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Page-Turner . . . Macs Provides Max Value To Llandovery Title Bid

By Graham Thomas

Llandovery are the best rugby team in Wales outside of the regional structure and they can prove that status once more this weekend.

With none of the four regions in action – having long ago departed the scene of European competition – it gives a welcome opportunity in Wales to shine a light on what else is going on.

Step forward, Llandovery and Cardiff, who will contest their Indigo Premiership play-off semi-final at Church Bank, the home of the Drovers on Saturday evening at 5.15pm.

And take a bow, too, Newport and Ebbw Vale who will be facing off at Newport Stadium, Spytty Park, at the same time.

Llandovery will start as firm favourites to beat Cardiff. DragonBet make them 1/6 to win, with Cardiff the 3/1 outsiders.

The other semi-final is considered a closer affair. Newport are backed at 4/11, with Ebbw Vale at 2/1.

So, Llandovery are considered the team to beat and with good reason. Not only are they the Premiership champions, having beaten Cardiff in the final, 24-8, last season, but they also finished the regular season top of the table with 105 points and they won the WRU Premiership Cup last month, beating Merthyr, 20-18.

In being the best team at the level below the full-time pro game, the Drovers are following in the footsteps of Neath, Merthyr and Pontypridd, who have all held that status in recent seasons.

Llandovery have had a strong pack of forwards for many years, but they have much more going for them this season.

Their hugely experienced coach, Euros Evans has built a back line that has blended together proven experience with exciting young runners.

That combination is most apparent in the centre, where former Wales international Adam Warren, 33, plays alongside 19-yuear-old Macs Page, a rising star of the Wales U20s squad.

Page once dreamed of playing football professionally, rather than rugby, and spent three years with the Swansea City academy.

Having decided to concentrate on the oval ball, he joined the Scarlets who recognised that playing him  every week for Llandovery in the Premiership would be far more useful than leaving him kicking his heels on the sidelines at Parc y Scarlets.

“I haven’t been part of a club that is so much part of the community. Everyone is very friendly and close,” says Page.

“I played for Coleg Sir Gar and then after the college league, I was placed here by the Scarlets. It’s been really good for me since I got here.

“The last few months have been exciting – winning a trophy and then topping the league with these boys has been great. Hopefully, now over the next couple of weeks we can now win the title.

“It has really helped me, playing with experienced people all the time. The best way for me to grow as a player is to learn off other people who’ve been there before.

“My aim is to break into the Scarlets team, but I understand it’s a process and it’s not going to happen straightaway. It’s going to be a journey and it’s going to be about me taking my chances.”

Cardiff have a number of injury problems, but what could make the outcome closer than many think is the likely presence of some Cardiff regional players in their squad.

With Cardiff Rugby unoccupied this weekend, but in need of giving some game time to certain players, the likes of props Rhys Litterick and Rhys Barratt, plus back rower Lucas de la Rua are expected to drop down and be in action for the club side.

Cardiff finished fourth in the regular season and have enjoyed plenty of success under their coach Steve Law, who is leaving the club at the end of the season.

The reasons for Law’s departure have not been specified and it seems a very odd decision, given the role he has played in developing youngsters at the Arms Park who are now part of Wales’ immediate future, such as Cam Winnett and Mackenzie Martin.

Newport should have too much power for Ebbw Vale in the other semi-final, although when they last met in March it was a tight affair, with Newport just edging it, 31-25.

The Steelmen finished third in the regular season, one place beneath Newport, but lost six times in the campaign compared to Newport’s three.

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