Aberavon 22-17 Carmarthen Quins
WRU Premiership Cup, 19th November 2021
by Paul Williams
The Wizards kept their season rolling along nicely with yet another bonus-point win in this penultimate match of the Indigo Premiership Cup pool stage.
With the WRU having now confirmed that the top four clubs in each of the East and West pools will go through to the quarter-finals of a knockout tournament, and with Llandovery and Aberavon guaranteed the top two places in the West, the Quins were keen to cement their third place with a win. As it turned out, the single losing bonus point they gained was sufficient to remove the mathematical possibility of Swansea overtaking them, and the top three are now set in stone, with Bridgend and Swansea set to battle it out for the fourth qualifying spot.
The match, to an extent, followed a pattern similar to that of the Wizards’ victory at Carmarthen Park a few weeks ago. The Quins enjoyed much of the possession and territory but found the Aberavon defence difficult to break down for long periods. The Wizards, meanwhile, struck four times in devastating fashion, and although the visitors ultimately ran in three tries of their own, they were always chasing the game.
A quarter of the match had passed before the Wizards opened the scoring, putting the visitors’ defence under intense pressure before an accurate kick from fly-half Joe Thomas found Aled Rees out wide on the left. The powerful wing still had a lot to do, but he cut inside the cover and powered through a couple of attempted tackles to touch down wide out.
Things then reverted to type, with the visitors pounding away against an unyielding defence that became increasingly adept at turning over possession to frustrate their opponents. The deadlock was broken when one such turnover, courtesy of Andrew Waite, led to a bout of interpassing down the right wing with Frankie Jones eventually speeding clear to score in the right-hand corner. Chris Banfield converted magnificently from the touchline to make the half-time score 12-nil.
The pattern continued until 15 minutes into the second half when left wing Morgan Griffiths managed to elude the home defence for once and squeeze over in the corner for an unconverted try, but almost immediately the Wizards found another gear, and with Rhodri Cole in inspirational form play was switched one way then another, with Banfield eventually sending out a huge pass that found skipper-for-the-night Lloyd Evans haring down the touchline en-route to an acrobatic touch-down in the right-hand corner.
Five minutes later the Quins had again reduced the arrears when replacement scrum-half Rhodri Davies took a quick tap-penalty and raced in at the posts for fly-half Jac Wilson to convert.
Wilson was also to add a late try having intercepted a loose pass near half-way, but by then the Wizards had all but sealed the win as Banfield fielded a speculative kick and set off on a counterattacking run that split the Quins’ defence, handing on to Joe Thomas who accelerated away and released the speeding Chay Smith down the touchline and over in the corner for the try of the match.
This was very much a team effort from the Wizards against opponents who are, make no mistake, a quality team, and credit must go to all who played a part, with a high work-rate in defence creating the chances to claim possession and turn defence into attack with devastating results.