What the Papers Say - Huw S Thomas reports
Copyright Huw S Thomas, and used by kind permission of Huw S Thomas
Llandovery dreams of a famous treble were dashed on Sunday when Ebbw Vale won the Premiership semi final play off at Church Bank.
After winning both the Fosters National Sevens and the Welsh Challenge Cup, hopes were high that the Drovers would get to meet Pontypridd in the Premiership final next Sunday but the Steelmen proved just the stronger on the day.
Ravaged by last week’s Cup final injuries to some key players including prop Wyn Jones, lock Matthew Harbut and flanker Phil Day and suffering from the huge effort it took to beat Carmarthen Quins, Llandovery lacked their usual verve and energy against very physical opposition. Seven games in 29 days took its heavy toll and they were never able to quite match the power of the Ebbw pack under their wizened, tattooed lock and captain Damien Hudd.
With Llandovery refusing two kicks at goal, early pressure failed to bring a score in a predictably uncompromising contest. Scrum half Lee Rees twice threatened the Ebbw defence but the best chance came for the visitors when wing David Williams kicked ahead only to be denied a try by a capricious bounce of the ball.
The crucial first score came after 24 minutes when a driving maul from a line out saw Ebbw flanker Ronnie Kynes burrow over, the conversion by fly half Dai Langdon coming back off the upright. Full back Dan Haymond then counter attacked brilliantly to send wing Jared Rosser racing in and, with Langdon converting, it was 14-0 on the half hour.
The Llandovery response was immediate, flanker Shaun Miles (Llandovery Man of the Match) diving in wide out at the end of a driving maul and fly half Jack Maynard converting well.
Langdon stretched the lead to 16-8 with a point blank penalty but Llandovery came back in style after Ebbw prop Gethin Robinson had been yellow carded, hammering away at the Ebbw try line. Centre Craig Woodall was held up over the line by a brilliant cover tackle by scrum half Chris Thomas in the last play of the half to leave the game finely balanced.
The Steelmen had the hard edge up front and when they forced a penalty at a scrum, Langdon’s penalty brought them a score clear at 18-8. With a freshening wind at their backs, Ebbw kept up the pressure with Llandovery forced to live off scraps and another Langdon penalty made it 20-8.
Llandovery looked spent but they dug deep and a short range line out brought a try for No 8 Richard Brooks, Maynard converting. The game suddenly changed, with Llandovery throwing caution to the wind behind the scrum against a tiring and now desperate Ebbw.
But disrupted by two line out losses out five metres from the Ebbw line, the Drovers could not find the vital try and it was the visitors that won the right to take on Pontypridd.