by Howard Evans
It was mission accomplished for Aberavon as they finished not only as winners, but also with a try-bonus.
Llanelli led 7-0, 14-7 and 17-10, but neither the home players nor the coaches touched the panic button and the ‘Wizards’ went ahead after 49 minutes and rattled off 33 unanswered points.
There was no doubt about Aberavon’s scrum superiority and Llanelli had to go to passive scrums.
After a sloppy start, the experience of the ‘Wizards’ players and their strength in the tackle was finally too much for Llanelli.
Backs coach Lyndon Lewis said afterwards: “We kicked more to space as the game went on and held the ball better for a number of phases. Our scrum was outstanding and we wore Llanelli down.”
It was hard to pick any player out, but certainly it was lock Shay Smallman’s best game for the club and a very-fit Andrew Waite showed up well at No 8, but overall it was the tireless play of the Gilfach Goch product Lee Purnell that got my nod.
Hooker Cameron Lewis acted as a flanker when he splendidly brought Wales under-20 scrum-half Harri Williams down and I will certainly not forget how Purnell scored the final try in the corner.
Behind the scrum, centre Chay Smith showed his fine all-round game and there were happy league returns for Iwan Temblett and Joe Thomas, as there was for prop Nicky Thomas.
After only two minutes a stray pass was snapped up by Llanelli centre Joe Roberts and he ran clear from halfway with a competent full-back Josh Phillips converting.
Aberavon’s scrum went forward and Waite gained the touchdown with Aled Thomas converting, but after 26 minutes the ‘Wizards’ lost Lloyd Evans for 10 minutes.
Two minutes later and good Llanelli forward play left scrum half Archie Hughes free to score with Phillips adding the extras before Thomas and Phillips traded penalties.
Another huge forward effort saw Smallman gain his first club try and the Thomas conversion made it 17-17 at half-time.
From then on Aberavon took over with another mighty forward surge bringing a penalty try and then Aberavon brought on a strong bench.
Llanelli were now visibly tiring and Llanelli had received two yellow cards at separate times. The Aberavon tails were up and the clever Smith was away and under the crossbar with Thomas converting.
Aberavon now ran from everywhere and replacement Ashton Evans gave Temblett a sniff of the line. He went left, right and left again to score and Thomas again goaled.
Right on time more flowing rugby saw the astonishing Purnell last to receive and cross in the corner. How he had kept going only he will know.
A neutral observer told me it was a good match to watch and Aberavon, despite losing acting skipper Will Price with a cut eye will be well satisfied with their afternoon’s work.
Aberavon 43 – 17 Llanelli
Joe Gage (rep Jonathan Phillips 62 min); Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Will Price (capt) (blood rep Joe Thomas 43-57 min, rep Joe Thomas 62 min), Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas, Rhodri Cole (rep Iwan Temblett 64 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 54 min), Ieuan Davies (rep Luke Davies 57 min), Geraint James (rep Nicky Thomas 53 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Lee Purnell, Andrew Waite (rep Ashton Evans 70 min), Lloyd Evans (rep Cameron Lewis 80 min).
T – Andrew Waite, Shay Smallman, Penalty Try, Chay Smith, Iwan Temblett, Lee Purnell
C – Aled Thomas (4)
PG – Aled Thomas
T – Joe Roberts, Archie Hughes
C – Josh Phillips (2)
PG – Josh Phillips
Man Of The Match:
1 – Andrew Waite
2 – Rowan Jenkins
3 – Lee Purnell
02 min: Llanelli – T – Joe Roberts & C – Josh Phillips (0 – 7)
17 min: Aberavon – T – Andrew Waite & C – Aled Thomas (7 – 7)
25 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Lloyd Evans
28 min: Llanelli – T – Archie Hughes & C – Josh Phillips (7 – 14)
35 min: Aberavon – PG – Aled Thomas (10 – 14)
38 min: Aberavon – End Yellow Card – Lloyd Evans
40 min: Llanelli – PG – Josh Phillips (10 -17)
40+3 min: Aberavon – T – Shay Smallman & C – Aled Thomas (17 – 17)
40+6 min: Half Time
47 min: Llanelli – Yellow Card – Ryan Thomas
49 min: Aberavon – T – Penalty Try (24 – 17)
61 min: Llanelli – End Yellow Card – Ryan Thomas
67 min: Aberavon – T – Chay Smith & C – Aled Thomas (31 – 17)
74 min: Llanelli – Yellow Card – Rhys Cherry
78 min: Aberavon – T – Iwan Temblett & C – Aled Thomas (38 – 17)
80+7 min: Llanelli – End Yellow Card – Rhys Cherry
80+9 min: Aberavon – T – Lee Purnell (43 – 17)
80+10 min: Full Time