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 27 21 0 6 798 501 107
Llandovery 28 20 1 7 803 492 98
Cardiff 26 19 1 6 771 547 95
Ebbw Vale 28 19 1 8 671 512 90
Pontypridd 25 18 0 7 840 480 89
Newport 29 16 2 11 726 678 83
Aberavon 25 16 2 7 569 478 78
Swansea 28 15 0 13 625 552 75
Rygbi Gogledd Cymru 1404 26 12 1 13 669 556 73
Carmarthen Quins 29 13 1 15 616 544 71
Llanelli 29 11 1 17 622 710 58
Bedwas 28 10 1 17 615 786 52
Bridgend Ravens 26 9 0 17 544 651 50
Cross Keys 27 5 1 21 552 925 35
Bargoed 27 6 0 21 522 872 33
Neath 26 1 0 25 367 1026 3