Preview: Aberavon v Newport

Aberavon (7th – 57 points) welcome Newport (6th – 59 points) to the Talbot Athletic Ground on Friday evening as they face each other in the Principality Premiership, kick off 7:15pm

The Black & Ambers have won twelve, and drawn one, of their nineteen games this season, with them winning seven, and drawing one, of their twelve games played away from Rodney Parade.

They started their season winning half of their opening six games with them seeing off Carmarthen, Bargoed and Bedwas, but losing to Cardiff, Llanelli and Aberavon (35 – 38). They picked up three try bonus points and two losing points during this spell.

The Rodney Parade side then had an impressive run with them winning their next five games as they beat RGC 1404, Bridgend, Neath, Swansea and Ebbw Vale.

Newport lost two of their next three games as they went down to Pontypridd and Llandovery, but did beat Merthyr at the Wern at the start of December.

Three straight wins followed as the Gwent side completed the double over Carmarthen and Bargoed, and beat Cross Keys. Bonus points were gained in their wins at Bargoed and Cross Keys.

In their first game of 2019, the Black & Ambers lost to Cardiff, but picked up two bonus points in the process. They then went on to draw with Bedwas in their last league outing on January 19th.

Looking at the Premiership, in “attack”, Newport have scored 25.7 points on average per game (ranked 6th) and 3.2 tries (ranked 8th). In “defence” they have conceded 23.6 points on average per game (ranked 10th) and 3.3 tries (ranked 11th). Aberavon have scored 23.2 points per game (ranked 8th) and 3.2 tries (ranked 7th), and conceded 20.1 points (ranked 6th) and 2.8 tries (ranked 9th).

Head-to-head, Aberavon and Newport have met each other 41 times in the Welsh National League, with the Black & Ambers leading the series 23 – 18. At the Talbot Athletic Ground, the Wizards lead 11 – 9, and have won the last four clashes at the ground.

Looking back twenty seasons ago when the sides met at the ground for the second time that season after the league table had split into two, Newport came to Aberavon for a midweek game after the Wizards were already relegated from the Premier Division.

The visitors got on the scoreboard first when lock Gareth Taylor went over for a try converted by outside-half Scott Mitchell. Aberavon tied the scores halfway through the opening half when outside-half Cerith Rees made a break before passing to flanker Howard Merrett for the try. Rees added the two points.

Late in the half, Newport scored two quick tries as first Mitchell, and then centre Matthew Watkins scored, with Mitchell converting both.

There was still time in the half however for the Wizards to respond – scrum-half Andrew Jacobs scored in the corner, whilst deep into injury time, wing Daran Griffiths sprinted 60 metres for a try after full back Richard Lewis had kicked ahead a loose pass by Newport. Rees converted the try by Griffiths to make the score 21 – 19 to the visitors at the interval.

Early in the second half, replacement flanker Alex Popham scored Newport’s fourth try. Mitchell converted. Shortly afterwards, it was the Wizards turn to score their fourth try as centre Peter Roberts touched down. A Rees penalty then made the score 28 – 27 to Newport.

Aberavon went ahead for the first time in the game when Rees scored a wonderful try that started from his own 22. His conversion put the Wizards 34 – 28 up and, half way through the second half, he added a penalty to put Aberavon nine points up.

Mitchell and Rees then traded penalties before Mitchell scored his second try of the game deep in injury time. When he converted his own try, the referee blew for full-time with the Wizards winning 40 – 38.

The Aberavon starting XV that day was: Richard Lewis; Daran Griffiths, Tim Green, Peter Roberts, Paul Jones; Cerith Rees, Andrew Jacobs; Lloyd Howell, Justin Hughes (capt), Alun Bevan, Ian Strang, Aled Jones, Damien Neill, Richard Morris, Howard Merrett.

The referee for Friday’s game is Dewi Phillips, aided by Dai Cambourne and Steffan Davies.

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