Ebbw Vale 13 Llandovery 16
Llandovery advanced into the semi finals of the Swalec Cup when they held off the firmest of challenges from the Championship's top side, writes Huw S Thomas
In so doing they ended Ebbw Vale’s remarkable winning run of 27 games and it also means that each region has one representative in the semi finals – Llandovery (Scarlets), Pontypridd (Blues), Aberavon (Ospreys) and Cross Keys (Dragons).
Llandovery won the 2007 Cup when they beat Cardiff 20-18 with a dramatic last gasp try and conversion and will take confidence at being the first side to lower Ebbw colours since Pontypridd beat them by a single point in last year’s Cup quarter-final at Eugene Cross Park
Coach Lyndon Lewis took huge satisfaction out of beating Ebbw with a team that was missing some key regular players in the likes of lock Bryn Griffiths, scrum half Rhodri Davies and centre Matthew Jacobs.
“We knew that Ebbw would throw everything at us in the first half and we were under the cosh” said Lewis “but the side showed huge character in riding the storm and then coming back strongly at the start of the second half.”
Roared on by the biggest home crowd of the season, the Ebbw pack played at a fast and furious pace and two penalties by fly half Iain Smerdon put the Championship side ahead.
The visitors could not find any fluency in the face of Ebbw commitment but the half time pep talk from Lewis and forwards coach Euros Evans turned the tide.
With cleaner possession, the Drovers went into attack mode right from the start of the second half and fly half James Garland reduced the leeway with a close range penalty but a yellow card for hooker Luke Lewis stopped their momentum momentarily.
Locks Phil Day and Llew Jones, No 8 Richard Brooks and veteran props Andrew Jones and Dorian Williams worked overtime to bring the Drovers back into contention and Garland dropped a neat goal to make it 6-6 after 56 minutes.
Then came the key moment of the game when Llandovery – still down to 14 men - countered from 90 metres
When Ebbw lost the ball near the Llandovery line, scrum half Lee Rees scuttled 60 metres and found good support from wing Lee Evans who put replacement hooker Tom Ball charging up the touchline for a stunning try.
The Steelmen were rocked and the cool Garland converted from the touchline before adding an easy penalty just after home flanker Ronny Kynes was yellow carded.
Vale made a late charge for glory with a converted try from replacement Lewis Young but the Drovers were home and dry and on their way to a semi final.
The Drovers return to league action this Saturday when they travel to take on Cardiff at the Arms Park.