Preview: Aberavon v Merthyr

Aberavon (7th – 53 points) welcome league leaders Merthyr (1st – 76 points) back to the Talbot Athletic Ground this coming Saturday as they face each other in the Principality Premiership, kick off 5:15pm.

The Ironmen have won fifteen of their eighteen games this season, with them winning all seven games played away from The Wern.

They started their season with three straight wins as they saw off Cardiff, Bedwas and Llanelli, with them picking up two bonus points in the process.

Aberavon visited The Wern in the third week of September with the Wizards winning 22 – 14.

The Ironmen then won their next eight games as they beat RGC 1404, Bridgend, Neath, Swansea, Ebbw Vale, Pontypridd, Cross Keys and Llandovery. Six of the wins were bonus point wins.

Merthyr suffered their second home defeat at the start of December when Newport won. However, the Ironmen did pick up two bonus points.

A bonus point win over Carmarthen followed, before the Ironmen lost at home for the third time with Cardiff the visitors. The homeside did pick up two bonus points in that loss.

They have won their last three league outings, seeing off Bedwas, Bargoed and, last weekend, Llanelli, with them picking up bonus points in all three games.

A fortnight ago, Aberavon and Merthyr met in the first round of the WRU National Cup with the current cup holders winning 15 – 10 at the Talbot Athletic Ground.

Looking at the Premiership, in “attack”, Merthyr have scored 29.7 points on average per game (ranked 3rd) and 4.2 tries (ranked 2nd). In “defence” they have conceded 16.8 points on average per game (ranked 2nd) and 2.0 tries (ranked joint 2nd). Aberavon have scored 23.6 points per game (ranked 7th) and 3.3 tries (ranked 6th), and conceded 20.9 points (ranked 8th) and 2.9 tries (ranked 9th).

Head-to-head, Aberavon and Merthyr have met each other 11 times in the Welsh National League, including playoffs, with the Wizards leading the series 7 – 4. At the Talbot Athletic Ground, Aberavon lead 4 – 2.

Looking back to when the sides met at the ground two seasons ago, the Wizards came back from being 14 -17 down at half-time to win 24 – 17. The Ironmen got on the scoreboard early in the game when wing Teri Gee scored a try that was converted by former Wizard Matthew Jarvis. It wasn’t long however before the homeside tied the scores when James Garland scored a try that he converted. Half-way through the opening half Joe Tomalin-Reeves touched down for the Wizards second try. Garland added the extras. Jarvis pulled a penalty back for the Ironmen before a try by scrum-half Rhys Downes, converted by Jarvis, made the score 17 – 14 to the visitors at half-time.

At the start of the second half, Aberavon went back in front thanks to a try by Ben Jones. Garland converted. The next score didn’t occur until late in the game when replacement Steffen Williams kicked a penalty to make the final score 24 – 17.

The Aberavon team that day was: Joe Gage; Matthew Jenkins (rep Jon Phillips), Rheon James (rep Cameron Clement), Will Price, Stef Andrews; James Garland (rep Steffen Williams), Jacob Flynn; Rowan Jenkins (rep Mike Burgess), Luke Davies (rep Ieuan Davies), Jon Thomas (rep Rhys Forse), Ian Moore (capt) (rep Sam Williams), Ben Jones, Nathan Brown (rep Ben Davies), Luke Joseph, Joe Tomalin-Reeves.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Ben Breakspear, aided by Aaron Parry, Colin Kirkhouse and Mark Davis. TMO is Tim Hayes.

TEAM P W D L PF PA PTS
Merthyr 21 17 0 4 612 340 86
Cardiff 21 16 1 4 647 430 81
Pontypridd 20 16 0 4 714 357 78
Ebbw Vale 21 15 1 5 474 348 71
Llandovery 21 13 1 7 572 381 66
Aberavon 20 13 2 5 440 382 63
Newport 21 12 2 7 526 489 63
Rygbi Gogledd Cymru 1404 19 10 0 9 496 410 56
Carmarthen Quins 22 10 0 12 456 420 53
Swansea 20 10 0 10 467 416 51
Llanelli 21 6 1 14 411 546 34
Bridgend Ravens 19 6 0 13 362 472 33
Cross Keys 20 5 1 14 432 648 33
Bedwas 21 5 1 15 441 614 30
Bargoed 20 3 0 17 361 683 18
Neath 19 1 0 18 287 762 3