JUST THREE points separate the top five in the Principality Premiership as Llandovery turned the heat up on current league leaders Pontypridd with an emphatic victory against fellow west Wales side Neath.
There was a fast and furious start, with both sides looking to throw the ball around but being met by equally stern defences.
Twice the ball was held up in the contact area as players flooded the tackle zone, looking to get underneath the ball carrier and force the turnover. It was from one such turnover that Llandovery struck for their first try. A wellset driving maul from the visitors, sucked in the Neath pack before scrum half, Rhodri Davies broke into space down the blindside. His pace and a nice left foot step were enough for the No.9 to dive in for the first points of the night.
The next try of the match for the visitors followed five minutes later. Fullback Will Thomas, slicing through some very suspect midfield defence, before slipping the pass infield for scrum half Davies who cantered in for his second. Maynard added the extras and extended their lead to 16 points.
Neath were immediately caught offside at the restart, giving the Drovers another chance to attack. Lex Botha on the Llandovery wing found himself in some space in the wide channel and he powered into the Neath 22.
A series of sloppy penalties from the home team kept the pressure on and the ball in Llandovery hands; it didn’t take long for them to make the most of it. Again the space was found in the Blacks midfield and a good pop pass off the floor found the welcome arms of centre Matthew Jacobs and he forced his way over the line.
The home side were struggling to keep ball in hand, and some careless play handed possession back to a Llandovery team who looked like they were hitting top gear. Again the midfield defence from Neath was found wanting and fly half Maynard was easily able to carve his way through before finding his winger Sam Soul to dive in at the corner.
With only half an hour played and Llandovery 28 points up, the Welsh All Blacks desperately needed to consolidate and try to create some pressure in the visitor’s half. As the break drew closer that’s exactly what they did. Keeping the ball tight Neath began to force penalties and eventually the referee lost his patience sending Llandovery openside Shaun Miles into the sin bin.
It came to full back Bramwell to take the initiative, taking a quick tap from yet another Llandovery penalty he burrowed under the posts to get the home team off the mark and with fly half Price adding the extras the score at half time was 8-28, with Neath showing some fight to get back into the contest.
After the break though it was one-way traffic as the visitors ran in 52 unanswered points.
After a series of pick and go’s second row Matthew Harbut drove his way over from short range to extend the Llandovery advantage before flier Lex Botha had the gas to make it to the try line from inside his own half. The Neath disgruntlement both on and off the field was palpable as Maynard added the extras to take the lead out to 44 points.
Five minutes later and Neath were once again buried deep in their own 22 with frustrations beginning to mount.
Leon Ward, Neath replacement flanker was dismissed to the sin bin, compounding their situation and in his absence Llandovery once more crossed the try line. From the back of an advancing scrum, Rhodri Davies darted down the blindside into acres of space to touch down for a well deserved hat trick and cap an excellent display from the speedy half back.
The Neath covering defence had to scramble across field as repeatedly as Llandovery were easily able to break out wide, before another simple offload in the middle of the pitch sent Drover replacement Mike Evans in to bring up 58 points. Full back Aaron Bramwell took a blow to the neck in the process and was forced to leave the field amid some concern as the night went from bad to worse for the Blacks.
Llandovery piled on the misery with three more tries in the final four minutes, including a spectacular end to end effort finished off by replacement Richard Rees to cap off a wretched evening for the home side and bring the final score 8-80.
Neath: 15 Aaron Bramwell; 14 Ed Howley, 13 Ryan Evans, 12 Iwan Evans, 11 Josh Jones; 10 Luke Price, 9 Rhodri Cole; 1 Aaron Coundley, 2 Aled Morris, 3 Joel Ringer 4 Rhys Jones 5 Jon Barley; 6 Josh Cole, 8 Calum Davies, 7 Jordan Collier
Replacements: Nicky Downs, Keiran Mattocks, Geraint James, Jonny Griffiths, Craig Price, Chris Morgans, Dean Howell, Aaron Grabham
Llandovery: 15. Will Thomas 14. Lex Botha 13. Matthew Jacobs 12. Rhodri Jones 11. Sam Soul 10. Jack Maynard 9. Rhodri Davies: 1. Wyn Jones 2. Luke Lewis (captain) 3. Greg Cunniffe 4. Phil Day 5. Matthew Harbut 6. Stuart Worrall 7. Shaun Miles 8. Richard Brooks
Replacements: 16. Berian Watkins 17. Dean Howells 18. Bryn Griffiths 19. Richard Rees 20. Tom Ball 21. Mike Evans 22. James Davies 23. Lee Rees
Foel’s Championship dream halted
FELINFOEL’s hopes of promotion to the WRU Championship were brought to an end on Sunday (May 12) as they were beaten in the play-offs by Ystalyfera.
Ystalyfera had won the first leg 34-28 on their home soil but Felinfoel were still very much in the tie and they had the backing of an 800-strong home crowd in the reverse fixture. Fans packed in to the ground and they witnessed an epic encounter.
Felinfoel held the lead at one time but their opponents hit back to seal a 20-30 win to win overall by 64 points to 48.
Felinfoel played some attractive rugby during the first half with wingers Eray Wilson and Elliot Dawe scoring tries wide out one of which was converted by Aled Roberts. Ystalyfera scored a penalty and a converted try making the half time score 12 points to 10.
The second half opened brightly for Felinfoel with Roberts kicking a penalty and Wilson scoring a further try. With the score at 20 points to 10, matters were looking favourable for the home team.
It was at this stage that the Ystalyfera forwards took complete control of the match denying Felinfoel of any possession for the final 20mins of the match. With a strong scrummage and dynamic driving maul they continued to exert pressure onto the home team.
Ystalyfera were rewarded with a further two converted tries, penalty goal and drop goal and deserved their victory 20 points to 30, and promotion to the championship.
Both teams are to be congratulated in the way in which the game was played. Both sides gave their all and provided an entertaining encounter.
Both sets of supporters gave loud vocal support to each team and were sporting throughout the match.
At the end of the match Felinfoel coach Mike King who is leaving after two years in charge was given a rousing send off by players and supporters alike.
After the game Felinfoel took to twitter saying: “After another successful season, it’s time to say thank you. Thank you to all sponsors for supporting the club throughout the season once again. Without you we would not exist. Thank you to all the supporters who have been with us through thick and thin.
“Lastly, thank you to head coach Mike King who will be leaving us. He has set the foundations of the club and has turned this club around for the better. All at Felinfoel RFC can’t thank you enough. We wish you all the best in the future.”
Morgan marches seconds home
DAFEN Seconds earned the bragging rights over Llanelli Seconds on Saturday (May 11) as they cruised to an eight wicket win.
Dafen won the toss but elected to field and that looked to be a good decision as they bowled their opponents out for just 118 inside 22 overs.
Aadil Mukhtar finished with excellent figures of 5-21 while Oliver Evans supported well taking four wickets for the loss of 40 runs.
Needing just thirty overs of their reply, Dafen Seconds eased to victory as Jac Morgan finished not out on 64 to see his side over the line.
The win for Dafen keeps them joint top of the table with Briton Ferry Town after two games while Llanelli sit bottom of Division 3 and are still searching for their first win.
On Saturday (May 18), Dafen Seconds are at home against Dyffryn while Llanelli Seconds are away to Neath thirds.
Jones duo sink Bronwydd
LLANGENNECH earned their first win of the season on Saturday (May 11) as they beat Bronwydd by 14 runs in a low scoring game.
Llangennech won the toss and elected to bat but they lost Chris Hickey early on when he was caught by Jacob Jenkinson off the bowling of Colin Tucker.
Matthew Jones scored 11 before he was caught and bowled by Tucker before David Williams was caught by Tom Gleeson off the bowling of Matthew Vaughan for a score of 14.
James Taube made the same score but was then caught by Phillip Howell off the bowling of Dafydd Morgan. Morgan also bowled Martin Gregory to leave Llangennech on 83-5.
Opener Scott Lloyd’s score of 30 had come off 127 balls and he was eventually caught by Vaughan off the bowling of Callum Collins-Davies.
Richard Clement was the third Llangennech batsman to make a score of 14 before getting out as he was caught by Jenkinson off the bowling of Gleeson.
Michael Jones was then run out before Gleeson claimed his second wicket as he had Simon Clement caught by Oliver Furneaux.
Vaughan then wrapped up the innings as he had Bav Patel caught by James Cale to leave Llangennech all out on 124. Photo by Darren Harries
Bronwydd’s opening pair of James Cale and Philip Howell shared 15 runs but Howell was out for a score of 8 to the bowling of Michael Jones.
Oliver Furneaux was next to fall when he was trapped leg before by Matthew Jones on a score of 11.
Chris Hickey then gave Owain Phillips his first wicket as he caught Jacob Jenkinson and the bowler then claimed his second as he had Cale caught by David Williams on a score of 17.
That left Bronwydd on 44-4 but Iwan Davies and Dafydd Morgan shared 40 runs for the fifth wicket to keep their side in the game.
Davies hit three fours and a six in his knock of 33 but he was then trapped leg before by Michael Jones. He then also bowled Callum Collins-Davies for a duck to reduce Bronwydd to 84-6.
Matthew Jones then had Dafydd Morgan caught on a score of 8 before then trapping Tom Gleeson leg before.
Hickey then took two more catches of Matthew Vaughan and Colin Tucker to give Matthew Jones his five-wicket haul and Bronwydd were all out for 110.
Gareth John had finished not out on 18 but it wasn’t enough for victory for the visitors.
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