What the Papers Say – Huw S Thomas reports:
Llandovery's interest in the British and Irish Cup came to an end at Meadow Lane when they surrendered a 12-0 lead to go down to English Championship side. In the final match in Pool 8 Nottingham earned a bonus point win for scoring four tries and they also denied the Drovers the bonus point they needed to qualify for the quarter finals.
If Llandovery had got four tries or kept the margin of defeat down to seven points they would have gone through. Sadly for them Nottingham's five point win drew them level on 20 points at the top of the pool but as the English side had a better points aggregate after the six completed games (+ 39 to +26), it is they and not Llandovery that go into the last eight.
Conditioning coach Richard Hardy summed up the Llandovery disappointment. “We started as well as in any game this season but we then made some poor one on one mistakes in defence to let them recover their composure. They also had a really good set piece and put us under a lot of pressure in that area for 20 minutes either side of half time.”
“The referee was tough on us but we battled hard throughout and some of the defensive work in the second half was outstanding, with Shaun Miles, Bryn Griffiths and Llewelyn Jones working themselves to a standstill against the professional side.”
“We have really enjoyed the B and I Cup experience and it was cruel to go out so narrowly but we have a great challenge left in the Premiership with two big games coming up against Llanelli on Saturday and Cross Keys on March 8.”
It looked very promising for the Drovers early on when the backs created the overlap for wing Jake Randall to go over before centre Matthew Jacobs celebrated his selection as Principality Premiership Player of the Month by breaking a tackle to race in under the posts for a try converted by fly half James Garland.
The big Nottingham pack then organised itself into putting a lot of pressure on the Llandovery eight and particularly at the line out. They stole a line out which led to a try by wing Andy Savage and the forwards then fashioned another for wing Alex Lewington. Former Newport Dragons fly half James Arlidge tied the scores with a conversion and things worsened when No 8 Richard Brooks was sin binned for coming in at the side of a maul.
Savage crossed again for a 17-12 interval lead and when replacement David Jackson got the Green and Whites’ fourth bonus point try, Llandovery backs were really against the wall.
Two Arlidge penalties to one from Garland made it 28-15 and, although the Llandovery forwards stayed more than competitive, they could never get enough possession either in tight or loose. The Drovers ran whatever they could get their hands on but the home side kept shape and discipline for Arlidge to kick another penalty on their way to the B and I Cup quarter finals.
The view from the Nottingham RFC website:
The mathematics of Pool 8 in the British and Irish Cup were such that Nottingham needed a bonus point win, a clear 10 point winning margin, and to deny Llandovery a bonus point in order to progress to the quarter-final stage. That objective was achieved at Meadow Lane with Andy Savage leading the way, grabbing two tries in a 31-15 win that sets up an all-English meeting away at Newcastle in the next round.
Although the Green and Whites enjoyed much the better of the second half, the closing stages were tense with the visitors 13 points behind and putting together a couple of pacey counter attacks. But an injury time penalty from James Arlidge finally gave Nottingham the win that takes them to the knock-out stage of the cross-border competition.
In a bright start Nottingham almost broke through down the left only to turn the ball over. A lineout minutes later also saw them in a threatening position, but again they lost possession. They paid dearly for those mistakes as the visitors' first serious attack created an overlap for winger Jake Randall to open the scoring. James Garland was wide with the conversion.
A kick through almost brought Llandovery a second try but Tim Streather got to the ball first to touch down. But then centre Matthew Jacobs somehow managed to wriggle out of a tackle to break free and score under the posts, Garland this time successful with his conversion, and suddenly Nottingham were 12 points behind.
The Green and Whites replied with a well-worked try from Savage in the left hand corner, after stealing a Llandovery lineout. Arlidge missed the conversion, but their next lineout brought a similar try for Alex Lewington, Arlidge levelling at 12 points each with the touchline conversion. And their next lineout almost brought a third try as Michael Holford drove from close range, but a defender intercepted and cleared the danger.
Towards the end of a close first half a yellow card for Llandovery No 8 Richard Brooks handed Nottingham a vital advantage, and they quickly made the most of it as Savage grabbed his second to give them a 17-12 lead at the break. It was a bittersweet ending to the first half with Streather replaced by Joe Cobden, with the centre hobbling off the pitch with a hamstring injury.
An early second half try from David Jackson, who came in as a late replacement for Jack Cobden who was ruled out through illness, secured that all-important bonus point. And although Arlidge was wide with the conversion, the fly half slotted over a penalty minutes later to make it 25-12, with a second opening up a 16 point gap as the game moved into the final quarter.
With 12 minutes remaining Garland reduced the deficit to 13 points with a penalty, but Nottingham kept their discipline and despite those late counter attacks finished the game well on top, Arlidge rounding off the scoring with that late penalty