Action Replay (Bridgend Programme Notes)

Swansea 20-30 Aberavon
Premiership Cup, 6th November 2021

by Paul Williams

Aberavon had to work hard in the wind and rain at St Helen’s as Swansea, with a performance that belied their current lowly position in the ‘West’ group table, were within touching distance of a victory until the closing minutes when the Wizards’ scrum half Rhodri Cole and wing Matthew Jenkins combined twice with devastating effect to secure a bonus point win.

A bright start for the visitors saw ten minutes of almost relentless pressure before Andrew Waite picked up from an attacking scrum and Cole fed Stef Andrews, who forced his way over for an unconverted corner try. Five minutes later the lead was doubled when flanker Lloyd Evans touched down after the pack had driven over from a lineout. The swirling wind, however, was playing havoc with any attempts on goal from out wide, and for the second time of asking Aled Thomas’ conversion attempt was blown off course.

The match had entered its second quarter before Swansea opened their account through a straightforward penalty from James Davies, but just a minute later flanker Leon McNally was despatched to the sin-bin for failing to heed a warning from the referee for repeated infringements, adjudged to have deliberately slowed down possession at a ruck.

Aberavon then struck with a superb try. A deft pass from hooker Ieuan Davies saw Jenkins, running from deep on a great line, take the ball at full speed and race through almost to the home line. Possession was swiftly recycled and passed across the width of the field where Lloyd Evans replicated Davies’ deft handline to release Andrews, who again went over in the left-hand corner.

At 3-15 the Wizards were looking likely victors, but either side of half-time Swansea redoubled their efforts, and a fine try from their star player, scrum-half Ben Ley, converted by Davies, took it to 10-15 at the interval.

Ten minutes into the second half the home side were in the lead. With the first-half wind having given way to steady rainfall, fly-half Davies was able to land the conversion of number eight Charlie Davies’ close-range touchdown, taking it to 17-15.

A penalty from Aled Thomas made it 17-18 going into the final quarter, but Davies responded in kind to put Swansea back ahead, with Chay Smith getting a yellow card for a late tackle.

With both sides gearing up for a tense finale, it was initially the Aberavon defence, with skipper Will Price typically to the fore, that swung the game the visitors’ way, constantly driving back the Swansea attack. Home skipper Tom Sloane was then sin-binned following yet another lecture from the referee, and two minutes later the Aberavon pack drove powerfully from a lineout before Cole once again intervened to good effect, breaking down the blind side and feeding Jenkins, who went thundering over in the corner to make it 20-23.

With time rapidly running out the home side desperately tried to break down an increasingly water-tight Aberavon defence, and paid a high price when McNally went headlong off his feet at a ruck, earning himself a second yellow, and therefore a red card. Thomas sent the resulting penalty deep into Swansea territory, the Aberavon pack again drove relentlessly forward from the lineout, and Cole, apparently now in telepathic contact with Jenkins, put a perfectly-judged kick into the in-goal area, with the big winger comfortably winning the chase to touch down in the corner.

With time all but up it was a body-blow for a hard-working Swansea team that had battled hard to the very end, but with Thomas’ conversion sailing high over the bar to make it 20-30, Aberavon were able to reflect on a hard-earned victory at a venue that has so often down the years, to quote a celebrated local literary giant, been a “graveyard of ambition” for the Wizards.

Howard Evans (Bridgend Programme Notes)

We welcome Bridgend to the Talbot Athletic Ground this afternoon and realise that this will be no push-over as the Ravens have been showing very good form in recent weeks.

As neither club any longer plays against Neath then we have come to accept that this is a local ‘Derby’ match and form goes out of the window for such events.

The earlier match this season at the Brewery Field saw a minute silence for the great Max Wiltshire, who not only skippered Aberavon, from whom he was capped for Wales, but who spent two seasons in mid-career with Bridgend.

I remember chatting on several occasions at UWIC with their coach, the late Leighton Davies, who I thought was unlucky never to be capped. I once said to him that I saw him have his nose broken playing for Maesteg against Bridgend and he replied that he also had it broken playing for Bridgend against Maesteg!!

Watching last Saturday’s match at Swansea was our former captain, prop Andrew Clatworthy, who has lost a lot of weight since his first spell with us.

Andrew, now a detective, played for Swansea in two spells just as he did for the ‘Wizards’. He tactfully would not say which team he was supporting but was in good condition and reminded me that in the Wales-England under-16 match of which I still have the program, he was sent off!

It will be good to see Gareth Harvey here again today after his two tries against Llanelli and I’m sure he will join me in saying who very sorry we were to hear that another good hooker, Christian Richards, had died recently.

Finally, great to see Matthew Jenkins, who now lives in Cardiff, back in rugby after three years of injuries and also good to welcome Simon Rees of Beaufort here as referee. Good to see you both again.

Team v Bridgend

The Aberavon team to face Bridgend at the Talbot Athletic Ground on Saturday at 2:30pm is…

Aberavon Starting XV:
Chris Banfield; Matthew Jenkins, Chay Smith, Will Price, Stef Andrews; Joe Thomas, Rhodri Cole; Jordan Walters, Ieuan Davies, Geraint James, Sam Pailor, Shay Smallman, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans.

Rhodri Lewis, Frankie Jones, Rheon James, Llew Phillips-Taylor, Lee Purnell, Tristan Davies, Rhys Fawcett, Chris Davies.

Preview: Aberavon v Bridgend

Aberavon (1st – 30 points) welcome Bridgend (4th – 13 points) to the Talbot Athletic Ground this Saturday in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

The Ravens have won 3 of their 7 games this season. They started with a 15 – 38 loss at home to Carmarthen before winning 21 – 18 away to Llanelli. The Wizards won 24 – 15 at the Brewery Field at the start of last month before Bridgend had an impressive 25 – 19 win at Llandovery. Back-to-back losses then followed as the Ravens lost 17 – 35 at home to Bridgend and 12 – 27 away to Carmarthen. In their last outing, at home to Llanelli, Bridgend had an emphatic 43 – 16 bonus-point win.

Looking at the Premiership Cup, in “attack”, Bridgend have scored 21.1 points on average per game (ranked 4th) and 2.4 tries (ranked 5th). In “defence” they have conceded 25.3 points on average per game (ranked 5th) and 3.4 tries (ranked 4th). Aberavon have scored 28.0 points per game (ranked 1st) and 3.9 tries (ranked 1st), and conceded 16.4 points (ranked 2nd) and 1.9 tries (ranked joint 2nd).

Looking back at the fixture during the 2007-8 season, a scrappy, forward-dominated opening half saw the Wizards take an 8 – 0 lead thanks to a try from Marc Breeze and a penalty by Jamie Davies. Davies kicked two further penalties in the third quarter as Gareth David got points on the board for the visitors. Leading 14 – 3, the Wizards home pack were increasingly dominating their counterparts resulting in a brace of tries for Chris Wells, both converted by Davies, and an unconverted try by James Garland. Final score, Aberavon 33, Bridgend 3.

The Wizards team that day was: James Garland (rep Ricky Thomas); Richard Carter, Paul Bamsey, Liam Gadd, Steve Davies; Jamie Davies, Gavin Hooper (rep Chris Morgans); Neil White (rep Mike Harris), Marc Breeze (rep Chris Wells), Paul Breeze, Ian Moore (capt), Chris Gittins (rep Andrew Fisher), Darryl Thomas, Richard Morris (rep Simon Peters), Chris Davies.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Simon Rees, aided by Simon Mills and Aaron Parry.

Match Report: Swansea 20 – 30 Aberavon

by Howard Evans

Despite some terrible weather and a good effort by Swansea, Aberavon were able to increase their lead at the top of the West section and scored five tries.

It wasn’t particularly pretty at times and there were some nail-biting minutes, but the ‘Wizards’ got what they came for – another five-point win.

There were several plusses with Matthew Jenkins coming back with a brace of tries and Aled Thomas, Lee Purnell and Stef Andrews also making good returns after injury.

However, there will be questions of the lack of power in midfield at times, but the defence was mostly good and the front row was as strong as ever.

Swansea put up a good, brave show and were 20-18 up with just over ten minutes to play as the wind eased and fly-half James Davies kicked his goals splendidly.

There is a theory that Aberavon play better against stronger opponents, but they certainly never throw the towel in, as they showed when Chay Smith was yellow-carded.

While Matthew Jenkins played very well, Ieuan Davies went the whole distance as hooker; Shay Smallman put in a huge effort at lock and Rhodri Cole also gave of his best at scrum-half.

Joe Gage later said that he took a knock on the head but recovered and Lloyd Evans appeared to leave late on after a ‘stinger’ to the shoulder.

Aberavon went in front when Cole went left and the smart finish came from Andrews near the corner. It was followed by the forwards going hard and Lloyd Evans appeared to get the score.

With a strong wind behind him, James Davies then opened Swansea’s score with a penalty, but another good try by Andrews took it to 15-3.

Chris Banfield replaced Gage and though getting few chances to attack, Chris went on to give his usual whole-hearted performance.

However, as it neared half-time, Swansea’s useful scrum-half Ben Ley handled twice before going over for a good try that James Davies converted.

The second half started with a big Swansea effort and a try by No 8 Charlie Davies levelled it at 15-all before James Davies converted well to give the ‘All-Whites’ the lead.

Aled Thomas then kicked a good goal to give Aberavon the lead at 18-17, but James Davies came back with a penalty to restore Swansea’s lead at 20-18.

It was now a case of next score the winner and it was Matthew Jenkins who gained a try, again unconverted, for a 23-20 lead and a bonus point.

In the last few seconds, Jenkins got another with smart following-up to a clever Cole kick and Aled Thomas kicked a splendid touchline conversion that both he and the good Aberavon support must have enjoyed.

In the few seconds remaining 17-years-old Rhodri Lewis came on to replace Cole and become the youngest player to appear for the ‘Wizards’ in the professional era.

The ‘Wizards’ will have to up their game again next week if they are to complete a double over a fast-improving Bridgend side at the Talbot Athletic Ground.

It should be added that Swansea were most unlucky not to have gained at least one point from the match.

Swansea 20 – 30 Aberavon

Aberavon Team:
Joe Gage (rep Chris Banfield 29 min); Matthew Jenkins, Chay Smith, Will Price (capt), Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas (rep Joe Thomas 80+4 min), Rhodri Cole (rep Rhodri Lewis 80+4 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Jordan Walters 69 min), Ieuan Davies, Nicky Thomas (rep Geraint James half-time), Shay Smallman, Sam Williams (rep Sam Pailor 62 min), Ashton Evans (rep Lee Purnell 62 min), Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans (rep Llew Phillips-Taylor 78 min)

Matthew Jenkins, Llew Phillips-Taylor and Sam Pailor appeared from Trebanos RFC; Rhodri Lewis appeared from the Ospreys.
Club debut for Rhodri Lewis who became the youngest Wizard ever in the semi-pro era. Ashley Beck was the youngest at 17 years and 132 days – off the bench against Pontypridd in 2007. Rhodri was 17 years and 81 days young when he came off the bench against Swansea.

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Stef Andrews (2), Matthew Jenkins (2), Lloyd Evans
C – Aled Thomas
PG – Aled Thomas

Swansea Scorers:
T – Ben Ley, Charlie Davies
C – James Davies (2)
PG – James Davies (2)

Jason Bessant

Man Of The Match:
1 – Matthew Jenkins
2 – Rhodri Cole
3 – Stef Andrews

Time Line:
10 min: Aberavon – T – Stef Andrews (0 – 5)
16 min: Aberavon – T – Lloyd Evans (0 – 10)
25 min: Swansea – PG – James Davies (3 – 10)
26 min: Swansea – Yellow Card – Leon McNally
30 min: Aberavon – T – Stef Andrews (3 – 15)
35 min: Swansea – T – Ben Ley & C – James Davies (10 – 15)
40+1 min: Half Time
49 min: Swansea – T – Charlie Davies & C – James Davies (17 – 15)
55 min: Aberavon – PG – Aled Thomas (17 – 18)
65 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Chay Smith
66 min: Swansea – PG – James Davies (20 – 18)
70 min: Swansea – Yellow Card – Tom Sloane
72 min: Aberavon – T – Matthew Jenkins (20 – 23)
80+2 min: Swansea – Yellow Card (= Red Card) – Leon McNally
80+4 min: Aberavon – T – Matthew Jenkins & C – Aled Thomas (20 – 30)
80+6 min: Full Time

Team v Swansea

The Aberavon team to face Swansea at St Helen’s on Saturday at 2:00pm is…

Aberavon Starting XV:
Joe Gage; Matthew Jenkins, Chay Smith, Will Price, Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas, Rhodri Cole; Rowan Jenkins, Ieuan Davies, Nicky Thomas, Shay Smallman, Sam Williams, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans.

Rhodri Lewis, Joe Thomas, Chris Banfield, Llew Phillips-Taylor, Lee Purnell, Sam Pailor, Jordan Walters, Geraint James.

Preview: Swansea v Aberavon

Aberavon (1st – 25 points) travel to St Helen’s to take on Swansea (4th – 10 points) in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup this Saturday, kick-off at 2:00 pm.

The All Whites have won 2 of their 6 games this season. They started their campaign with three straight losses as they went down at Llandovery (5 – 21), Aberavon (14 – 27) and at home to Carmarthen Quins (6 – 21). However, the St Helen’s outfit then had a huge bonus point home win over Llanelli (53 – 15) and another bonus point win away to Bridgend (35 – 17). In their last outing, they lost at home to Llandovery (17 – 45).

Looking at the Premiership Cup, in “attack”, Swansea have scored 21.7 points on average per game (ranked 3rd) and 2.7 tries (ranked 4th). In “defence” they have conceded 24.3 points on average per game (ranked 4th) and 3.3 tries (ranked 4th). Aberavon have scored 27.7 points per game (ranked 2nd) and 3.7 tries (ranked 2nd), and conceded 15.8 points (ranked 2nd) and 1.8 tries (ranked 1st).

Looking back to when the sides met at the ground in 2008-9, the Wizards narrowly won 29 – 27. The visitors led 17 – 8 at the interval after captain Ian Moore and David Pritchard scored tries. Jamie Davies converted both and kicked a penalty. For the Whites, Nicky Thomas scored a try and James Dixon kicked a penalty.

In the second half, Aberavon went into a 29 -13 lead with further tries scored by Richard Morris and Luke Hathaway. Davies converted George’s try. Lock Richard Kelly scored for the Whites.

Aberavon’s 16-point lead was whittled down when a fightback by the home side saw Kelly score his second try in the 79th minute with Thomas converting before Steffan Jones scored under the posts for replacement Damien Karuana to convert.

The Wizards team that day was: Paul Bamsey; Richard Carter, Luke Hathaway, Ashley Beck (rep Ricky Thomas), Steve Davies; Jamie Davies, David Pritchard; Neil White (rep Lloyd Howell), Marc Breeze (rep Brett Thomas), Paul Breeze (rep James Jones), Ian Moore (capt) (rep Nathan White), Andrew Fisher, Rory Gallagher (rep Darryl Thomas), Richard Morris, Chris Davies.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Jason Bessant, aided by John Darcy and Greg Morgan.

Match Report: Llanelli 22 – 28 Aberavon

by Marina Gange

It was the proverbial “game of two halves” at Parc y Scarlets, which despite a determined comeback from the hosts, saw Aberavon hang on to come away with a bonus-point victory, which sees them remain in top spot in the West section of the Indigo Premiership Cup.

The Wizards started the match strongly, looking dangerous in their early forays into the Llanelli half, with young outside-half Dan Edwards and centre Chay Smith making early breaks. Indeed, it was a break from Smith which set up the opening try for Aberavon. He passed to fullback Joe Gage who sent the aforementioned Edwards under the posts. Edwards converted his own try and the Wizards took an early 7-0 lead.

Aberavon were forced into a change early on at scrum-half, Iwan Temblett, on his return to his former club, took a head knock and was replaced by Rhodri Cole. He soon found himself marshalling the forwards who earned themselves a couple of early scrum penalties. From a resulting lineout, captain for the day Lloyd Evans saw a gap in the Llanelli defence and put through a clever chip which was ungathered until prop Geraint James popped up and pounced on the loose ball to ground in the corner. Edwards again converted as the ball glanced off the upright.

Aberavon continued to pile the pressure on Llanelli, opting to kick to the corner again rather than take a shot a goal and this paid off when, after multiple phases of attacking play and concerted pressure on the Llanelli try line, Rhodri Cole darted through a gap in the defence to score under the posts and Edwards once again converted.

Aberavon were playing with confidence at this point, the forwards joining in with the backs in the free-flowing attacking moves. Lock Sam Williams demonstrated his deft handling skills with a sublime take and one-handed offload and it was his break that set up another chance for the Wizards. A chip from Joe Gage into the corner was unlucky not to be gathered and from the clearance kick, winger Frankie Jones was able to set off on a run, releasing Chris Banfield who was bundled into touch. Two chances missed perhaps?

Just before half-time, Llanelli finally found some momentum, picking up a couple of penalties and demonstrated the power of their lineout drive, charging over for their first try of the match. They were unable to add the conversion and the score at half-time was 5-21.

Aberavon scored their bonus point try straight from the kick-off of the second half. Frankie Jones was involved again, intercepting a pass and releasing flying flanker Lloyd Evans for the try. Dan Edwards continued his 100% kicking record for the match, slotting the conversion.

Aberavon were in command at this point, another scrum penalty followed and there looked to be no way back into the match for the hosts. However, ten minutes into the half, a line break from Llanelli set up a two on two, with Aberavon’s defenders exposed, and they drew their men well, delaying a pass to score under the posts.

Llanelli continued to probe in the Aberavon half, enjoying a period of possession, but the Aberavon defensive line held out and Joe Gage was able to clear. Indeed, it was the first-up tackling from Aberavon that was one of the most pleasing aspects of their performance, every player contributing to the defensive effort and giving Llanelli little breathing space with ball in hand.

A period of back and fro play followed and Aberavon were forced to reshuffle as Dan Edwards came off and Joe Gage took over outside-half duties. The Wizards had lost the influential Sam Williams to injury at half-time, replaced by youngster Lewis Marsh for his debut. As Llanelli began to claw their way back into the match, the Wizards seems to lose their momentum somewhat and could not re-assert themselves as they had in the first half. Llanelli once again used their driving lineout to cause Aberavon problems, sending a penalty into the corner, rumbling over from the resulting lineout. The conversion was once again missed, leaving the hosts needing another two scores.

The penalties were mounting up against Aberavon; a questionable scrum penalty allowed Llanelli to build another attacking opportunity but this time their drive was held up and the ball was intercepted by Frankie Jones who was able to clear.

With around ten minutes remaining, Aberavon found themselves once again defending a five-metre lineout from a Llanelli penalty, although it seemed as if the kick had gone dead. Llanelli capitalised, launching yet another driving lineout to score in the corner. They were unable to convert and trailed by six points. Llanelli had one more chance with the last play of the game, earning a penalty and kicking to the corner. This time, however, the ball did go dead and the final whistle was blown, allowing the Aberavon supporters to breathe a sigh of relief. The final score was Llanelli 22-28 Aberavon, with both sides earning a try-scoring bonus point.

The Wizards will be back in action on 6th November against Swansea at St Helen’s which will undoubtedly be another tough encounter.

Llanelli 22 – 28 Aberavon

Aberavon Team:
Joe Gage; Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Joe Thomas, Frankie Jones; Dan Edwards (rep Matthew Jenkins 63 min), Iwan Temblett (rep Rhodri Cole 12 min); Rhys Fawcett (rep Rowan Jenkins 51 min), Cameron Lewis (rep Ieuan Davies 53 min), Geraint James (rep Nicky Thomas 75 min), Shay Smallman, Sam Williams (rep Lewis Marsh half-time), Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans (capt).

Replacements not used:
Aled Rees, Lee Purnell.

Dan Edwards and Lewis Marsh appeared from the Ospreys; Matthew Jenkins appeared from Trebanos RFC.
Club debuts for Lewis Marsh.

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Dan Edwards, Geraint James, Rhodri Cole, Lloyd Evans
C – Dan Edwards (4)

Llanelli Scorers:
T – Rhys Cherry (2), Archie Hughes, Alex Jeffries
C – Josh Phillips

Stephen Allsop

Man Of The Match:
1 – Dan Edwards
2 – Lloyd Evans
3 – Ashton Evans

Time Line:
09 min: Aberavon – T – Dan Edwards & C – Dan Edwards (0 – 7)
17 min: Aberavon – T – Geraint James & C – Dan Edwards (0 – 14)
24 min: Aberavon – T – Rhodri Cole & C – Dan Edwards (0 – 21)
40+5 min: Llanelli – T – Rhys Cherry (5 – 21)
40+6 min: Half Time
41 min: Aberavon – T – Lloyd Evans & C – Dan Edwards (5 – 28)
50 min: Llanelli – T – Archie Hughes & C – Josh Phillips (12 – 28)
67 min: Llanelli – T – Rhys Cherry (17 – 28)
71 min: Llanelli – T – Alex Jeffries (22 – 28)
80+3 min: Full Time

Team v Llanelli

The Aberavon team to face Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday at 2:30pm is…

Aberavon Starting XV:
Joe Gage; Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Joe Thomas, Frankie Jones; Dan Edwards, Iwan Temblett; Rhys Fawcett, Cameron Lewis, Geraint James, Shay Smallman, Sam Williams, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans.

Rhodri Cole, Aled Rees, Matthew Jenkins, Ieuan Davies, Lee Purnell, Sam Pailor, Rowan Jenkins, Nicky Thomas.

Preview: Llanelli v Aberavon

Aberavon (1st) travel to Parc y Scarlets to take on Llanelli (6th) in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup this Saturday, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

The West Walians have had a tough season so far with them losing all five of their games. They started their season with a 17 – 43 loss at Aberavon before picking up a losing bonus point at home to Bridgend (18 – 21). Two away games followed with Llanelli losing at Llandovery (12 – 39) and then Swansea (15 – 53). Last weekend, they lost 24 – 27 at home to Carmarthen Quins.

Looking at the Premiership Cup, in “attack”, Llanelli have scored 17.2 points on average per game (ranked 6th) and 2.8 tries (ranked 3rd). In “defence” they have conceded 36.6 points on average per game (ranked 6th) and 4.8 tries (ranked 6th). Aberavon have scored 27.6 points per game (ranked 1st) and 3.6 tries (ranked joint 1st), and conceded 14.6 points (ranked 2nd) and 1.4 tries (ranked 1st).

Looking back to the 2003-04 season, when Aberavon met Llanelli at Stradey Park, Llanelli outside half Ceiron Thomas and his opposite number Jamie Davies traded penalties before Daran Griffiths scored a try at the end of the opening quarter. Davies converted and kicked another penalty after half-hour to give the Wizards a 13 – 3 lead. However, a try by wing Daniel Rogers and conversion by Thomas saw Aberavon’s lead reduce to just 3 points at the interval. The home side took the lead early in the second half when full-back Lee Byrne released centre Richard Davies for an unconverted try. A third Davies penalty helped the Wizards retake the lead before Richard Lewis scored a try in the corner. Davies added the extras to give the Wizards a 23 – 15 lead after 64 minutes. Rogers scored his second try of the game soon after with Thomas converting to reduce Aberavon’s lead to just one point. Ricky Price scored the Wizards third try of the game in the last ten minutes of the game. Thomas and Davies traded further penalties late on with the Aberavon holding out to win 31 – 25 despite playing the last ten minutes down to 14 players.

The Wizards team that day was: Richard Lewis; Daran Griffiths, Aled James, Gareth Jones (rep Darren Ryan), Ricky Price; Jamie Davies, Dan Hawkins; Dinlle Francis (rep Mike Harris), James Jones (rep Jon Owen), Paul Breeze, Steve Rees (rep Dafydd Owen), Chris Gittins, Jamie Summers (rep Matthew Powell), Richard Morris, Steffan Edwards.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Stephen Allsop, aided by Wayne Davies and Colin Kirkhouse.