Ring the bells, sound the trumpets, bang the drums to mark the huge achievement of the smallest and now best of Wales’s semi pro Indigo Premiership clubs.
Cardiff 8 - Llandovery 24
Report by Huw S Thomas
A pulsating game did the famous Cardiff Arms Park justice as the Drovers claimed their first ever Premiership title at the spiritual home of Welsh rugby.
With most of the side either former pupils of Coleg Sir Gar or Llandovery College and made largely from boys native to Tywi, Amman and Gwendraeth valleys, the West Walians made tiny Llandovery – population 2,000 – proud as punch by their defeat of the capital city club.The victory over the warm favourites brought an end to the most successful season in the 142-year-old history of the Carmarthenshire club, a founder member of the WRU in 1881.
With just four defeats in the entire Premiership season, it eclipsed the achievement of lifting the WRU Cup in 2007 and 2016 but it was the style of play that made the season memorable.
The attacking, free flowing nature of the Llandovery game - instilled into the squad by the two principal coaches in Euros Evans and Gareth Potter- laid down a marker of hope for the future of the semi pro game in Wales.
It was evident from the start that the Drovers would be true to themselves and their adventurous style.
They were willing to attack from deep but they also defended with massive resolve in the image of their fine back row of Osian Davies, Iestyn Rees and Stuart Worrall.
They also had in their ranks the bubble of energy that is scrum half Lee Ree, the forgotten man of Scarlets and Welsh rugby.
That the little bobby dazzler has had no chance to shine on a bigger stage calls into question those who run the professional game in the principality.
Coach Euros Evans was warm in his praise for his squad but paid a rare tribute to Rees,
“Lee has been a shining light of the Premiership for over more than 10 years and showed his class today, not just in scoring two tries but in his quick service, swift support and stabbing runs.”
“We are a small, close knit club with a great committee and supporters and this win was the culmination of everyone’s effort to show what a well run organization with dedicated and enthusiastic players can achieve.”
“Hopefully, we will earn a place in any elite semi pro league that the WRU has in mind for 2024-2025 but we know that next season will be highly competitive and we can never rest on our laurels.”
Llandovery outplayed the Blue and Blacks from fist to last, roared on by busloads of supporters, the very young to the very old.
It was their third victory over Cardif in four meeting this season and although the capital city had the distinction of heading the regular season table, Llandovery’s dominance of the final brought them huge honour.
Two penalties from full back Jack Maynard earned an early lead and with the umbrella mid field defence shutting out Cardiff threats, the Drovers looked in comfortable control,
And when Cardiff lost a line out on their own throw, they were punished in stunning fashion.
Quick movement of the ball, saw centre Adam Warren find his supporting brother Aaron and the lanky win burst away before sending Rees haring in under the posts.
Maynard converted and with Cardiff flustered by Llandovery commitment at the break down, the full back’s third penalty made it 16-0.
A penalty by fly half Harrison James got Cardiff on the score board but the home side just could not get into the game in the first half.
A half time pep talk roused them momentarily from their slumbers but they could not breach a furious defence, led by captain and lock Jack Jones.
The grandson of legendary Neath and Wales lock Brian Thomas. Jones was in the heart of everything as all Cardiff efforts to close the gap fell short.
Cardiff centre Aron Pinches was lucky to have just a yellow card for a spear tackle on replacement lock Joe Powell but in his absence Rees struck again.
A wonderful run from Aaron Warren put the little scum half over for a 21-3 lead and although replacement Ryan Wilkins got a late breakaway try, Maynard settled the issue with his fourth penalty for a 14 point haul against the club he once represented.
Try: R Wilkins:
Tries: L Rees (2)
Con: J Maynard
Pens: J Maynard (4)
Cardiff: C Winnett; J Goodchild, I Evans, A Pinches, D Cross; H James, T Habberfield; M Thomas, A Rees, S Andrews, S Moore, E Phillips, J Richards, E Thomas, M Allen (capt), N Hudd
Replacements: E Lloyd, R Barrett, F Barnes, M Martin, L de la Rua, E Lloyd, R Wilkins, J Lloyd
Llandovery: J Maynard; H Doel, Adam Warren, R Jones, Aaron Warren; I Hughes, L Rees; J Hughes, D Hughes, B Watkins, J Jones (capt), G Evans, O Davies, I Rees, S Worrall
Replacements: R Guest, D Dallavalle, G James, J Powell, B Watkins, L Pike, K Jones, R Wall, D Land