On a sunny afternoon late last September, Llandovery handed Ebbw their biggest defeat in many years in a 50-0 demolition, running in 7 tries in the process. On Saturday, the table topping Drovers came to Eugene Cross Park in search of a double, while the Steelmen knew that a win would considerably boost prospects of a play-off place.
After a minute’s silence in memory of ex-player Graham Powell and stalwart supporter Gary Lloyd, Llandovery kicked off towards the clubhouse. Their early pressure won them a kickable penalty that Jack Maynard put wide. The first half hour was hard fought, and neither side was able to penetrate their opponent’s defence. A sustained period of pressure by Ebbw saw visiting prop Greg Cunliffe sin-binned for a maul offence. A penalty to touch by Dai Langdon set up a line out deep in the visitors’ 22 and the trusty catch’n’Kynes put Ebbw 6-0 up with just over half an hour gone.
Llandovery came back hard and camped deep in Ebbw territory. They had opportunities to level with penalties that led to 5m lines out, but superb steals by Ashley Sweet, then Damien Hudd, meant that the opportunities came to nothing.
The second half started as the first ended with the Drovers in charge. This time they made no mistake, a slick backs movement and a lovey miss pass putting wing Mike Evans in wide on the right. The conversion was missed and the game was tied at 6-6.
As the game wore on, tensions rose and players showed frustration at some of the officials’ decisions. It was exciting and there was plenty of endeavour, but also a fair degree of whistle. Both sides played rugby throughout, and Ebbw’s aggressive defence proved vital, with the pack on superb form, taking the battle to the Drovers time and time again. With 10 minutes remaining, the penalties at last began to flow Ebbw’s way and a great Langdon touch finder set up the almost inevitable catch’n’Kynes number 2. Langdon’s conversion gave the Steelmen a 14-6 lead, a lead they didn’t relinquish.
The win means that Ebbw are now 4th, and on a 5-match winning run in the Premiership. The confidence has grown visibly in the squad, with the players gelling and performing as a team, playing for each other and for the pride of the club. And nobody can ask for more than that.
Man of the Match was Ronny Kynes, just reward for an excellent 2-try afternoon and a kick ahead of which even Mathew Williams would’ve been proud. It must have been a tricky call for those awarding the MoM, as they could have chosen any one of the 23.