The Aberaron 7s returned to action this week-end after a Covid-hit hiatus of four years and produced the usual quality thrills and spills of the shortened version of the game writes Huw S Thomas.
The final – at the picturesque Parc Drefach, overlooking Cardigan Bay – was an exciting, close run affair with the result in doubt until the very end before Preseli Baa Baas took the £1,000 prize in pipping Llandovery 22-19, four tries to three.
The Drovers had selected a squad so callow that many in the four figure crowd thought them a youth side, playing in the wrong competition.
With their top players kept back to face Carmarthen Quins in the Indigo Premiership’s opening game on Saturday, it was left to scrum half Dafydd Land to lead the side.
His teammates had little experience but they exceeded all expectations in running the North Pembrokeshire outfit close on two occasions throughout the day.
The final was a replay of an earlier pool game when in just as close an affair the Baa Baas had squeezed home 19-17.
Earlier in the day, Llandovery scored two easy wins over Aberaeron 31-7 and Panthers 32 -7 before a lack of ball saw them being marginalised 19-17 by the Preseli Baa Baas - Old Boys of Crymych’s Ysgol Preseli - inspired by skipper Dean James and Tomos Phillips.
Dafydd Land, Kai Inker and Elis Lewis crossed but the Drovers lost out – two to one - on conversions.
It was the Carmarthen Warriors – captained by Cardigan’s Shaun Leonard - who had looked the side to beat early on.
They made the first big impression of the day with a comfortable 27-7 win over defending champions Bargoed, helped by a brace of tries from Henry Kirwan.
The four best sides in the competition - Warriors, Llandovey, Bargoed and Preseli got to the semi finals but there was drama when the Warriors - Llandovery semi final ended 17-17.
In sudden death extra time it was the Drovers – average age 20 - who went through when Kai Inker got the vital score to set up a rematch with the Pembrokeshire side.
Preseli with a comfortable 28-7 semi final win over Bargoed got to the final against a Llandovery side whom they had edged in the pool stage and it was only desperate defence that kept the young Drovers out in the tense final stages.
Tries from James, Tomos Phillips, Rhodri George and Ianto Davies for the winners trumped the three Drovers tries – a brace from top scorer Elis Lewis and one from Land
Llandovery coach Gareth Potter whose son Sam featured for the Drovers bemoaned a lack of possession as the crucial factor in the end.
“We had plenty of gas but not enough ball,” said Potter “ and the extra bit of Preseli know how and familiarity with each other’s game, swung it their way.
“Dafydd Land was an excellent captain and our outstanding individual, Elis Lewis was explosive in attack whilst Cai Davies and Iestyn Thomas ran their socks off all day.
“But everyone did their bit and the day out was a great part of the development of our young players - and we did at least take home £500 as runners up!”
There was good and loud vocal support, too, on the day for the hosts Aberaeron who walloped another local side Lewis Penlan 41-0 in a one sided Plate final.
Semi finals: Preseli Baa Baas 28 Bargoed 7; Llandovery 22 Carmarthen Warriors 17 (aet)
Final: Preseli Baa Baas 22 Llandovery 19
Plate final: Aberaeron 41 Lewis Penlan 0
LLANDOVERY SQUAD: Ilan Phillips, Frazer Gregory, Elis Lewis, Sam Potter, Kai Inker, Dafydd Land, Iestyn Thomas, Cai Davies, Cian Trevelyan, Tal Rees