Match Report: Aberavon 24 – 13 Ebbw Vale
by Paul Williams
Aberavon confounded the critics with a well-deserved bonus-point win over second-placed Ebbw Vale at the Talbot Athletic Ground. Few would have expected the Wizards to produce such a performance just five days after taking a heavy loss at Cardiff, but this was a well-deserved victory by four tries to one. The match also marked the welcome return of the club’s long-term injured players, with number eight Andrew Waite producing some fine examples of his trademark ball-carrying and scrum-half Liam Seaward putting in a typical live-wire performance before they were replaced by Travis Huntley and Aron Hemmings early in the second half.
A hard-fought first half saw little to choose between the two sides. In fact, twenty minutes had elapsed before the first score, which put the visitors ahead 7-nil as Owen Conquer touched down from close range for Evan Lloyd to convert. If the Steelmen had thoughts of building a commanding lead from there, however, they were to be disappointed. An Aberavon penalty near half-way was drilled into touch five metres from the Ebbw try-line by fly-half James Davies, and from the ensuing lineout hooker Cameron Lewis burst away, showing good speed and strength to crash over for an unconverted try that left the home side just two points adrift at the interval.
The second half, it must be said, belonged almost entirely to Aberavon. As time went on, so the Wizards’ defensive effort improved. Rhodri Hughes, on his one-hundredth appearance in Aberavon colours, combined with his second-row partner Shay Smallman to starve the visitors of lineout possession, while there were heroics across the field as big tackles and an even bigger desire to battle for every scrap of possession constantly frustrated the visitors.
Meanwhile, Aberavon were growing in confidence. Scott Delnevo, a replacement at full-back for injured skipper Stef Andrews, put up a speculative cross-kick into the path of the onrushing Jay Baker. The big winger regathered the bouncing ball and swerved left and right to evade two defenders and touch down out wide on the right, with fly-half James Davies adding the conversion.
The visitors struck back with a brace of penalty goals from Lloyd that gave them a one-point lead, but on the hour mark Aberavon centre Brad Roderick produced a deft touch, putting through a short midfield grubber-kick which he then picked up and flicked an inside pass in one movement, sending Hemmings on a clear run to the try-line for Davies to again convert.
The tension mounted as the visitors threw all they had into overturning the Wizards’ six-point lead, but the Wizards’ determined defensive effort continued to frustrate them, and following yet another line-out steal, the home side quickly sent the ball through several pairs of hands across the field where Callum Carson put Frankie Jones clear down the right-hand touchline. The on-form Jones needed no further bidding as he sprinted over in the corner to score his team’s fourth try, and thus claim the bonus point.
There was still sufficient time on the clock for the visitors to mount a final attack in a bid to earn a losing bonus point, but they remained unable to break down a home defence in no mood to let slip their margin of victory.
Thursday November 30th, 2023
Aberavon 24 – 13 Ebbw Vale
Stef Andrews (capt) (rep Scott Delnevo half-time); Jay Baker (rep Callum Carson 72 min), Frankie Jones, Bradley Roderick, Chris Banfield; James Davies, Liam Seaward (rep Aron Hemmings 48 min); Jordan Walters (rep Rowan Jenkins 51 min), Cameron Lewis (rep Ellis Major 80 min), Chris Davies (rep Geraint James 51 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Rhys Thomas, Andrew Waite (rep Travis Huntley 54 min), Ben Gregory (rep Cameron Loveys 80 min).
Liam Seaward appeared from Morriston RFC; Ellis Major appeared from Tondu RFC; Cameron Loveys appeared from Trebanos RFC.
Rhodri Hughes made his 100th appearance for Aberavon RFC.
T – Cameron Lewis, Jay Baker, Aron Hemmings, Frankie Jones
C – James Davies (2)
Ebbw Vale Scorers:
T – Owen Conquer
C – Evan Lloyd
P – Evan Lloyd (2)
Man Of The Match:
1 – Rhodri Hughes
2 – Cameron Lewis
3 – Rhys Thomas
20 min: Ebbw Vale – T – Owen Conquer & C – Evan Lloyd (0 – 7)
30 min: Aberavon – T – Cameron Lewis (5 – 7)
40+2 min: Half Time
42 min: Aberavon – T – Jay Baker & C – James Davies (12 – 7)
45 min: Ebbw Vale – PG – Evan Lloyd (12 – 10)
55 min: Ebbw Vale – PG – Evan Lloyd (12 – 13)
61 min: Aberavon – T – Aron Hemmings & C – James Davies (19 – 13)
74 min: Aberavon – T – Frankie Jones (24 – 13)
80+2 min: Full Time