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
Raiders seal first ever win
West Wales Raiders 44
Coventry Bears 16
Lucas Marshall, Stebonheath Park,
A LATE rally by Coventry Bears was not enough to deny a jubilant West Wales Raiders their first-ever win at the 45th time of asking.
The old South Wales Ironmen tasted victory against Gloucestershire All Golds in the first match played at Stebonheath Park back in July 2017, but never before have the side won under the Raiders banner. And it was certainly worth the wait as the Raiders dominated much of the game against a Bears side that doesn’t have the best record when travelling to South Wales. The other game the Ironmen won in 2017 was against Coventry, whilst the Bears only won by 10 points at Llanelli last season.
Dewi Billingham made his Coventry debut while trialist Zak Williams made his first appearance since returning to the Bears. But both former Raiders stars were unable to come back to haunt their former employers.
Much of the damage was done in the first half with the Raiders taking control from the kick-off and eventually going in 20-0 up at the break.
It took only six minutes for Raiders to break the Bears defence when good work down the left put Dalton Desmond-Walker in for the opener. Phil Cowburn added the extras but was off target just moments later after Ash Bateman was on the end of some quick passing to go in on the right.
When Morgan Evans went in for the Raiders third, again converted by Cowburn, their loyal band of supporters started to believe they were on course for victory.
It could have been even worse for the Bears, but strong defence saw them hold the visitors up over the line on three occasions mid-way through the half. Although there was no denying Archie Snook with one of the final plays of the half after Welsh International Steve Parry had split the Bears defence to put the centre through. Cowburn once again failed with the conversion but the Raiders still celebrated their most positive 40 minutes in almost two years.
After the break, it was the Bears who struck first through Reece Rance, but any hopes of a comeback were soon extinguished by three quick-fire tries.
First, former Bears player Mitch Shaw scooted over, before Bateman and Snook both got their second try of the afternoon to all but secure the victory for the Llanelli-based outfit.
Parry then went in for the Raiders’ eighth try of the day to put the icing on a long-awaited cake.
But the Bears were by no means done and added two further tries of their own to make the scoreline look a little less dominate than the game suggested.
Tries from Errol Carter and South Wales youth system graduate Cobi Green, along with two Joe Sanderson conversions rounded off the scoring for the visitors.
Dafen see off Porthcawl
DAFEN Seconds earned their sixth win of the season on Saturday (Jul 6) as they beat Porthcawl by 75 runs.
Porthcawl won the toss and elected to field and they were able to bowl Dafen out for 182.
Opener Oliver Evans made a score of 19 and Chris Randell scored 25 as a number of Dafen batsmen made good starts.
Jonathan Griffiths scored 22 and there were also scores of 15 from Tom Lavender and 16 from Luke Dunning.
Matthew Thomas made a late score of 18 while Andrew Randell top scored with 43 runs.
Nicholas Morgan was the pick of the bowlers with three wickets for the loss of 30 runs from his 6.3 overs.
Mark Bevan also bowled well to finish with figures of 3-37.
That set Porthcawl 138 to win but they lost a number of batsmen for single figure scores as they struggled to put runs on the board.
Andrew Randell had Nicholas Morgan caught by Jac Morgan and Matthew Thomas had Rhodri Phillips caught by Chris Randell.
Chris Richards made a score of 13 before he was bowled by Rhys Marchant who then also bowled Rob Warren and had David Lewis caught by Chris Randell, both for ducks.
Tim Richards also fell for a duck when he was caught off the bowling of Matthew Thomas.
Mark Lewis had scored 25 but he also fell to the bowling of Marchant.
Steffan Flood also scored 25 before he was bowled by Chris Randell and Joshua Aubrey added 20 late on before he also fell to the bowling of Randell.
That meant that Porthcawl were all out for 107, giving Dafen seconds an excellent win.
On Saturday (Jul 13), Dafen seconds are away to local rivals Llanelli seconds.
Rees century sees Llanelli to win
LLANELLI’s Iwan Rees scored a century on Saturday (Jul 6) to help his side to victory over Briton Ferry Steel.
Briton Ferry won the toss and elected to bat but they were restricted to 186-8 in their innings.
Steven Devonald struck early on to remove Evan Hynes but Lloyd Clement and Jamie Griffiths shared 44 runs for the second wicket.
Jac Rees had Griffiths caught by Craig Howells on a score of 24 and soon after Craig Evans was bowled by Aled Gilley for a duck.
Clement had made a score of 41 but when he was bowled by Rees, the Steel found themselves on 81-4.
That soon became 88-5 as Steve Maddock was caught by Marcus Leaf off the bowling of Gilley.
Iwan Rees then had Steffan Evans caught by Howells and Rhys Norgrove fell in similar fashion.
Jason Hughes and Thomas Williams shared 56 runs for the eighth wicket as they looked to give their side a total to defend.
On the last ball Williams was caught by Rees off the bowling of Gilley on a score of 24 which left Hughes not out on 67.
Llanelli openers Iwan Rees and Ioan Phillips shared 42 runs for the first wicket before Phillips was caught by Rhys Norgrove off the bowling of Jay Webb.
That was as good as it got for the Steel though as they were unable to claim any further wickets.
Craig Howells hit seven fours as he finished unbeaten on 53 while Rees starred with 14 fours to finish unbeaten on 104.
The win gives Llanelli 19 points and keeps them third in the table. On Saturday (Jul 13), they travel to local rivals Dafen.
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