Huw S Thomas reports:
Premiership Llandovery were generally expected to be too strong for Whitland but in the end had to fight hard before getting through to the last 16 of the Swalec Cup. The 2007 Cup winners were mightily relieved to hear Carmarthen referee Tim Hayes’s final blast on the whistle after the Borderers had enjoyed far the better of the latter stages.
The Drovers had beaten Whitland 29-7 - five tries to one - in a pre-season friendly but found their opponents a tougher nut to crack this time. Whitland were well organised up front, the front row of Gareth Lloyd, Marc Jones and Richard Smith scrummaged strongly and they had two mobile, intelligent and outstanding forwards in lock Raff Williams and No 8 Randall Williams.
Behind the scrum, captain and centre Lee Glanville was a tower of strength in attack and defence, fly-half Aled Davies kicked long and well and there was a real vim and gusto about the whole Whitland play that did the club proud.
Whitland president Brian Cook was delighted with the club’s rousing performance. "When you think that Llandovery have outplayed some very famous opposition this year, the Whitland boys did us proud with this gutsy and no less skilful effort. I thought we competed in every area, created good chances, defended bravely and gave the Drovers a lot to think about. They might have just deserved the win and it was their experience in playing with that bit higher intensity week in week out that tipped the balance," added Cook.
"Whitland gave us a sterner test than a number of Premiership clubs" agreed Llandovery coach Rob Appleyard "but I felt that we had the class in certain positions to eventually pull us through."
Diminutive Wales Sevens 19 year old wing Lee Rees got two first-half ties after excellent touches from first fly-half Cerith Rees and secondly from full-back Neil Clapham and with Rees senior adding seven points from the boot, it was 17-3 at the break.
It could have been a bigger gap but some very poor Llandovery distribution let Whitland off the hook a number of times, one appalling pass from centre Dan Rogers to unmarked No 8 Dean Fitzgerald bringing anguished moans of disbelief from the touchline faithful. At that stage Llandovery looked ready to turn the screw with Clapham and Lee Rees threatening with every touch and new signing Fitzgerald working hard up front.
But any ideas that Whitland might fade were soon dispelled as their forwards tore into the home eight. Full-back Jonny Morgan grabbed a converted try after a great touch-line dash run by wing Dion Thomas and although Cerith Rees replied with Llandovery’s third converted try after a very good break from scrum-half Gareth James, the game remained ever so tight. Davies kicked one penalty and narrowly missed another as the impressively fit Borderers continued to pester the very life out of the Premiership outfit right up to the very end of a well fought but scrupulously clean cup-tie.
Llandovery Ratings by Huw S Thomas: N Clapham 7; J Ajuwa 5, D Rogers 4, R Williams 6, L Rees 7; C Rees 7, G James 6; P Edwards 7, A Yelland (capt) 6, C Cross 6, R Gierat 6, S Martin 6, N Aiono 6, D Fitzgerald 7, M Harbut 6.
Reps used : O Evans, G George, E Siggery, H Thomas, R Walters, Marc de Marigny