2005/2006 Principality Premiership
Llandovery 39 v 31 Cardiff
28 January 2006 - Church Bank, Llandovery

Match Report

Llandovery 39 Cardiff 31

A cynical view after a lively game at Church Bank might be that the Blue & Blacks have found a new way of losing. Leading 24-0 after half-an-hour, they shipped 32 points in 16 minutes either side of half-time to crash to their fourth consecutive Premiership defeat.

A more charitable view would be that Owen Ruttley's young side rose to the call to arms magnificently and cannot be faulted for their 110 per cent effort. The old cliche about 'When your luck's out...' really did apply on this occasion as all concerned pulled together for the common cause after another confusing week of team preparation.

Losing several players to the regional squad and left with nothing in return served only to strengthen everyone's will and the team, plus injured players and dedicated officials, travelled west heartened by the knowledge that there was also a supporters' bus making its way to Llandovery. Even in their eventual disappointment the latter were left in no doubt of the qualities and commitment of the Blue & Blacks. Watching them and their whole-hearted effort has its consolations in these troubled Arms Park times.

All of the team were registered Premiership players: James Malpas (plus the unavailable James Goode) were made squad members in November and Dean Dewdney, Mark Lewis and Nathan Llewellyn were added earlier this month. The replacements' bench included the newly-registered prop Kris Kinsey and scrum-half Tom Isaacs on permit from Llandaff North.

There was no shortage of action to keep everyone warm. Having withstood an initial Drovers' onslought during which the Blue & Blacks could hardly get their hands on the ball, the lead was gained against the run of play in the 15th minute. Chris Anderson's 25-metre penalty goal took him past 500 career points for Cardiff, a notable landmark.

It ws also the signal for a glorious ten-minute spell that lifted the entire team. Leon Andrews, showing great form after missing half-a-dozen games with a hamstring injury, pounced for two tries. The first was started by a great counter-attack by Mark Lewis along the right touchline, ably supported by Darren Fenton and then a midfield cut by Nick Gill and scoring pass from Elgan Jones on the left.

Next it was the outstanding James Malpas making huge inroads into the Drovers' defence from an opposition drop-out. Lewis was again involved before Andrews was on hand for the touchdown. Three minutes after that Lewis peeled off the blind-side of a maul and Owen Ruttley celebrated the third try. With all of Anderson's conversions sailing over, what appeared to be a match-winning 24 point cushion had been established.

Keeping that until the interval was always likely to be a prerogative but it didn't quite happen. Cardiff's defence had been water-tight throughout the early exchanges but now it was to be breached alarmingly. Gareth Morgan kicked a penalty goal but as the clock ticked around to first-half injury time a 24-3 lead still satisfied all the travelling support.

But somehow referee Nigel Owens found seven minutes of added time and with the final move of the half flanker Ceri Davies was driven over for a Llandovery try. Even then, 24-8 seemed no cause for alarm until a calamitous ten-minute spell immediately after the interval turned the game on its head.

Two contentious rulings did for Cardiff. At a close-range ruck Nick Hampson was yellow-carded for coming in from the side. There remained a feeling that the ball had already been called 'out' by the referee and that it was a free ball. The penalty was taken as a scrum but when it was allegedly taken down for a second time the referee promptly awarded a penalty try.

Worse was to come as Cardiff's restart was hammered back to the same corner for another Llandovery lineout. This time the pack stayed on its feet and home skipper Arwel Davies flopped over for the try. Still the mayhem wasn't over. Sloppy tactical kicking gave the ball to a Llandovery side now sensing Blue & Black blood and an overlap was created for wing Owain Rowlands to score. With Morgan then adding a penalty goal to his three conversions the score had suddenly flipped to 24-32.

Thereafter, some sanity returned to the proceedings. Cardiff never gave up and Malpas claimed a well-deserved try that, with Gareth Williams-Davies' conversion, brought the arrears back to one-point with 10 minutes to play. Sadly, there was no happy ending. In injury time Iwan Mainwaring crossed for Llandovery's fifth try and Morgan again converted from the touchline to finish with a personal tally of 14 points.