Action Replay (Llandovery Programme Notes)

Carmarthen Quins 3-26 Aberavon
Principality Cup, 9th October 2021

by Paul Williams

Not a high-scoring ‘try festival’ but, make no mistake, this was an absorbing and entertaining contest between two of the best teams in the Premiership, with a superbly organised Aberavon defence ultimately taking much of the credit, with the visitors limited to a single early penalty despite having their fair share of possession and territory.

Amidst all this were cameo performances that caught the eye, none more so than the competitive debut of fly-half Dan Edwards, stepping into the role while the experienced Aled Thomas looked on while recovering from a hamstring strain. Having only turned 18 a matter of weeks previously, the Cwmafan youngster produced an accomplished display in all-round play, with the added bonus of a 100% goalkicking success rate.

Acting skipper Will Price was at the heart of this Aberavon performance, with his powerful ball-carrying complementing his strength in the tackle. Around him his colleagues without exception combined to form well-organised defensive wall, and each and every Aberavon player should share the credit for keeping their line intact. A threequarter line comprising, Price aside, Joe Thomas, Chris Banfield and Stef Andrews is never going to be the biggest, but the assertion that ‘size matters’ was confounded by their eagerness to get to grips with the Quins’ big ball carriers, while half-backs Temblett and Edwards were also noticeably unfazed by what confronted them. Meanwhile at the back, Jonny Phillips celebrated his 30th birthday with a flawless performance in the 15 jersey, capping it off with a couple of superbly judged ’50-22′ touchfinders.

Although the home side got off to a promising start, with a simple penalty goal kicked by Josh Batcup putting them ahead after four minutes when the Aberavon midfield strayed offside. It was a short-lived advantage, though, as the Wizards struck back just a minute later in emphatic style. A midfield burst from the irrepressible Price pierced the home defence, and flanker Ashton Evans was on hand to receive the offload, thundering on before sending scrum-half Iwan Temblett in at the posts for a fine try. Dan Edwards added the conversion.

Fifteen minutes of play swinging from end to end followed, with neither side adding to their tally, and the pattern looked set to continue when the Quins were awarded a scrum inside their ’22’. While most observers expected a straightforward clearance to touch, the Aberavon pack had other ideas, and the front row of Rowan Jenkins, Luke Davies and Geraint James did what they’ve been doing since the season began, unceremoniously driving the home eight back off the ball and, with the solid drive of locks Shay Smallman and Sam Williams keeping the scrum going forward, and flankers Ashton Evans and Lloyd Evans keeping things on an even keep for Andrew Waite to superbly control the ball at his feet until experienced Quins flanker Nic Cudd was adjudged to have illegally kicked the ball clear of the scrum, earning himself a yellow card and Aberavon a penalty try.

With play continuing to ebb and flow, the Wizards’ eleven-point lead looked more promising than such a margin might normally appear, such was the ferocity of their defence, and so it proved to be. The only further score in the first half was a huge penalty from Edwards to make it 3-17 at the break.

Edwards repeated the feat after the break, and one had to wonder whether there was a difference in fitness levels between the two teams when Carmarthen began to make wholesale changes while the Wizards were still going strong. This was borne out as the match wore on, with the home side’s error count climbing rapidly, and even though the Wizards lost first Sam Williams and then Andrew Waite to the sin-bin for similar technical offences, effectively leaving them one man short for the entire final quarter, there remained no way through for the home runners. Instead, the Wizards were able to pressurise the Quins into conceding two further kickable penalties, both of which were turned into points by Edwards.

Another interested spectator was Lee Purnell. The big flanker left the field injured – an almost unheard-of sight – at Bridgend the previous week but is on the mend and was hoping to be available soon. He said that he found watching a frustrating experience as he likes to be in the thick of the action. That much is self-evident to anyone who has seen him play!