss of these players the defence was stretched and Gary Davies coming infield off his wing carved a gap through the centre, found Gary Beaumont-Morgan in support and delivered a good pass to put the centre in under the posts for a fourth try, again converted by Gareth Jones.
With time running out the Drovers continued to press but time after time the attacks broke down through unfortunate mistakes in handling and desperation to grab the last for victory. The refereeing of Mr Elliot was also called into question as he disallowed three Llandovery ‘tries’. In the first instance Gary Davies dived for the ball and just managed to place the ball but amidst all the action it was not seen. Secondly Gary Beaumont-Morgan was the first to reach a loose ball in the in-goal area but in the act of diving onto it was adjudged to have pulled back a defender. The third controversial decision involved Neil Clapham. Going for the line he was pushed to the ground, bounced up and in the act of crossing for the try was penalised for not releasing the ball in the tackle.
Subsequent video analysis of the game could find no fault with all three attempts and the game finished with the home side clinging onto their precious three point lead as a result]t of the dropped goal in a game where each side scored four converted tries.