6:20am Wednesday 1st February 2012
THE Drovers were knocked out of this year’s Swalec Cup when they went down to an agonisingly narrow defeat at the hands of four times winners Pontypridd.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession and territory, they could never breach a watertight Ponty defence and also missed two very kickable penalties in the first half.
It took a well-taken penalty from fly half Simon Humberstone in the 74th minute to tip the scales in the favour of the cup holders.
Most of the Llandovery squad involved in the famous 21-6 Schweppes Cup win over Pontypridd back in 1984 had turned up for a reunion alongside their coach Jock Watkins – a former Ponty hooker and captain -– plus the match referee Clive Norling, but they could not inspire the current Drovers to a repeat win.
Defence was the order of the day for both sides throughout, with tryscoring chances rare, but Llandovery had a definite edge in the first half.
But both fly half James Garland and scrum half Lee Rees missed 30- metre penalties, misses that were to prove very costly at the end of the day.
Home centres Jack Roberts and Matthew Jacobs threatened and although number eight Luke Kendall and flanker Shaun Miles often made ground, the Ponty defence was unrelentingly strong.
A close-range lineout and then scrum brought no joy for the Drovers in the second half but the game swung Ponty’s way after Humberstone had made the one clean opening of the day to all but fashion a try.
The fly half had missed a penalty but then made the break to all but work replacement flanker Wayne O’Connor over.
Ponty forced the Llandovery defence to give away a penalty six minutes from time and up stepped Humberstone to slot an angled kick from 30 metres out.
The cup holders then closed out the game with ruthless efficiency to take them through to the next round.
“It was vital that we won this game and stop the rot after suffering two defeats,” said winning coach Dale McIntosh. “And in that context the win was a very important one for our morale in the rest of the season.
“Llandovery are now a very good side after years in the doldrums and only a side full of commitment and character come away from Church Bank with a victory.
“We scrummaged well and our defence snuffed out a lot of attacks and we are delighted to snatch a win in a game that we could easily have lost.”
Llandovery return to league action on Saturday, when Swansea are the visitors to Church Bank (KO 2.30pm). Nothing other than a win will be required to keep up the challenge for a top-three finish and a place in the play-offs.
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