Match Report: Aberavon 17 – Merthyr 16

by Howard Evans

Aberavon are through to the semi-final stage of the Premiership Cup after an amazing finish to their home quarter-final against Merthyr.

With Merthyr winning 16-10 time was up, but Aberavon were still hammering away at the line and the match just went on and on.

On several occasions it seemed that a penalty try would not be given, but with somewhere near 86 minutes played, eventually one such score WAS given, though with a combination of the rain, the jumping and dancing of players and supporters and a large pillar that was helping hold the grandstand up, it was difficult to know what caused the decision in the end.

The referee Aled Evans stated that it was “illegal wheeling of the scrum after Aberavon were driving forward”. So, one must applaud the replacement prop forwards Rhys Fawcett and Chris Davies for their magnificent efforts.

We often mention Rowan Jenkins and Geraint James, but Rhys, Chris, and also the powerful Jordan Walters and Nicky Thomas (both watching from the grandstand) are six very strong and good scrummagers.

There is no doubt that hookers Ieuan Davies and Luke Davies are a huge help as are the five men in the second and back rows. And one must also give full credit to Marc Breeze, who is the coach.

It was a game that had looked almost certain to be drifting away from the ‘Wizards’ with Gareth Thompson at fly half playing superbly for Merthyr, but somehow Aberavon gained the win.

Due to the conditions, few players stood out, partly because one has to be in the middle of the scrum to know and understand the push, drive and knowledge of the men in it.

To me, the biggest thing that will remain in my mind was that even when Merthyr drove them back, the home players never gave up hope of pulling off a minor miracle.

Merthyr were lively behind the scrum, but full back Ben Jones had to be helped off and will be a huge loss, while it was good to see Aled Thomas back in action for Aberavon and young Zac Fifield, a teenager from Cardiff, was given his first taste of senior rugby, just as his father Ian used to play.

Chris Banfield did well in the backs despite the ball being hard to handle, while skipper Joe Tomalin-Reeves eased his way back to match fitness and Shay Smallman continues to improve.

Thompson, Banfield and Thompson again, all kicked penalties before Andrew Waite touched down another big Aberavon scrum drive. Banfield converted for 10-6, but Thompson struck again for 10-9 at the interval.

The lively former Bargoed wing Ashley Norton snapped up an early second-half try that Thompson superbly converted and then Merthyr tackled their hearts out.

Both Thomas and Fifield came on and passed with great width and speed, but Merthyr twice leapt high believing the game was over, only for the front row of Rhys, Ieuan and Chris to dig in and deliver the goods.

Cardiff, Newport and Aberavon are now in the semi-finals with Llandovery or Pontypridd yet to come, while it appears likely that the league match at RGC will be off in favour of the cup.

Score:
Aberavon 17 – 16 Merthyr

Aberavon Team:
Joe Gage (rep Jonathan Phillips 72 min); Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Will Price (rep Aled Thomas 58 min), Stef Andrews; Joe Thomas, Rhodri Cole (rep Zac Fifield 76 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 55 min), Luke Davies (rep Ieuan Davies 70 min), Geraint James (rep Chris Davies 70 min), Shay Smallman (rep Rhodri Hughes 68 min), Sam Williams, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (capt) (rep Lloyd Evans 50 min).

Notes:
Zac Fifield appeared from Glamorgan Wanderers RFC and made his debut for the club.

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Andrew Waite, Penalty Try
C – Chris Banfield
PG – Chris Banfield

Merthyr Scorers:
T – Ashley Norton
C – Gareth Thompson
PG – Gareth Thompson (3)

Referee:
Aled Evans

Man Of The Match:
1 – Rhodri Cole
2 – Geraint James
3 – Sam Williams

Time Line:
11 min: Merthyr – PG – Gareth Thompson (0 – 3)
14 min: Aberavon – PG – Chris Banfield (3 – 3)
17 min: Merthyr – PG – Gareth Thompson (3 – 6)
28 min: Aberavon – T – Andrew Waite & C – Chris Banfield (10 – 6)
38 min: Merthyr – PG – Gareth Thompson (10 – 9)
40 min: Half Time
41 min: Merthyr – T – Ashley Norton & C – Gareth Thompson (10 – 16)
74 min: Merthyr – Yellow Card – Sam Jones
80+6 min: Aberavon – T – Penalty Try (17 – 16)
80+6 min: Full Time

Jac Morgan Getting Capped

Everyone involved at Aberavon RFC will be delighted with yesterday’s announcement that Jac Morgan will win his first Wales cap at home to Scotland tomorrow in the Principality Stadium.

When Jason Hyatt signed him first he made an immediate impact both on and off the field, very popular within the dressing room he quickly settled in and grew in stature with every game.

In the period he was with us he played 22 games before re-signing for the Scarlets who amazingly had released him just before Jason signed him for the Wizards.

So there’s the evidence that the Premiership can be a proving ground and one that can and does continue to help with player pathway, Jac’s time with us was vital in his personal development and we are very proud to have played a small part in that journey.

On a personal note I am absolutely delighted for Jac and his family who have been hugely supportive of him in his career to date, it’s a great story and I have little doubt that Jac will give his all for the red shirt tomorrow, he will certainly make us all at Aberavon very proud –  I’m sure all of Brynamman will feel the same way as well.

Good Luck Jac, you fully deserve this opportunity and everyone at Aberavon will be right behind you tomorrow.

Andrew

Jeffries Joins the Wolfpack

Saracens is pleased to welcome Alex Jeffries to the club on a short-term loan from the Scarlets

The tighthead prop will provide cover in the front-row with both Marco Riccioni and Alec Clarey currently recovering from injuries. 

Aberavon are extremely pleased to see Alex getting an opportunity across the bridge with a formidable European giant in Saracens. The tight-head played 32 games for ‘the Wizards’ scoring 6 tries.

The 26-year-old, who joined the Scarlets from the Ospreys in 2019 has played for Wales at Under 18 and Under 20 level, and will now compete with the likes of Vincent Koch and Sam Wainwright for the number three shirt in North London. 

Jeffries is excited to be heading to StoneX Stadium.

“I’m really looking forward to joining the club, It’s a great opportunity for me and I can’t wait to get started!”

Pritchard Leaves with Immediate Effect

We are sorry to announce that David Pritchard has left Aberavon with immediate effect. Pritch played 262 games for the club over 14 seasons and was a very popular player both with supporters and his team mates. For a number of seasons in his time with us he was without doubt the best scrum half in the Premiership.

His recent struggles with fitness and Covid (which he contracted last year) allied with increasing commitments with work and his young family have culminated in this decision.

It goes without saying that everyone at the Wizards will be sorry to see him leave after such long service at one club.

Thank you sincerely for the 14 seasons Pritch, best wishes to you and your family going forward.

Andrew

Breeze Attached with Wales U18 Women

Aberavon Forwards coach has been named as the attached forwards coach of Wales U18 Womens.

Former Wales international and Coleg y Cymoedd academy coach and lecturer Catrina Nicholas-McLaughlin and Gloucester-Hartpury backs coach Oli Wilson will head up the defence and attack roles, with Wales Women captain Siwan Lillicrap providing skills coaching. Josh Payne, who is Worcester Warriors Women’s General Manager will take on the team manager role for Wales Women U18s and former Cardiff, Ospreys and Aberavon hooker Marc Breeze will join the set-up as attached forwards coach.

Burgess said, “I’m incredibly excited about this coaching team. They have a wealth of experience and coaching knowledge between them, along with playing at international level in terms of Cat and Siwan.

“I played alongside Cat and coached alongside her at Crawshay’s. She is a Level 4 coach and has a huge amount of experience in the male and female game.

“Oli Wilson is an experienced backs coach at Gloucester-Hartpury in the Allianz Premier 15s and he specifically works with this age group as head of academy at Hartpury so he brings great knowledge and background in performance rugby.”

“We are delighted to have Siwan on board. As captain of Wales, she will be a fantastic role model for our players. She has been head coach at Swansea University and will be delivering skills to our players around her playing and training commitments, while Marc Breeze will bring his vast playing and coaching experience to the group too.

WRU Performance Director Nigel Walker said, “The establishment of an U18 Women’s team is an exciting development which comes on the back of the issuing of full-time and retainer contracts to our senior players. While more work remains to be done, the performance pathway in women’s rugby is beginning to take shape. I look forward to seeing our age grade players taking the opportunities presented to them to fulfil their potential and to represent Wales on the international stage.”

The coaching team will select a Wales Women U18 squad following the remaining two rounds of regional matches (Sunday at Merthyr RFC and Sunday 20 February at Cardiff Arms Park). A Wales Women U18 squad is then expected to compete against other Six Nations teams in the spring, details to be confirmed.

Liza Burgess added, “Seeing the regional under 18 teams competing against each other on Sunday was brilliant.

“The skills centres before Christmas set the store for the girls, and the regional programmes have been operational since January with a programme covering all elements of being an elite athlete. The support from regions has been phenomenal and we’re seeing the results of the hard work now in the competition stage. The physicality, skills sets and commitment has been excellent from players, coaches and support for the players and teams. Selection will be difficult as it always is! It’s been a tough couple of years for everyone during the pandemic so to see this level of dedication now and the results of it is brilliant. It’s an exciting time to be part of women’s rugby in Wales.”

“The skills centres before Christmas set the store for the girls, and the regional programmes have been operational since January with a programme covering all elements of being an elite athlete. The support from regions has been phenomenal and we’re seeing the results of the hard work now in the competition stage. The physicality, skills sets and commitment has been excellent from players, coaches and support for the players and teams. Selection will be difficult as it always is! It’s been a tough couple of years for everyone during the pandemic so to see this level of dedication now and the results of it is brilliant. It’s an exciting time to be part of women’s rugby in Wales.”

The Dragons, Ospreys, Scarlets, Cardiff and RGC U18 women’s teams will play each other in a series of 20 minute matches on Sunday at Merthyr RFC (11 – 4.30) and again on Sunday 20 February at Cardiff Arms Park.

Edwards for Wales 20s

Dan Edwards is the latest ‘Wizard’ to receive international honours as he starts at outside half for Wales U20s against Ireland U20s in the opening game of the U20s 2022 Six Nations.

Ireland U20s V Wales U20s, Friday 4 February, 8pm KO – available to watch on S4C and BBC iPlayer.

The Cwmafan product is currently an Ospreys Academy player, however, this season Edwards made his Aberavon debut and has made eight appearances with a man of the match performance against Carmarthen Quins away.

Edwards is the latest product of the Port Talbot rugby community as the town continues to provide opportunity for children and young men to play rugby.

Aberavon Rugby club contribute to that opportunity by providing the Tata Steel Wizards League for Primary Schools and the Bouygues UK Wizards League for Secondary Schools within the area. Additionally, the Aberavon Schoolboys programme for U11s and U15s provide a natural progression within the sport. A programme where Dan played his rugby.

There are also a number of people that work tirelessly to ensure rugby within the town is thriving and one person in particular deserves a lot of credit.

Michael Dyer currently runs the Aberavon Schoolboys U11 and U15 programme. He works for theWelsh Rugby Union as a Hub Officer in Ysgol Cwm Bromil. Mike has seen many local players grow within the community and excel within their environment.

In the last four seasons there has been a number of players that hail from Port Talbot and have played for Aberavon Schoolboys, Wales U20s and now Aberavon Rugby Club; Jordan Walters (Cwmafan) 37 appearances, Rhys Henry (Cwmafan) 22 appearances, Frankie Jones (Cwmafan) 42 appearances and Rhys Thomas (Taibach) 2 appearances.

Mike Dyer is an extremely proud man.

“It has been a pleasure watching the five boys over the years for their mini and junior clubs and schools. Aberavon Schools have been lucky enough to have four out of five represent us playing wise with Dan playing U15s rugby for Swansea Valley”.

It is the opportunity and legacy that Mike speaks of which is truly where the heart is.

“It is great to see local youngsters have the opportunity to showcase their talents on an International stage.

Hopefully, it can help inspire youngsters in our town”, added Mike Dyer.

In recent years there have been another of players who have represented Aberavon and moved on to play for Wales and the British and Irish Lions, notably Justin Tipuric and Adam Beard. There have been others including James King and Ashley Beck, and of course, most recently Jac Morgan who was named in the Wales’ 2022 Six Nations squad.

Return to Play

‘The Wizards’ will return to the field on Saturday 29 January, away to Pontypridd. The fixtures will therefore then continue as per fixture list. We have rearranged our outstanding fixtures, as follows:

The Indigo Group Premiership Cup Quarter-Final against Merthyr has been rearranged to Sunday 13 February, 1430KO. The Merthyr and Aberavon Indigo Premiership League game has been confirmed as 23rd April, 1430KO.

Llandovery v Aberavon will now be played on Saturday 9 April, 1430KO.

We have rearranged our away fixture to Bridgend and this will be played on Good Friday, April 15th.

Wizards for Wales

Jac Morgan, James Ratti and Adam Beard make 2022 Six Nations Squad

Three uncapped players feature, with Ospreys duo Dewi Lake (hooker) and Jac Morgan (back row) receiving call ups alongside Cardiff Rugby’s James Ratti (back row).

Another five players could be in line to make their first Six Nations appearance, including Bradley Roberts and Christ Tshiunza who made their international debut in the 2021 Autumn Nations Series.

Dan Biggar will captain the squad for the 2022 Guinness Six Nations in the absence of the injured Alun Wyn Jones, with Adam Beard named as vice-captain.

Ross Moriarty and Alex Cuthbert could win their 50th caps during the campaign, Jonathan Davies could reach the milestone of 100 Test appearances overall and Dan Biggar would be in line for his 100th Wales cap if he features in all five matches.

Wales head coach Wayne Pivac said: “We are excited to get back together as a squad when we meet up on Monday.

“The Guinness Six Nations is a very special competition and we want to go out and win, like every other nation. This is tournament rugby, so it’s about working hard in training and preparing well each week.

“Last year the Six Nations offered fans an exciting brand of rugby with lots of tries and, while we know we have five tough matches ahead and the margins in Test rugby are fine, we are looking forward to the challenge.

“With the world cup on the horizon next year, every match will be important for development on the road to France.

On the captain Pivac said: “In terms of captaincy we’ve named Dan Biggar. With the experience missing with some players out injured, we wanted someone who had experienced the competition on a number of occasions and knows the rigours of it. He gives us that – he has 95 Wales caps and he’s toured with the British and Irish Lions.

“Dan has the respect of the other players and management so we think he’ll do a great job.”

Following last week’s confirmation that spectators can return to watch Wales in Cardiff Pivac added: “It’s fantastic news that we will continue to have crowds at Principality Stadium.

“We have the most incredible fans and the atmosphere they create is second to none. I know the players cannot wait to get back out and put in a performance for them.”

The squad will meet up at the national training base in Hensol on Monday 24 January ahead of its first game against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium, Dublin on Saturday 5 February (KO 2.15pm).

Jac Morgan – 22 appearances for Aberavon

James Ratti – 21 appearances for Aberavon

Adam Beard – 20 appearances for Aberavon

Port Talbot Lights Thank You

There we have it. Another year of Aberavon Rugby Football Club facilitating the Port Talbot Christmas Trees’ and Christmas Lights’.

We would like to thank the following for their assistance in removing both the trees and the lights from the town centre.

Miles Hire Ltd for the loan of the platform

CJ Construction Ltd for Richard Morris’s assistance

Pump Supplies Ltd for the hiab lorry and labour.

Rowan and Brandon for helping out.

Doctor Edward Roberts MBE

Aberavon RFC are delighted to learn that Doctor Edward Roberts has been awarded an MBE in the New Years Honours list.

As our long serving Club President we are so pleased that he has been recognised for his services to medicine and the local community.

Many Congratulations from everyone at The Wizards.