By David Williams
Jack Maynard is desperate for Llandovery to beat Cardiff in Sunday’s Indigo Premiership Final – and reckons the party could be legendary.
The Drovers will go to the Arms Park as narrow underdogs, but the top two teams in the league made it through the play-offs and although Cardiff finished the regular season six points clear of their rivals, Llandovery have edged the head-to-heads.
They lost the first meeting in the Premiership, 29-26, away from home but the return at Church Bank was won comfortably by Maynard and Co, 37-20, and they also sandwiched a Premiership Cup victory in between in the pool stages, although it was the Blue and Blacks who went on to lift the trophy.
Maynard, though, knows what it’s like to win on the big occasion. The full-back was there when Llandovery lifted the old Swalec Cup in 2016 after a 25-18 win over Carmarthen Quins.
“Cardiff won the league last year, but for Llandovery, we are yet to win the league,” says Maynard, 28, who played regional rugby for the Scarlets before going on to join Cardiff in the Premiership, where he played 18 games last season and scored 86 points.
“I have experienced winning the Welsh Cup a few years back and seeing how massive that was for the players, the coaches, but also the whole community, was an eye-opener.
“We partied for a good week afterwards! I realised how big it was for everyone in Llandovery.
“Fingers crossed that we have prepared well,we have a fit squad and we’re in good stead.
“I’m not sure how long the party would go on for if we won this time. I don’t think we’d quite make it to Vegas as we’re not sponsored by Ryan Reynolds, but it would be memorable!”
Cardiff are the reigning champions, having won the league title last year in a straight league format.
They reached the final by beating Newport in the semi-final at Cardiff Arms Park, 21-7.
Llandovery qualified by overcoming Merthyr, 16-13, at Church Bank but it will be their first shot at winning the Premier Division title.
The hugely experienced Morgan Allen, 33, will pack down at No.8 for Cardiff and believes the competitive nature of a final difficult to call just underlines improving standards in the Premiership.
“I played my first Premiership game in 2009 and since then the standards have really improved,” says Allen.
“It is unrecognisable from those days and now a very professional set-up with a lot of coaches with different roles.
“At my age, I see myself as someone who can guide the younger players. It’s nice to be able to offer advice to youngsters and then you see them go on to win Welsh caps.
“We need this league to prosper because for a youngster you can spend as much time in the gym or doing conditioning work as you like, but you only become a better rugby player by playing rugby.
“We need young players playing matches. The standards have improved a lot, but is there work still to be done? Yes, there is, across the whole league. But we’re getting there.”
a bit later than normal; post match reaction from Sunday`s @IndigoPrem semi final @Cardiff_RFC 21 @NewportRFC 7
Cardiff captain @mogzy8 Morgan Allenhttps://t.co/uwmXAzn0Me
the final @Cardiff_RFC v @llandoveryrfc is this Sunday at 515pm
— Ioan Dyer (@Ioan_Dyer) May 19, 2023
Cardiff head coach Steve Law has become a serial winner at the Arms Park since joining as head coach in 2017 from Bedwas.
Two cups and one league title have already been delivered by his teams and in the Covid hit 2019/20 campaign Cardiff were on course to win the league when time was called as they held a seven-point lead.
Llandovery have those two head-to-head victories this season, but Law says: “We don’t fear anyone, but they have certainly been a bogey team for us.
“It’s going to be a tougher challenge than it was against Newport last weekend.”
1999–00 Cardiff *
2000–01 Swansea *
2001–02 Llanelli *
2015–16 Ebbw Vale
2019-20 Season cut short, title withheld
2020-21 Season cancelled
*= Welsh-Scottish League winners