Match Report: Aberavon 18 – 24 Llandovery

by Paul Williams

A losing bonus point proved just enough for Aberavon to hang on to the top spot in the West conference of the Indigo Group Premiership Cup, albeit with their lead over second-placed Llandovery reduced to a single point.

Matches between these two teams have evolved into invariably tense affairs just as the respective clubs have evolved, during well over two decades, into quality outfits that can compete with the best in Welsh club rugby.

A hard-fought affair from the very start, it took almost a quarter of the match for any change to the scoreboard, coming after a raid into the visitors ’22’ saw the Wizards go close a couple of times before the hard-working Ashton Evans crashed over the line. Teenager Dan Edwards, a hero of the previous week’s victory at Carmarthen, slotted the conversion to make it 7-nil.

Almost inevitably the Drovers struck back on the half-hour, with experienced wing Aaron Warren crossing in the corner for an unconverted try.

Things began to unravel for the Wizards just before the interval when Frankie Jones was adjudged to have deliberately knocked the ball on, receiving a yellow card. By any measure it looked a harsh decision, inconsistent at best; Jones was making a tackle, wrapping his arms around his opponent in the prescribed manner when the attempted pass ricocheted off his arm, and several other similar incidents had not received the same sanction.

One must, however, play with the hand one is dealt, and the Wizards suddenly found themselves under intense pressure, with Llandovery’s numerical advantage resulting in the depleted home defence being stretched one way and then the other before hooker Dafydd Hughes scored close to the posts for former Aberavon skipper James Garland, now a player-coach at Llandovery, putting over the conversion to make the score 7-12 at the break. Meanwhile, the Wizards, having already lost hooker Luke Davies to injury, suffered an addition to a growing injury list when Jonny Phillips fell awkwardly after fielding a difficult high ball and did not re-emerge for the second half.

Edwards reduced the deficit to 10-12 after 45 minutes, sending over a long-range penalty from out wide, but with the match becoming an intensely tight affair he was replaced by the experienced Aled Thomas, who put over another penalty to regain the lead.

Hindsight, they say, is a wonderful thing, and Aberavon may regret withdrawing Edwards from the fray, as Thomas limped off the field with an ankle injury a few minutes later, leaving them with a somewhat unfamiliar looking back division with several players out of position. The situation was compounded by long-serving lock Sam Williams, the Wizards’ main lineout target, succumbing to an ankle strain sustained much earlier.

Just before the hour mark the visitors again took the lead, with former Wales Sevens star Lee Rees sprinting clear to the posts for Garland to convert, and with time rapidly running out the visitors looked to have sealed their victory when wing Callum Williams went over for an unconverted corner try.

A frenetic finish saw the home team redouble their efforts, and new signing Sam Pailor rounded off a period of intense pressure to crash over and reduce the deficit to six points. Further pressure by the Wizards saw them come frustratingly close to scoring a potentially match-winning try, but the disruptions to the line-up and a determined Llandovery defence combined to prevent any further score.

Score:
Aberavon 18 – 24 Llandovery

Aberavon Team:
Jonathan Phillips (rep Joe Gage half-time); Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Joe Thomas, Frankie Jones; Dan Edwards (rep Aled Thomas 50 min, rep Iwan Temblett 61 min), Rhodri Cole (capt); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 60 min), Luke Davies (rep Cameron Lewis 28 min), Geraint James (rep Nicky Thomas 60 min), Shay Smallman, Sam Williams (rep Sam Pailor 61 min), Ashton Evans (temp rep Geraint James 66-75 min), Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans.

Replacements not used:
Billy Moxey.

Notes:
Dan Edwards appeared from the Ospreys; Billy Moxey and Sam Pailor appeared from Trebanos RFC.

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Ashton Evans, Sam Pailor
C – Dan Edwards
PG – Dan Edwards, Aled Thomas

Llandovery Scorers:
T – Aaron Warren, Dafydd Hughes, Lee Rees, Callum Williams
C – James Garland (2)

Referee:
Elgan Williams

Man Of The Match:
1 – Andrew Waite
2 – Lloyd Evans
3 – Rhodri Cole

Time Line:
19 min: Aberavon – T – Ashton Evans & C – Dan Edwards (7 – 0)
32 min: Llandovery – T – Aaron Warren (7 – 5)
39 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Frankie Jones
40+3 min: Llandovery – T – Dafydd Hughes & James Garland (7 – 12)
40+8 min: Half Time
45 min: Aberavon – PG – Dan Edwards (10 – 12)
45 min: Aberavon – End Yellow Card – Frankie Jones
52 min: Aberavon – PG – Aled Thomas (13 – 12)
59 min: Llandovery – T – Lee Rees & James Garland (13 – 19)
63 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Nicky Thomas
74 min: Llandovery – T – Callum Williams (13 – 24)
75 min: Aberavon – End Yellow Card – Nicky Thomas
80 min: Aberavon – T – Sam Pailor (18 – 24)
80+9 min: Full Time

Howard Evans (Llandovery Programme Notes)

Today, we not only welcome the Drovers players, committee and supporters, but we also welcome a side that plays good open rugby.

There have been several strong links between the two clubs and hopefully this afternoon we will see the return of James Garland, a man who gave his very best for the ‘Wizards’ as a player and a leader.

James began in brilliant fashion in a walloping of Cardiff only hours after I had told my wife that this young chap replacing the injured Jamie Davies would be in real trouble.

Instead, he almost beat Cardiff single-handed. Then, he was cruelly dropped after his last-second drop shot from 30 metres at Ebbw Vale had won us a tight match. He moved on, but luckily he was to follow Lyndon Lewis on the trail back to the TAG.

Lyndon, a former Aberavon captain, was not only at Vardre with James, but I believe he was a schoolmaster who taught his protege.

They were not the only ones who were at both clubs and of course, we have Howard Thomas back with us and picking up the brilliant coaching job he had started after ending his playing career.

Many other Llandovery names come to mind on and off the pitch. Iestyn Thomas was a splendid player and coach, the Williams brothers, Huw S.Thomas, Gareth Salt (a good, honest man), the incredible Handel Davies, who has not yet entered the Tour de France, but who probably looks to outspeed Les Keen and Ray Giles.

Aberavon should have signed No 8 forward Richard Brooks from Bonymaen, but our loss was Llandovery’s gain.

I must say a word for the Aberavon squad, who, despite injuries, have started in fine fashion. Obviously, I hope it continues today, but it will be no easy ride.

Let’s hope for a real thriller.

Paul Williams (Llandovery Programme Notes)

Coverage

I recently turned on the TV one evening to be greeted by a trailer for what sounded like some or other sports coverage. “The rugby season begins tomorrow”, boomed the voice-over. Wondering briefly whether or not to reach for a calendar to confirm my understanding that we were in the final week of September, I then awaited the punchline, which was something along the lines of The United Rugby Championship, being broadcast live on BBC2 Wales.

What began life as The Celtic League back in the early 2000s has now morphed, via the Pro-12 and Pro-14 etc., into the United Rugby Championship, with the inclusion of the top four South African provincial teams. Now I have no problem with this, per-se. We have become accustomed to the Welsh Regions, Irish Provinces, Scottish and Italian superclubs, and anyone else who comes along, forming the fully professional tier of our sport, and gaining the bulk of media exposure.

What I do have a problem with, however, is a mainstream broadcaster proclaiming that the rugby season began only when those teams started to take part in competitive matches, completely ignoring the fact that club sides, from the Indigo Premiership right down through the divisions that encompass the very many community clubs where the stars of tomorrow are even now learning the rudiments of the sport under the guidance of dedicated volunteers and parents giving up their valuable time, have been toiling away for weeks, with some competitions kicking off in late August and even the semi-professional tier playing preparatory ‘friendly’ fixtures before our season began in earnest a week earlier than the BBC would have us believe.

At the risk of repeating myself, my own commitment to the sport of Rugby Union is as a lifelong follower of Aberavon RFC. I grew up listening to tales of family members past and present who’d played for the Wizards, and have the emotional attachment to my club that only comes from having spent most of my life following the fortunes of the men in Blood and Black. This has culminated in a current situation in which both my wife Elaine and I are amongst the small army of voluntary workers who help in some small way to keep the wheels of the club turning. While intending no disrespect, I cannot summon the same affection for a team that was formed less than twenty years ago, and although I have been known to attend rugby at what was at the time called the Liberty Stadium, I remain Aberavon through and through.

What is disappointing, however, is the apparent reluctance of the media to spare the sport, at our level, anything more than the odd mention. Now I know that our epic 2021-22 season promotional video, featuring an impassioned performance from the one and only Michael Sheen, raised a few eyebrows and inspired the odd news article, but the main rugby-related item I happened across in the Welsh media was an article bemoaning the fact that the Ospreys v Cardiff ‘local derby’ a couple of weeks ago only pulled in 5700-odd spectators, segueing into a long post mortem as to why this should be the case. Now I’ve already help up my hand in the previous paragraph as to why I wasn’t there, but that isn’t the point I’m trying to make here. Try and find anything more than the most basic coverage of club rugby in Wales and you’re guaranteed to draw a blank. I stopped buying the South Wales Evening Post when they stopped covering the club game, even though our resident gentleman of the press and good friend of mine Howard Evans was prepared to furnish them with match reports and news from the Talbot Athletic Ground free of charge, after they’d decided they would no longer pay him for his efforts.

On a related matter, it is with great disappointment that I note Phil Steele is no longer a feature of our diet of televised rugby. Phil has been a fairly frequent visitor to Aberavon in recent seasons – a genuine guy with a genuine passion for club rugby at all its levels, and a man who had played the sport during the era when club rugby was all there was, and therefore possesses an understanding of what the Aberavons and the Llandoverys of this world are all about. He has an empathy for the club game that goes way beyond the role of a commentator – to provide an example of this, having been told by another of Aberavon’s matchday volunteers of the devastating bereavement that my wife and I went through in February of last year, he took the trouble to get hold of my phone number and called me, at home, to express his condolences. And I’d be prepared to bet he’d have done the same for any of the many people with whom he’s acquainted across the length and breadth of the club game in Wales.

Enjoy the game.

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!

Team v Llandovery

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

Aberavon Starting XV:
Jonathan Phillips; Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Joe Thomas, Frankie Jones; Dan Edwards, Rhodri Cole; Rowan Jenkins, Luke Davies, Geraint James, Shay Smallman, Sam Williams, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans.

Replacements:
Iwan Temblett, Joe Gage, Aled Thomas, Cameron Lewis, Billy Moxey, Sam Pailor, Rhys Fawcett, Nicky Thomas.

Preview: Aberavon v Llandovery

Aberavon (1st) welcome Llandovery (2nd) to the Talbot Athletic Ground this Saturday in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

The Drovers have won three of their four games this season with them kicking off their campaign with a 21 – 5 home win over Swansea, after leading 18 – 0 after half-hour of play. Flanker Stuart Worrall scored a try for the home side, who were also awarded a penalty try. Outside-half Angus O’Brien kicked three penalties.

In their second game, Llandovery won 21 – 10 away to Carmarthen Quins. The Drovers led 14 – 10 at half-time with centre Rhodri Jones and prop Harri O’Connor scoring tries, whilst outside-half James Garland converted both. In the second half, the former Wizard scored a try himself which he converted.

The following week the Drovers welcomed Llanelli to Church Bank and ran out 39 – 12 winners, gaining a bonus point in the process. They scored six tries with full-back Will Thomas, centre Rhodri Wall, outside-half James Garland, wing Aaron Warren and lock Osian Davies all touching down, with them also being awarded a penalty try. Garland converted two tries and kicked a penalty.

Last weekend, Llandovery welcomed Bridgend to Church Bank. The Drovers were leading the Ravens 19 – 5 by half-time thanks to tries by hooker Dafydd Hughes, centre Rhodri Jones and wing Callum Williams with two conversions by outside-half James Garland. However, the visitors outscored their hosts 20 – 0 in the second half to win 25 – 19 and give the Drovers their first defeat of the season with them picking up a losing bonus point.

Looking at the Premiership Cup, in “attack”, Llandovery have scored 25.0 points on average per game (ranked 2nd) and 3.5 tries (ranked 2nd). In “defence” they have conceded 13.0 points on average per game (ranked 2nd) and 1.8 tries (ranked 2nd). Aberavon have scored 30.0 points per game (ranked 1st) and 4.0 tries (ranked 1st), and conceded 12.3 points (ranked 1st) and 0.8 tries (ranked 1st).

Looking back to when the sides met at the ground in January 2000 there were club debuts for New Zealander Scott Leighton and replacement back-row forward Ian Moore. The Wizards were 17 – 0 up after 23 minutes thanks to tries by centre Ian Jones and Gareth King, with outside half Leighton converting both and kicking a penalty. The Drovers hit back on the half-hour mark when flanker Gareth Thomas went over for a try. In injury time at the end of the first half wing, Daran Griffiths scored the Wizards third try to make the score 22 – 5 to Aberavon at the interval.

Llandovery hit back again at the start of the second half when wing Tracy Lewis scored a try that was converted by outside half Peter Lloyd. However, Aberavon came back with a try by captain Mark Evans and then by flanker Chris Kinsey. Leighton added a conversion to make the score 34 – 12. Late in the game, number eight Richard Morris scored the Wizards sixth try with replacement James Taylor adding the extras to make the final score 41 – 12 to Aberavon.

The Wizards team that day was: Gareth King; Daran Griffiths, Ian Jones, Barry Maddocks, Paul Bamsey; Scott Leighton, Aled Thomas; Robert Price, Jason Hyatt, Colin Noon, Mark Evans (capt), Ian Strang, Chris Kinsey, Richard Morris, Howard Merrett. Replacements: James Taylor, Ian Moore, Matthew McCarthy, Lloyd Howell, Mickey Dixon, Mark Thomas.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Elgan Williams, aided by Jason Morris and Kath Pritchard.

Match Report: Carmarthen Quins 3 – 26 Aberavon

by Howard Evans

Another splendid performance gave Aberavon a fourth successive Cup victory and also upheld their lead in the West Section.

In truth, they ruled the game with Carmarthen being superbly held, particularly in the centre of the field.

It was a game that 18-years-old Dan Edwards will never forget as this was his debut in a fully competitive game and he landed all five of his attempts at goal.

However, I made acting skipper Will Price the outstanding player as his tackling in the centre along with Joe Thomas and his huge work rate was totally splendid.

Will has never been a glamour boy, but rarely has a poor game and much of his play can be easily missed from the grandstand.

Full-back Jonny Phillips was celebrating his 30th birthday and never put a foot (or hand) wrong, while another man who is in terrific form is tight-head prop Geraint James.

But, really it is wrong to pick a single player out and young Edwards will, I am sure, have learned much from the players around him. He never made a mistake and his goal-kicking was astonishing, even with cramp in the final minutes.

The Quins took the lead early on with a Josh Batcup penalty, but there was no doubting the Aberavon scrum and after a break by Ashton Evans, scrum-half Iwan Temblett scampered clear to the posts.

It was the ideal start for Edwards with the conversion in front for a 7-3 lead.

Halfway through the first session, the pack drove powerfully and a penalty try resulted.

Edwards then landed a huge straight goal to make it 17-3 at the break.

In the second half, Aberavon took complete control with hooker Luke Davies especially notable.

Despite two yellow cards, there was no way through the defence of the ‘Wizards’.

Edwards kicked three more splendid penalties as Aberavon did not reach top gear and it was a play-to-win game whereas twice in the first half the Quins had thrown away penalty chances.

Jason Hyatt was very pleased but warned opponents that his team are still looking to push the bar up higher.

He said: “We are setting a high standard, even though we made seven changes from the previous match.

“We played in good areas and this was about playing away and winning against a good side, which we did.”

Somebody suggested that the Quins had not played well, but I think both Jason and I would say that this was a game in which they were not allowed to play well.

It was a workmanlike performance even with several key players out with injury and competition for places is great as the team spirit is the heart of Aberavon team.

Score:
Carmarthen 3 – 26 Aberavon

Aberavon Team:
Jonathan Phillips (rep Joe Gage 66 min); Chris Banfield, Joe Thomas, Will Price (capt) (rep Chay Smith 60 min), Stef Andrews; Dan Edwards, Iwan Temblett (rep Rhodri Cole 60 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 68 min), Luke Davies (rep Ieuan Davies 70 min), Geraint James (rep Chris Davies 68 min), Shay Smallman, Sam Williams, Ashton Evans (rep Billy Moxey 80+4 min), Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans (rep Cameron Lewis 80+4 min).

Notes:
Dan Edwards appeared from the Ospreys; Billy Moxey appeared from Trebanos RFC.

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Iwan Temblett, Penalty Try
C – Dan Edwards
PG – Dan Edwards (4)

Carmarthen Scorers:
PG – Josh Batcup

Referee:
Aled Evans

Man Of The Match:
1 – Dan Edwards
2 – Andrew Waite
3 – Luke Davies

Time Line:
05 min: Carmarthen – PG – Josh Batcup (3 – 0)
06 min: Aberavon – T – Iwan Temblett & C – Dan Edwards (3 – 7)
19 min: Aberavon – T – Penalty Try (3 – 14)
19 min: Carmarthen – Yellow Card – Nicholas Cudd
32 min: Carmarthen – End Yellow Card – Nicholas Cudd
33 min: Aberavon – PG – Dan Edwards (3 – 17)
40+5 min: Half Time
52 min: Aberavon – PG – Dan Edwards (3 – 20)
59 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Sam Williams
64 min: Aberavon – PG – Dan Edwards (3 – 23)
72 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Andrew Waite
72 min: Aberavon – End Yellow Card – Sam Williams
80+4 min: Aberavon – PG – Dan Edwards (3 – 26)
80+5 min: Full Time

Team v Carmarthen Quins

The Aberavon team to face Carmarthen Quins at Carmarthen Park on Saturday at 2:30 pm is…

Aberavon Starting XV:
Jonathan Phillips; Chris Banfield, Joe Thomas, Will Price (capt), Stef Andrews; Dan Edwards, Iwan Temblett; Rowan Jenkins, Luke Davies, Geraint James, Shay Smallman, Sam Williams, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans.

Replacements:
Rhodri Cole, Joe Gage, Chay Smith, Ieuan Davies, Cameron Lewis, Billy Moxey, Rhys Fawcett, Chris Davies.

Preview: Carmarthen Quins v Aberavon

Aberavon (1st) take on Carmarthen Quins (3rd) in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup at Carmarthen Park this coming Saturday, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

The Quins have won two and lost one of their games this season. They started their campaign with a 38 – 15 win away to Bridgend, coming back from a 7 – 10 deficit at half time. The visitors scored six tries via scrum half Rhodri Davies (2), prop Kemsley Mathias, centre Nic Reynolds and replacements Torin Myhill and Josh Davies. Outside half Josh Batcup converted four of the tries.

In their first home game of the season, the Quins went down 10 – 21 to visiting Llandovery. Centre Eddie James scored a try whilst Batcup converted and added a penalty.

Last weekend, Carmarthen won 21 – 6 at Swansea. The sides were tied at 6 – 6 at the interval with the Quins points coming from the boot of Batcup. Scrum half Aron Hemmings scored a second half try along with them being awarded a penalty try whilst replacement Steffan Marshall kicked a late penalty.

Looking at the Premiership Cup, in “attack”, Carmarthen have scored 23.0 points on average per game (ranked 3rd) and 3.0 tries (ranked 3rd). In “defence” they have conceded 14.0 points on average per game (ranked 2nd) and 2.0 tries (ranked 3rd). Aberavon have scored 31.3 points per game (ranked 1st) and 4.7 tries (ranked 1st), and conceded 15.3 points (ranked 3rd) and 1.0 tries (ranked 1st).

Looking back to the 2003-04 season the Wizards won 27 – 18 at the ground. A superb pack and defensive performance helped the Wizards to that win as they took a 17 – 0 lead at half time. Wing Lenny Woodard scored the only try of the half while outside half Jamie Davies slotted over four penalty kicks. At the end of normal time the visitors led 27 – 11 with wing Sam Greenaway scoring a try for Aberavon and Davies converting and adding a fifth penalty. For the home side, centre Emyr Jones touched down while outside half Aled Thomas and replacement Giles Thomas kicked penalties. In injury time, the Quins scored a consolation try by flanker Alan Mason with Thomas converting.

The Wizards team that day was: Ricky Price; Lenny Woodard, Darren Ryan (rep Aled James), David Hawkins (blood rep Mark Davies), Sam Greenaway; Jamie Davies, Daniel Hawkins; Mike Harris (rep Greg Dix), James Jones, Paul Breeze (rep Mark Thomas), Dafydd Owen, Chris Gittins, Steffan Edwards (rep Jamie Summers), Jonathan Purnell (rep Richard Morris), Howard Merrett (rep Paul Breeze).

The referee for Saturday’s game is Aled Evans, aided by Rhys Jones and Brian Powell.

Match Report: Bridgend 15 – 24 Aberavon

by Howard Evans

Aberavon took the win and the try-bonus for the third successive Cup match and the try-count of 4-0 shows how well they played.

It wasn’t a day for pretty rugby, though the rain did stop at half-time, but Aberavon’s pack gave another splendid display as they set up a good platform and destroyed the Bridgend scrum.

It was a win gained despite losing forwards Lee Purnell, Lloyd Evans and Rhodri Hughes with injury in the first-half. However, the news was better after the game as the amazing Purnell believed he can shake it off; Hughes has damaged a finger that is hopefully not broken and Evans had a finger in his eye!

Even the necessity to play hooker Luke Davies on the flank for all the second half had little effect on the pack, who scrummed low and hard, totally wearing down the home pack.

Joe Gage also limped off in the second half, but the ‘Wizards’ squad is so good at the moment that the replacements all were more than adequate.

Head coach Jason Hyatt declared: “I am delighted. Three games, three wins and three bonuses. Great, a brilliant return to rugby by the squad.

“We gave just eight kicks against us, though Owen Howe kicked well and was successful with all of his five attempts. I must praise referee Aled Evans for the way he handled the game.

“In the past, we have not really been a wet weather side, but we adapted well today. Don’t forget we had not played for 18 months and even those who did not play today are all considered for selection and will get their chance.”

Unusually, fly-half Aled Thomas missed two early shots at goal before Ashton Evans replaced the injured Purnell. But, good play led to Aled throwing out to the unmarked left-wing Stefan Andrews who opened the scoring and Aled converted.

Sam Williams then replaced Lloyd Evans while Owen Howe replied with a penalty and then another as Aberavon led 7-6 at the break.

Rhodri Hughes did not come out for the second half with Ieuan Davies coming on and Luke Davies going on the flank.

Quick thinking by scrum-half Rhodri Cole brought another try that Aled goaled, but Howe kicked another penalty in reply.

Another Howe penalty pegged it to 12-14 before the pack shoved and Andy Waite touched down. Yet again Howe fired over a penalty, before Aberavon clinched it.

Aled kicked to the corner and Ieuan Davies was there to score on the drive.

Assistant coach Lyndon Lewis said: “Sometimes you win ugly, but we deserved it.”

In all it was probably more impressive than ugly. Now on to Carmarthen.

Score:
Bridgend 15 – 24 Aberavon

Aberavon Team:
Joe Gage (rep Frankie Jones 60 min); Chris Banfield, Chay Smith (rep Joe Thomas 68 min), Will Price (capt), Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas, Rhodri Cole (rep Iwan Temblett 60 min); Rhys Fawcett (rep Rowan Jenkins 53 min), Luke Davies, Geraint James (rep Nicky Thomas 62 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes (rep Ieuan Davies half-time), Lee Purnell (rep Ashton Evans 21 min), Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans (rep Sam Williams 25 min).

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Stef Andrews, Rhodri Cole, Andrew Waite, Ieuan Davies
C – Aled Thomas (2)

Bridgend Scorers:
PG – Owen Howe (5)

Referee:
Aled Evans

Man Of The Match:
1 – Andrew Waite
2 – Rhodri Cole
3 – Joe Gage

Time Line:
13 min: Bridgend – Yellow Card – Iestyn Merriman
24 min: Aberavon – T – Stef Andrews & C – Aled Thomas (0 – 7)
24 min: Bridgend – Yellow Card – Jamie Murphy
27 min: Bridgend – PG – Owen Howe (3 – 7)
34 min: Bridgend – PG – Owen Howe (6 – 7)
40+1 min: Half Time
44 min: Aberavon – T – Rhodri Cole & C – Aled Thomas (6 – 14)
48 min: Bridgend – PG – Owen Howe (9 – 14)
57 min: Bridgend – PG – Owen Howe (12 – 14)
66 min: Aberavon – T – Andrew Waite (12 – 19)
69 min: Bridgend – PG – Owen Howe (15 – 19)
71 min: Aberavon – T – Ieuan Davies (15 – 24)
80 min: Full Time