What the Papers Say - Huw S Thomas reports:
All good things must come to an end and so it was at Church Bank on Saturday. After finishing second to Pontypridd in the Premiership and enjoying their best season ever, the Drovers lost to Llanelli in the play off game that decided who play Pontypridd in the Grand Final on Saturday.
Llandovery had finished six points clear of third placed Llanelli at the end of the regular season but failed to confirm that superiority in front of a bumper crowd.
Scarlets Head of Development Gareth Jenkins offered consolation and comfort to the Drovers. “No matter the result, rugby was the winner and the region should be rightly proud that two of its feeder clubs provided such quality play of pace and tempo.”
It was in Jenkins’s words “a splendid rugby occasion” at Church Bank with both sets of supporters in full voice, arguably the Northern Hemisphere’s best referee in control, precocious players strutting their talent and wizened props making record breaking appearances for their home town club.
That Llanelli deserved to win was not in doubt but they were pushed hard and long by a Llandovery side that strove every nerve and sinew to make the Premiership final in memory of former prop and recent cancer victim Malcolm ”Mighty” Page.
If Llanelli had some of the stars of tomorrow in flanker Daniel Thomas, full back Dion Jones and fly half Jordan Williams, Llandovery resolve and commitment to the cause was underlined by stalwarts such as lock Bryn Griffiths, the hugely promising 21 year old prop Wyn Jones and late replacement props Andrew Jones and Dorian Williams. Jones recently played his 500th game for the club and Williams came on to make his 300th appearance.
An edge at the breakdown, firmer defence around the fringes of ruck and maul and greater creativity behind the scrum won the day for Llanelli even though they were second best at the scrum.
A first minute interception try by wing Kristian Phillips set Llanelli on their way and they never surrendered the lead despite the Drovers sticking with them without ever reaching their best form.
Llanelli were 14-13 up at half time after a second try from classy centre Nic Reynolds and two conversions by Williams had kept them a nostril ahead of a try from flanker Shaun Miles and eight points from the boot of fly half James Garland.
Soon after the restart a Williams penalty stretched the lead to four points. Llanelli skipper and lock Adam Powell, flanker Lewis Rawlings and scrum half Justin James combined in a movement that ended with flanker Dan Thomas snatching a third away try.
Llandovery resolve in adversity was huge and the forwards mauled the hard yards for No 8 Kieran Murphy to bring it to 22-20 with a converted try. Twice young prop Wyn Jones made bullocking 20 metres runs to turn the Llanelli defence and it was only by the skin of their teeth that the Llanelli visitors hung on in a frenetic finale. They survived a retreating scrum, an unpunished high tackle on Llandovery full back Lee Rees and a knock-on by Murphy inches from the try line. Play then swung down to the home end and a brilliant kick-through, gather and dab down from Wales U20 pivot Jordan Williams settled the issue at the very death.