Aberavon 12 - 16 RGC 1404
Posted by Gareth Gange on 11/03/2018
(by Paul Williams)
Aberavon should have no qualms about claiming this one as a moral victory. Having been denied the services of several regular players by Wales Sevens and regional calls, they were very much a match for their professionally-resourced opponents, and in fact outscored them by two tries to one.
In the event the home camp could point to some fortuitous penalty awards, and also some remarkably lenient officiating in the face of several off-the-ball incidents that saw at least a couple of RGC players escape sanctions that on another day would have seen a couple of their number taking a ten-minute – or possibly longer – break from the game, as being factors that denied them at least a share of the spoils.
The Wizards got away to a good start, comfortably soaking up everything the visitors’ attack could offer before responding with a devastating attack in which crisp passing along the threequarter line created the space for Shaun Pearce to do what he does best. The winger’s breathtaking acceleration left the first-up defenders clutching at thin air, with the cover subsequently wrong-footed as he cut inside and touched down at the posts for Garland to convert.
It was the middle of the second quarter before the visitors opened their account when Jacob Botica landed a penalty. During the interim, Joe Tomalin-Reeves had received treatment to his face, specifically around the eye area, after an incident that was clearly visible to everyone sitting in the stand but not, it seems, to the match officials. Undeterred, Aberavon continued to work hard both off and on the ball, with willing ball-carriers happy to go in where it hurts in search of territory, and Rob Dudley-Jones having an absolute stormer at the breakdown, winning countless turnovers. Mike Burgess, Ieuan Davies and Jonny Thomas made up a solid front-row, Ben Jones and Ben Thomas were a solid second-row with a good line-out presence, while flankers Purnell and Tomalin-Reeves were their usual disruptive selves.
With David Pritchard ill and Jacob Flynn away with the Wales Sevens squad, Callum Morris was for the second time brought in on loan from the Dragons Academy. He is the son of former Aberavon scrum-half Wayne Morris and was another impressive performer.
Behind was a back division that wasn’t going to yield an inch in defence, while also capable of launching some incisive attacking play, as evidenced by Pearce’s brace of tries. With the tried and tested midfield trio of Garland, James and Price the proverbial immovable object, the back three of Chris Banfield, Steff Williams – out of position on the wing – and Shaun Pearce were a lively trio, always dangerous with ball in hand and equally comfortable in dealing with the vistors’ kicking game.
Despite all of this, the visitors reached the interval holding a three-point lead after prop Andrew Williams had been driven over from a lineout for Botica to convert.
A further Botica penalty shortly after the interval stretched the lead, but the home side kept plugging away and deserved considerably better than a frustrating stream of inconsistent and dubious penalties awarded against them.
The second half continued in attritional fashion with the Wizards just six points adrift but looking the more likely to score a try as the visitors huffed and puffed and tried to batter their way through a defence that never looked like being breached. The result, however, was put beyond doubt in the dying minutes when, to the complete surprise of everyone, the referee somehow ruled that a tackle at chest level was somehow illegal, presenting Botica with a straightforward shot at goal to take the margin to ten points.
It was left to the Wizards, however, to bring down the curtain with a final flourish, taking play through several phases before quick passing again released Pearce who went over in the left-hand corner for another fine try, and a single bonus point which many will feel is considerably less than a fine all-round performance deserved.
Aberavon 12 - 16 RGC 1404
Chris Banfield (rep Liam Popham 77 min); Steffen Williams, Will Price, Rheon James (rep Joe Gage 66 min), Shaun Pearce; James Garland (capt), Callum Morris (rep Iwan Temblett 53 min); Mike Burgess (rep Tomos Northey 76 min), Ieuan Davies (rep Luke Davies 67 min), Jon Thomas (rep Rhys Forse 53 min), Ben Thomas, Ben Jones (rep Jacob Blackmore 76 min), Lee Purnell (rep Luke Joseph 61 min), Rob Dudley-Jones, Joe Tomalin-Reeves.
Callum Morris appeared from the Dragons; Iwan Temblett appeared from Trebanos RFC; Tomos Northey appeared from Gowerton RFC; Jacob Blackmore appeared from Waunarlwydd RFC.
T - Shaun Pearce (2)
C - James Garland
RGC 1404 Scorers:
T - Andrew Williams
C - Jacob Botica
PG - Jacob Botica (3)
Man Of The Match:
1 - Rob Dudley-Jones
2 - Joe Tomalin-Reeves
3 - Lee Purnell
04 min: Aberavon - T - Shaun Pearce & C - James Garland (7 - 0)
29 min: RGC - PG - Jacob Botica (7 - 3)
34 min: RGC - T - Andrew Williams & C - Jacob Botica (7 - 10)
40+4 min: Half Time
45 min: RGC - PG - Jacob Botica (7 - 13)
75 min: RGC - PG - Jacob Botica (7 - 16)
80+4 min: Aberavon - T - Shaun Pearce (12 - 16)
80+5 min: Full Time