Hot favorites Llandovery duly won the Indigo Premiership Cup but had to draw on all of their reserves of energy and experience to scrape home against Merthyr at the Principality Stadium on Sunday, writes Huw S Thomas.


It was their third WRU National cup win in 17 years following on from triumphs in 2007 and 2016 but for long periods, they failed to impose their game on a battling Merthyr side who so very nearly upset the odds.

Cheered on by what seemed half the population of the little market town, the West Walians stayed on course for an historic league and cup double having already qualified for the Premiership league play offs on May 4.

They only need two points from their remaining three games against Aberavon, Swansea and Bridgend to be sure of a home draw at the semi-final stage.

It was a special moment, too, for Llandovery skipper Jack Jones who emulated his late grandfather, the great Welsh international lock Brian Thomas who was at the heart of Neath’s defeat of Llanelli in the first ever final back in 1972.

“That one was for Brian and the family who have supported me through thick and thin over the years and to do it at Wales’s national stadium, in the company of some outstanding players and friends made it a perfect day,” said Jones.

“But Merthyr took us all the way – as we fully expected – and we left it late to bring home the bacon.

“The game could have gone either way but we must re-focus on the league now and get ready for  Aberavon on Saturday.

We’ll have to up our game,”

Coach Euros Evans paid tribute to the Merthyr effort.

“Merthyr posed a significant challenge for us boasting a team filled with players of high quality, who have clinched multiple leagues and cups,” he said.

“The Ironmen made life difficult for us from first to last and we are just thankful that we had enough character to edge the tightest of contests.”

Llandovery were knocked out of their stride from the very start, unable to dominate the breakdown or break the shackles of a hefty midfield defence in which centres Cole Swannak and Morgan Sieniawski were outstanding.

The Drovers fell into the trap of being over-ambitious in their offloading and errors crept into their game in the face of huge Merthyr commitment.

They watched Llandovery’s danger man and scrum half Lee Rees like a hawk and he could rarely find gaps to get behind the iron defence.

Merthyr were big in the contact area from the very start and nearly went ahead when fly half Josh Lewis hit the post with a 35 metre penalty.

With Llandovery frustrated from playing their usual all court game, it was no surprise when Swannak intercepted a loose Llandovery pass to speed away for the converted try and a 7-0 lead for the underdogs.

The Ironmen had a temporary setback when second row Craig Locke was yellow carded for a high tackle on lock Chris Long and within minutes a catch and drive line-out ended with hooker Taylor Davies crashing through, fly half Ioan Hughes adding the conversion.

A Lewis penalty regained the lead before the unheralded Merthyr backs created the best try of the day, with swift passing and straight running creating the overlap for full back Morgan Meaclem to put wing Lloyd Rowlands in for a 15-7 lead.

Wing Kian Abraham all but got a try back before being forced into touch on the corner flag and Merthyr’s interval lead was no more than they deserved.

Just after the break, Drovers full back Harri Doel made a slashing break only to run out of support and it was Llandovery’s close range line-out drive that brought them right back into the game, hooker Davies peeling off to plant the ball on the line for - remarkably - his 18th cup and league try of the season.

Hughes’s touchline conversion brought his side to within a point and a terrific burst through the middle by No 8 Joe Powell set up a Hughes penalty and 17-15 lead for the West Walians.

Merthyr, under lock Paddy McBride would not lie down, and the pack set up a position for Lewis to kick a close range penalty to restore the lead.

The physicality of the Merthyr effort began to wane and the last 10 minutes saw Llandovery speeding up their approach to find more holes in a tiring defence.

Hughes kicked an easy penalty to make it 20-18 before scrum half Lee Rees agonizingly knocked the ball on in the act of scoring.

It made no difference as a penalty against the gallant Ironmen allowed Hughes to tap and shunt he ball high into the stands, much to the relief of Jones and his men.

The Drovers go back to league action this Saturday with a visit to Aberavon. They will need to get a minimum four points if they have any chance of heading the table at the end of the regular season.

Llandovery skipper Jack Jones receives the Premiership Cup from WRU President Terry Cobner
Llandovery skipper Jack Jones receives the Premiership Cup from WRU President Terry Cobner (Huw S Thomas)


Tries: T Davies (2)

Cons: I Hughes (2)

Pens: I Hughes (2)


Tries: C Swannak, L Rowlands

Con: J Lewis

Pens:J Lewis (2) 

Llandovery: H Doel; K Abraham, Adam Warren, R Jones, Aaron Warren; I Hughes, L Rees; J Hughes, T Davies, B Watkins, J Jones (capt), C Long, O Davies, J Powell, S Worrall

Replacements: D Dallavalle, C Thomas, L Green, J Evans, N Hart, M Page, J Maynard, D Land

Merthyr: M Meaclem; L Rowlands, C Swannack, M Sieniawski, A Hoskings; J Lewis, J Soakes; C Lewis, E Shipp, R Lewis, C Locke, P McBride (capt), L Greggains, T Jevons, J Perkins

Replacements: B Rhodes, T Hawkins, D Whiting, C Bradbury, K Evans, E Lloyd, G Thompson, R Davies