It was a case of third time lucky for the Drovers as they held on during a pulsating final ten minutes to gain their first victory at Church Bank over visitors Bedwas. In a mistake ridden, highly exciting game the lead changed hands five times before the fourth Llandovery try finally settled the game with a one point victory.
The Drovers were quickly on the attack and an excellent miss-pass from outside half Gareth Jones found full back Neil Clapham in the line who then in turn handed on to loan Davies. The wing skilfully rounded his opposite number to score in the corner. A superb conversion kick by Gareth Jones established an early 7-0 lead for the home side
With both teams prepared to open up the game at every opportunity it wasn’t long before Bedwas got on the score sheet with a penalty goal from Paul Phillips, followed by an unconverted corner try from wing Steffan Sankala. This put the visitors into the lead 7-8.
A penalty awarded to Bedwas was, on the intervention of the touch judge reversed, and Gareth Jones restored the Drovers’ lead. This didn’t last long as the visitors reclaimed the lead with a converted try. A clean break by centre Andy Harrison set up No. 8 Derry MacTravers for a well earned try under the posts for Paul Phillips to add the extra two points with an easy conversion.
A second Llandovery try by centre Tal Selley was cancelled out when a 14 man Bedwas side, with open side flanker Chris Brown sin-binned, set up a rolling maul for lock Nathan Jones to crash over. This left Bedwas leading by 20 points to 15 at the half time break.
At this stage the game was evenly balanced and the home side came out for the second half showing great determination to secure the three points to maintain their third position in the league. However, a golden opportunity was lost following a classic break by lively scrum half Jamie Roberts. A well timed pass to wing Gary Davies was not gathered and from the resulting scrum the visitors were able to clear their lines.
The respite was only temporary as the Drovers’ forwards kept up the pressure on the Bedwas defence. Following a series of rucks close to the line the ball was moved out to the backs and eventually reached lock Tom Walker out on the wing. The Drovers No.4 who was having an excellent game in all phases of play used his height and weight to break the defence and score in the corner.
A second excellent conversion from the touchline by Gareth Jones eased the home side back into the lead for a very short period, as Paul Phillips kicked another penalty within seconds of the restart. With the tension mounting two more yellow cards were dished out by referee Steve Davies of Pencoed when the contest became personal for the two No.6’s Jamie Cudmore of Llandovery and Darren Davies of Bedwas. The original penalty for the first punch was reversed and Paul Phillips was able to convert his third penalty for Bedwas.
With Coach lestyn Thomas making some astute changes from the bench fresh legs began to have a telling effect on the pattern of the game. Of these skipper and prop Andrew Jones, flanker Luka Plesko and hooker Simon Jenkins were all to catch the eye in the remaining quarter of the match.
Turning down the opportunity for three easy points from a penalty the Drovers instead chose to kick for position. The importance of the skipper’s decision was seen when the pack won the ball at the ensuing lineout, set up a maul from which Simon Jenkins was able to force his way over for his fifth try of the season.
Thus establishing a lead of one point the Drovers now tried to close down the game as Bedwas threw everything into attack and an absorbing final ten minutes followed with the home supporters desperate for the final whistle. Their hearts were very much in their mouths when Bedwas made a clean break through the centre but the final pass to flanker Chris Brown as he raced clear of the defence, was not a good one and the relief felt by the whole of the Llandovery crowd when he failed to gather was immense.
Seconds later, in the 85th minute, the referee sounded the whistle to bring this most enjoyable, closely fought encounter to a close. A much relieved Llandovery coach, Geraint Williams, commented after the game that the week’s preparations had been mindful of Bedwas’s capabilities. “They are the form side at present and on top of our two recent defeats it was necessary to get a win”.
The next game at Church Bank on 25 January is a WRU Challenge Cup game against Caerphilly. In this ’match of the round’ the Drovers are looking forward to the challenge of entertaining Mark Ring’s Premier side and hope that a good crowd will be present to cheer them on.