Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
The Drovers went down to the narrowest of defeats at Eugene Cross Park but the scoreline flattered them against newly promoted Ebbw Vale. They could have stolen it when fly half James Garland had the chance to kick a winning conversion with a minute left but it would have been an injustice to Ebbw if he had hit the mark.
Back in March, Llandovery had scraped through 16-13 on their last visit to the Steelmen in the Swalec Cup but this time had to play second fiddle throughout.
The programme notes welcomed Llandovery warmly, praising the visit of “a special club” but the welcome on the field was even warmer in the face of a fit, abrasive and hugely committed side. Perhaps the Drovers had come with overconfident hope against opponents that have not featured in the Premiership since 2010 but the Steelmen were dominant in all areas and Llandovery were eventually glad to come away with one losing bonus point.
The surprise was that the Drovers actually led 18-5 up to the 39th minute, thanks to scrambling defence and the individual brilliance of scrum half Lee Rees. Rees intercepted a pass at the base of the scrum to race in from 65 metres and then made another exhilarating run which ended with referee Ian Davies awarding a penalty try after wing Wes Cunliffe was yellow carded for killing the ball.
Garland kicked eight points against a try from Cunliffe but the lead soon evaporated. The home pack with No 8 Spencer Gibson outstanding dominated the contact, ruled the line outs and had the bigger and hungrier ball carriers in the image of the barnstorming Gibson.
Llandovery were tame up front, could hardly win a line out and bowed the head to a side that was quicker to the breakdown, drove fiercely into the rucks, harassed like dervishes and were explosive to the end.
Helped by Llandovery ill discipline and yellow cards to hooker Luke Lewis. full back Rhys Williams and flanker Shaun Miles, Ebbw countered with tries from flanker Ronny Kines, lock Ashley Sweet and a penalty try to earn a 30-24 lead. Replacement Sam Soul brought the Drovers to 30-29 but Garland just missed the conversion to the raucous delight of the 1500 strong crowd.
Llandovery coach Lyndon Lewis was bitterly disappointed with his charges. “We all need to look at ourselves hard or the season will get even tougher. We were poor and although I can’t see many sides winning at Eugene Cross Park, we need to bounce back quickly when we entertain Aberavon on Saturday.”