Llandovery 34 Pontypridd 15
Llandovery recorded their best ever win over Pontypridd by outscoring the Premiership champions by five tries to three at a buzzing Church Bank, writes Huw S Thomas.
A pre-season friendly it might have been and the champions were not at full strength but the Drovers posted firm notice that they will once again be a force to be reckoned with in the coming season.
The Drovers did what many a side has failed to do against Ponty in recent years – win the contact area and gain quick ball – and their victory and winning margin were richly deserved.
Disappointed and stunned Ponty coach Geraint Lewis, was fulsome in his praise of the winners.
“We were second best against a side that keeps being underestimated,” said the former Wales flanker. “The Drovers proved to us that we will have to lift our game a heck of a lot in the Premiership if we want to hold on to the title.”
If one Lewis was unhappy, another – Llandovery coach Lyndon – was as happy as a sandboy while still keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
“To beat Ponty so convincingly does not happen too often so the team must take great pleasure out of its display,” said the Drovers coach.
“But we now have to keep this level of performance up and running in a league that keeps improving year after year.”
If Llandovery were the better-knit side for all but the first five minutes of the game then they also had the game’s outstanding individuals.
In new signing and former Swansea full back Rhys Williams they have a potential star of the future.
Under the admiring gaze of former England World Cup winning full back Josh Lewsey – now Head of Rugby at the WRU – Williams scored one brilliant solo try and made another for another ex-All White, wing Richard Williams.
Quick, balanced, elusive and tactically alert, his counter attacking made a huge impression on the Church Bank faithful and he looks likely to be the best signing the club has made since the arrival of lock Bryn Griffiths some three years ago.
Richard Williams, utility man Mike Evans, along with centres Matthew Jacobs and Rhodri Jones also oozed class while up front there was a terrific display of open-side play from Shaun Miles.
Time and again he won the ball at the breakdown, spun through tackles and made some crunching hits on Ponty ball-carriers to confirm his return to fitness.
But the pack as a whole scrummaged hard, won good line-out ball and outmuscled Ponty in the contact area – a rare feat for any club against the champions.
It was good to see lock Matthew Harbut prominent after his long recovery from serious injury and there were encouraging debuts for young scrum-half Kieran Hardy, prop Steffan Jones, flanker Ryan Morgan and fly-half Steffan Marshall.
Ponty took an early lead with a blind-side try by flanker Liam Crocker before Miles intercepted a loose pass to race in from 20 metres.
Rhys Williams cut through for the lead – fly-half James Garland converting - and although Ponty fly-half Lewis Williams hit back with a corner try, Llandovery wing Sam Soul finished off another Williams break to establish a 17-10 interval lead.
The Drovers controlled the second half through a penalty by Garland and a brace of tries for Richard Williams - one converted by Garland, the other by replacement Marshall.
Ponty had the scant consolation of a late try from flanker Christian Parker.