Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
Llandovery recorded their best ever win over Pontypridd by outscoring the Premiership champions by five tries to three at a buzzing Church Bank. A pre-season friendly it might have been and the champions were not at full strength but the Drovers posted firm notice that they will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the coming season.
The Drovers did what many a side has failed to do against Ponty over the years – win the contact area and gain quick ball – and their victory and winning margin were richly deserved.
Disappointed and stunned Ponty coach Geraint Lewis, was fair and fulsome in his praise of the winners. “We were second best against a side that keeps being underestimated and the Drovers proved to us that we will have to lift our game a heck of a lot in the Premiership if we want to hold on to the title,” said the former Wales flanker.
If one Lewis was unhappy the other Lewis – Llandovery coach Lyndon Lewis – was as happy as a sandboy whilst still keeping his feet firmly on the ground. "We are pleased with today's performance but realise that there were a number of key players missing from both sides,” said the Drovers coach. “However I do feel that we need to perform at this level each week if we are to have a successful season this year. There were some excellent individual performances to accompany a good team performance. It highlights that we have strength in depth in the squad and that there will be lots of competition for places! A pleasing start.”
If Llandovery were the better knit side for all but the first five minutes of the game then they also had the game’s outstanding individuals.
In new signing and former Swansea full back Rhys Williams they have a potential star of the future. Under the admiring gaze of former England World Cup winning full back Josh Lewsey – now Head of Rugby at the WRU – Williams scored one brilliant solo try and made another for another ex-All White in wing Richard Williams. Quick, balanced, elusive and tactically alert, his counter attacking made a huge impression on the Church Bank faithful and he looks likely to be the best signing the club has made since the arrival of lock Bryn Griffiths some three years ago.
Richard Williams, utility man Mike Evans, along with centres Matthew Jacobs and Rhodri Jones, also looked class players on the day whilst up front there was a terrific display of open side play from Shaun Miles. Time and again he won the ball at the breakdown, spun through tackles à la Richie McCaw and made some crunching tackles on Ponty ball carriers to confirm his full return to fitness.
But the pack as a whole scrummaged hard, won good line out ball and crucially outmuscled Ponty in the contact area – a rare feat for any club against the champions.
It was good to see lock Matthew Harbut prominent after his long recovery from serious injury whilst there were encouraging debuts too for young scrum half Kieran Hardy, prop Steffan Jones, flanker Ryan Morgans and fly half Steffan Marshall.
Ponty took an early lead with a blind side try by flanker Liam Crocker before Miles intercepted a loose pass to race in from 20 metres. Rhys Williams cut through for the lead – fly half James Garland converting - and although Ponty fly half Lewis Williams hit back with a corner try, Llandovery wing Sam Soul finished off another Williams break to establish a 17-10 interval lead.
The Drovers controlled the second half through a penalty by Garland and a brace of tries for Richard Williams - one converted by Garland the other by replacement Marshall - and Ponty had the scant consolation of a late try from flanker Christian Parker.
There is a busy week-end ahead for the Drovers when they travel to English National One side Cinderford on Saturday before playing in the Premiership Sevens at Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday.