Drovers climb to second with crunch win
1:36pm Monday 24th February 2014 in Sport
Llandovery 23 Cross Keys 16
Llandovery coach Lyndon Lewis celebrated his 45th birthday by seeing the Drovers move into second place in the Premiership and seven points clear of Cross Keys after this well deserved win, writes Huw S Thomas.
Carmarthen Quins lead the table on 51 points just one point ahead but all of Llandovery's four main rivals – Quins, Pontypridd, Llanelli and Cross Keys - have games in hand.
The Drovers travel at Sardis Road this Saturday to try and turn over the defending champions who were not in league action at the week-end.
Lewis was delighted at the win over Keys but disappointed in seeing them snatch a losing bonus point in the last few seconds of a fractious game.
“After trailing at the break, we played well to take the game away from Keys so it was a blow to concede seven points at the end and let them get away with a point.” said Lewis.
There was nothing to choose between the sides in the first half but with the advantage of a strong westerly wind, Keys took a 9-3 interval lead.
Dragons fly half Steffan Jones kicked one short range and two long range penalties to one penalty by Llandovery opposite number James Garland.
Both sides had chances to snaffle tries, Keys through their pack, the Drovers through their backs but defences were strong and committed.
Skipper Phil Day was again immense in the contact area and put in some crunching tackles along side fellow back rowers Lawrence Reynolds and Richard Brooks.
There were three factors in Llandovery’s dominance of the second half.
The wind was behind them and both fly half James Garland and full back Lee Rees used it to the full, the introduction of props Neil White and Andrew Jones strengthened the scrum and Keys copped two yellow cards up front.
The first sin binning of No 8 and skipper Adam Powell in the 52 nd minute saw the game swing markedly the Drovers way.
Garland calmly slotted two penalties and then jinked through from 10 metres to grab a try which he converted for a 16-9 lead.
Another yellow card – this time for over robust pugilist lock Dan Hodge – soon cost Keys another try when centre Rhodri Jones gathered a charged down kick and Garland converted for a personal tally of 18 points.
Keys were seriously rattled and looked certain to go home empty handed with the game entering its latter stages.
But five changes may well have broken Llandovery concentration with the Keys regaining late confidence under the influence of the classy Jones.
A sweeping move up the left ended with centre James Cordy-Redden scrambling over and to Steffan Jones's credit he hit a magnificent touch line conversion into the wind to secure the losing bonus point.