Drovers miss out on B&I Cup as neighbours turn up the heat
LLANELLI will represent the Scarlets region in this year's revamped British and Irish Cup after winning this local derby at Church Bank, writes Huw S Thomas.
Last year Llandovery finished second and Llanelli third in the Premiership and hopes were high among home fans that the Drovers would stay one step ahead of their Carmarthenshire rivals.
It was not to be as the Drovers were outplayed in terms of both possession and territory against a side who had far more experience and style on the day.
Llanelli had the advantage of fielding a dozen players of Scarlets academy, development contract or full contract status as opposed to Llandovery's four and that extra class made a vital difference to proceedings.
"We were well beaten and there is no point in saying otherwise, but with six debutants it was always going to be a tough job against such a strong Llanelli side," said Llandovery coach Lyndon Lewis.
"We will play far better than that once the new boys settle in."
The appearance of Fiji captain Deacon Manu in the 55th minute to replace Welsh international prop Rhodri Jones summed up the extra strength of the Llanelli side, but it was credit to the Drovers that they battled to the end and could have — albeit undeservedly — snatched the most unlikely of wins.
That Llanelli were the better side was without discussion and their pack had the power, bulk and speed to dominate.
Flanker and skipper Phil Day, lock Bryn Griffiths and prop Wyn Jones did sterling work for the Drovers but after being beaten to the breakdown and bullied at the contact area, Llandovery could do little but defend for most of the time.
With a huge amount of possession, Llanelli should have been further ahead at half-time.
They led by just three points — 13-10 — through a couple of tries from hooker Kirby Myhill and centre Johnny Lewis against one from Llandovery full-back Mike Evans, but four clear chances went begging through a combination of poor finishing and Llandovery good luck.
When the visitors went 26-13 clear after a penalty try awarded at the scrummage, the scoreline threatened acute embarrassment for the Drovers. But they somehow lifted their game to come back to within six points.
A charge down and converted try from Day gave an outside chance of a Llandovery victory but that would have been a rare injustice to Llanelli dominance and style.
Llandovery open their Premiership season on Sunday when Cardiff will be the visitors to Church Bank (2.30pm) for a game that will be televised live on S4C.
Llandovery: Tries: M Evans, P Day. Cons: J Garland, I Brooks. Pens: J Garland (2)
Llanelli: Tries: K Myhill,Johnny Lewis, Pen try. Con: Josh Lewis. Pens: Josh Lewis (3).
Llandovery: M Evans; C Knight, M Jacobs, R Jones, Aaron Warren; J Garland, L Rees; W Jones, L Lewis, D Howells, L Jones, B Griffiths, P Day (capt), R Bloomfield, R Brooks.
Llanelli: D Jones; K Evans, N Reynolds, J Lewis, S Evans; J Lewis, A Davies; S Hopkins, K Myhill, R Jones, A Powell (capt), R Kelly, D Eager, S Leach, D Thomas.
Referee: Ian Davies (Bridgend)