What the Papers Say - Tom Hughes reports:
Llandovery's Premiership ambitions were dented at the Gnoll where the Welsh All Blacks took revenge for their 15-10 defeat at Church Bank back on October 1. The Drovers are still top of the table but Neath have now closed to within two points and have also played two fewer games. Things could have been worse on Saturday but other close pursuers in Aberavon, Pontypridd and Cross Keys all went down to surprise defeats at the respective hands of Swansea, Bridgend and Carmarthen Quins.
Things are getting congested at the upper end of the table with no fewer than eight teams within nine points of each other and some like Llanelli with four games in hand over Llandovery. If Drover ambitions to finish in the top three and make the play offs are to bear fruit then they need to win their next three games – all at home – against Bedwas (this Saturday), Swansea and Cross Keys and hopefully pick up a bonus point or two.
The key moment of the game at the Gnoll - where the Drovers have never won - was the sending off by referee Tim Hayes of Llandovery flanker Nio Aiono. The Samoan had already got a yellow card in the first half for a high tackle but an even more dangerous tackle after just 6 minutes of the second half saw the flanker cop a red card.
At that stage Neath led just 8-5, a try from hard running full back Alec Jenkins and penalty from fly half Dai Langdon shading a smartly taken interception try by centre Adam Warren. The experienced All Blacks took advantage with a try from skipper Gareth Gravell plus a conversion and penalty from Langdon to stretch the lead to 18-5.
But making good use of limited possession the Drovers rallied with tries from leading try scorer and centre Matthew Jacobs and replacement flanker Shaun Miles who collected a loose ball at the tail of the line out to sprint in from 30 metres. If fly half James Garland and replacement Cerith Rees had been in better kicking form the Drovers would have been ahead but between them they conspired to miss two penalties and three conversions – all none too difficult.
The extra effort against the big home pack eventually took its toll in the last ten minutes, with Langdon hitting a penalty and then converting a corner try from wing Dai Evans.