Llandovery 31-26 Aberavon
(by Paul Williams)
The Wizards brought down the curtain on their 2018-19 campaign with a spirited performance against high-flyers Llandovery but were ultimately limited to the scant reward of just two bonus points.
With several regulars missing, and a number of debutants appearing in the Aberavon match-day squad as a result, the smart money was on the home side securing a resounding victory having spent much of the season amongst the Principality Premiership’s pace-setters, and the early signs looked ominous as, after five minutes, an attacking lineout close to the Llandovery line went awry. With the Wizards having reinforced their anticipated driving maul with members of the back division, the unexpected loss of possession saw them short of numbers in defence as the Drovers spun the ball wide, with fly-half Jack Maynard rounding off the long-range attack with a try that he also converted.
Maynard added a penalty shortly afterwards to take the score to 10-nil, but the visitors hit back at the end of the first quarter as precise fingertip passing along the threequarter line released left-wing Shaun Pearce, who went flying in for a fine try converted from out wide by skipper James Garland.
As half-time approached the Wizards went ahead, with powerful scrum-half David Pritchard picking up from a five-metre scrum and darting around the blind-side for an unconverted try. It was short-lived, however, as the Drovers regained the initiative somewhat controversially, as the match officials chose to ignore multiple offences at a ruck and allow possession to be turned over, leading to a try by centre Kristian Jones that Maynard again converted.
Llandovery further extended their lead when full-back Harri Doel touched down for Maynard to add the extras, but almost immediately the Wizards struck back with a sublime piece of skill from Wales U18 star Brad Roderick, making his Aberavon debut. The youngster, already making an impression with an accomplished and mature display in both attack and defence, produced the deftest of inside passes, perfectly timed to send the speedy Pearce tearing through midfield for a superb try that was converted by full back Chris Banfield.
The score remained at 24-19 until the start of the final quarter, but the home side conjured another try for the impressive Doel, again converted by Maynard, to give the Drovers a fourteen-point lead.
The Wizards, however, were not done, and a speculative midfield kick from Garland was gathered on the full by Roderick, who crowned a memorable debut by crossing at the posts for Banfield to convert, bringing the scoring to a close.
During the match, debuts were also handed to Ospreys’ powerful Namibian international wing Lesley Klim and teenage lock Rhys Thomas (Taibach), while young Brecon scrum-half Dan Hiscocks made his second appearance for the club. All gave good accounts of themselves, while there were solid performances right across the field from the Wizards. Chris Banfield was his usual brave and faultless self at full-back, and Aberavon supporters will be delighted to have heard that he will still be at the Talbot Athletic Ground next season. Ashton Evans, Lee Purnell and Rhodri Hughes were outstanding in a pack that stuck to its collective task throughout.
Eventually, however, time ran out for the Wizards, and although each and every one of them could leave the field with heads held high, the day belonged to the Drovers.
Llandovery 31 – 26 Aberavon
Chris Banfield; Frankie Jones (rep Lesley Klim half-time), Brad Roderick, Will Price, Shaun Pearce; James Garland (capt) (rep Gwyn Parks 69 min), David Pritchard (rep Dan Hiscocks 62 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Jon Thomas 47 min), Ieuan Davies (rep Luke Davies 58 min), Chris Davies (rep Geraint James 47 min), Rhodri Hughes, Sam Williams (rep Rhys Thomas 68 min), Ashton Evans, Ben Thomas (rep Jacob Blackmore 62 min), Lee Purnell.
Frankie Jones & Lesley Klim appeared from the Ospreys; Brad Roderick appeared from Resolven RFC; Dan Hiscocks appeared from Brecon RFC; Jon Thomas appeared from Baglan RFC; Rhys Thomas appeared from Taibach RFC; Jacob Blackmore appeared from Trebanos RFC.
T – Shaun Pearce (2), David Pritchard, Brad Roderick
C – Chris Banfield (2), James Garland
T – Harri Doel (2), Jack Maynard, Kristian Jones
C – Jack Maynard (4)
PG – Jack Maynard
Man Of The Match:
1 – Chris Banfield
2 – Brad Roderick
3 – David Pritchard
04 min: Llandovery – T – Jack Maynard & C – Jack Maynard (7 – 0)
12 min: Llandovery – PG – Jack Maynard (10 – 0)
18 min: Aberavon – T – Shaun Pearce & C – James Garland (10 – 7)
35 min: Llandovery – Yellow Card – Shaun Miles
39 min: Aberavon – T – David Pritchard (10 – 12)
40+2 min: Llandovery – T – Kristian Jones & C – Jack Maynard (17 – 12)
40+4 min: Half Time
43 min: Llandovery – T – Harri Doel & C – Jack Maynard (24 – 12)
46 min: Aberavon – T – Shaun Pearce & C – Chris Banfield (24 – 19)
61 min: Llandovery – T – Harri Doel & C – Jack Maynard (31 – 19)
65 min: Aberavon – T – Brad Roderick & C – Chris Banfield (31 – 26)
66 min: Llandovery – Yellow Card – Jack Jones
80+4 min: Full Time