Newport 27 Llandovery 44
Llandovery finished their Premiership campaign in style by completing an impressive double over Newport at Rodney Parade, writes Huw S Thomas
In the 48-14 win at Church Bank back in October, the Drovers ran in six tries but went one better this time, playing an adventurous and free-flowing game that drew the admiration of the home crowd.
They finished the season tied on 69 points with Cross Keys but although they scored more tries (71-51) and had a better points difference (141-121), it is the Gwent side that qualify for the play-offs by dint of having won 14 games to Llandovery’s 13.
Coach Lyndon Lewis was in phlegmatic mood.
“We did not expect to feature this year as we had to rebuild the squad but a very narrow losing Swalec Cup semi-final and a fourth-place in the Premiership are testament to the vast improvement that the squad has made,” said Lewis, who is reputedly being chased by other Premiership clubs.
“We are a small club on a small budget who manages to punch above its weight thanks to a great management and players who thrive on challenge and with everyone back next year we are hoping to challenge for honours.”
The Drovers played with abandon and supported the ball-carrier better than the Black and Ambers in a game that had thrills and spills from the very first.
There was a perfect start for the home side when wing Tom James rode weak tackles to grab a try in the opening minute, converted from wide out by centre Geraint O’Driscoll, but this was immediately answered by a try from centre Craig Woodall.
Play was fast and furious on a dry surface and Llandovery fly-half Ian Brooks and O’Driscoll soon swapped penalties before wing Sam Soul slalomed through weak Newport tackling.
An O’Driscoll penalty tied the scores on 20 minutes but with the game resembling basketball rather than rugby, Brooks made it 18-13 in the corner.
Chances came and went at both ends until skipper Phil Day supported a flowing movement to go over and give the West Walians a 25-13 interval lead.
The outstanding and irrepressible Day –the only possible candidate for club Player of the Year - got another converted score right at the start of the second half and it was all action after that.
Replacement James Greenfield clawed back a converted try and with the Drovers down to 14 men after the yellow carding of prop Greg Cunniffe, Newport pressed hard but to no effect.
The sturdy Woodall got his second try to make the game safe for the bubbly visitors before, in frenetic late action, young Newport wing Ashton Hewitt scored a brilliant solo try countered by one from the excellent and in-form Soul.