Team v Ebbw Vale

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

Aberavon Starting XV:
Chris Banfield (capt); Cori Lewis-Jenkins, Chay Smith, Joe Gage, Frankie Jones; Aled Thomas, Iwan Temblett; Rhys Fawcett, Luke Davies, Chris Davies, Sam Pailor, Rhodri Hughes, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Ben Williams.

Rhodri Cole, Stef Andrews, Will Price, Cameron Lewis, Lloyd Evans, Shay Smallman, Rowan Jenkins, Geraint James.

Preview: Aberavon v Ebbw Vale

Aberavon welcome Ebbw Vale to the Talbot Athletic Ground this Saturday in the Indigo Group Premiership, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

In the Premiership this season, the Steelmen have won three from seven games. They won one of their opening five games with them beating Llanelli but losing to Merthyr, Cardiff, Newport (losing bonus point) and RGC 1404. Since then, the Gwent side have won their last two games – both at home – with them seeing off both Swansea and Llandovery.

In the Premiership Cup, Ebbw Vale won two of their ten pool games with them beating Merthyr away and Pontypridd home at the start of the campaign before losing the next eight games.

Looking at the Premiership, in “attack”, Ebbw Vale have scored 16.7 points on average per game (ranked 10th) and 2.0 tries (ranked 11th). In “defence” they have conceded 25.3 points on average per game (ranked 10th) and 3.7 tries (ranked 10th). Aberavon have scored 29.0 points per game (ranked 4th) and 4.0 tries (ranked 4th), and conceded 19.8 points (ranked 2nd) and 2.2 tries (ranked 2nd).

Head-to-head, Aberavon and Ebbw Vale have met each other 34 times in the Welsh National League, with the Wizards narrowly leading the series 17 – 16 with 1 game drawn. At the Talbot Athletic Ground, the Wizards lead 12 – 4 with 1 game drawn with them winning the last time the sides met at the ground (26 – 11 in 2019-20).

Looking back to when the sides met at the ground during the 2006-7 season, the Wizards outscored the then league leaders 5 – 3 on try count to run out 39 – 19 winners. However, there was never a 20-point difference between the two sides, though Aberavon were more than willing to play running rugby and Scarlets under-20 centre Richard Thomas was outstanding with a two-try contribution. Both packs had their moments with Richard Morris searching for a club record-breaking 126th try and Ian Moore and Darryl Thomas supporting to the hilt, yet the Ebbw Vale back-row of John Bowd, Hywel Jenkins and skipper Craig Cleaver never yielded. Darren Ryan, Jamie Davies and Liam Gadd also scored tries for the Wizards while Davies kicked 14 points with the boot. For the Steelmen, tries were scored by Simon Hunt, Rhodri Dicks and Andrew Bevan, whilst David Langdon converted two tries.

The Wizards team that day was: Liam Gadd; Richard Carter, Richard Thomas (rep Paul Bamsey), Darren Ryan, James Pike; Jamie Davies, Daniel Hawkins; Mike Harris, Chris Wells, James Jones (rep Lloyd Howell), Paul Morgan (rep Andrew Fisher), Chris Gittins (capt), Ian Moore, Richard Morris, Darryl Thomas (rep Simon Peters).

The referee for Saturday’s game is Ben Whitehouse, aided by Jason Griffiths and Karim Cosslett.

Match Report: Llandovery 23 – 24 Aberavon

by Paul Williams

A remarkable fact about this match is that Aberavon’s victory ultimately came from the only touch of the ball by a player who came on as a late replacement. It was a match that saw first one team then another gain ascendancy, before play swung one way then the other during a frenetic final few minutes.

After a scoreless opening quarter, the Wizards quite suddenly seized the initiative from a defensive scrum in the shadow of their own goalposts, opting to run the ball out of defence. A long pass from Aled Thomas found Jonathan Phillips on the far left, and the full-back’s acceleration took him clear of the first-up defence. A short pass out to Stef Andrews saw the winger kick ahead into the Llandovery 22, and while the Drovers’ defence desperately chased back to cover the danger, Aberavon centre Joe Thomas had too much pace, superbly judging the bounce of the ball and regathering to crash over in the left-hand corner for namesake Aled to add the conversion with a well-judged kick.

Almost immediately the Wizards were back on the attack, but a second try was prevented, albeit illegally, by Llandovery fly-half Kristian Jones whose deliberate knock on earned a ten-minute spell in the sinbin. In truth there was a strong case for a penalty try as Jones’ intervention prevented the ball from reaching Phillips with a clear run to the line. The match officials, however, thought otherwise and the result was Aled Thomas kicking for touch, the Aberavon forwards driving on and Llandovery being penalised as the maul was brought to ground. The Wizards opted for the scrum and, having already gained the upper hand in that particular phase of play, drove the set-piece relentlessly on until the Drovers infringed under pressure and the penalty try was at last awarded.

With the Drovers still reeling from that quick one-two, the Wizards then went on to add to their tally when centre Will Price went off on a diagonal run that took him clean through to posts without a hand being laid on him, with Aled Thomas adding the extras to give his side a 21-point lead.

Llandovery were far from done, however. Adopting a more attritional approach that seemed to rattle the Wizards, they clawed their way back into contention as the interval approached with tries from scrum-half Lee Rees and centre Tomi Lewis, with Lewis also converting Rees’ effort.

Late in the third quarter Jones got the scoreboard ticking again with a penalty goal to reduce the arrears to six points, and two minutes later Rees was again in for an unconverted try. Jones then took his team ahead by a single point with a further penalty before further drama saw Aberavon awarded a penalty some 45 metres out and fifteen metres from the left-hand touchline. With Aled Thomas sizing up a shot at goal, it transpired that the Wizards had already alerted the officials that they wished to send on Dan Edwards to replace Thomas, and so it was the Cwmafan teenager who found himself facing the prospect of attempting the long-range attempt on goal. Apparently unfazed, however, the youngster judged the wind to perfection and the ball sailed between the uprights to put the Wizards back ahead, albeit by a single point.

It was to be Edwards’ one and only touch of the ball, but what a crucial touch it was. As the Drovers redoubled their efforts to get the result, they managed to battle their way back downfield and into Aberavon territory, but a penalty award close to the right-hand touchline was too much for Jones, who sent his attempt on goal across the face of the posts and into the welcoming arms of Chris Banfield, who gleefully ran the ball out of play to bring this most tense of matches to a close.

Llandovery 23 – 24 Aberavon

Aberavon Team:
Jonathan Phillips (rep Joe Gage 58 min); Chris Banfield, Joe Thomas, Will Price, Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas (rep Dan Edwards 70 min), Rhodri Cole (rep Iwan Temblett 50 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 50 min), Ieuan Davies (rep Luke Davies 60 min), Geraint James (rep Chris Davies 64 min), Shay Smallman (rep Sam Pailor 60 min), Sam Williams, Lee Purnell, Ashton Evans, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (capt) (rep Lloyd Evans 16 min).

Dan Edwards appeared from the Ospreys, Sam Pailor appeared from Trebanos RFC.

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Joe Thomas, Penalty Try, Will Price
C – Aled Thomas (2)
PG – Dan Edwards

Llandovery Scorers:
T – Lee Rees (2), Tomi Lewis
C – Tomi Lewis
PG – Kristian Jones (2)

Rhys Jones

Man Of The Match:
1 – Dan Edwards
2 – Lee Purnell
3 – Will Price

Time Line:
19 min: Aberavon – T – Joe Thomas & C – Aled Thomas (0 – 7)
26 min: Llandovery – Yellow Card – Kristian Jones
30 min: Aberavon – T – Penalty Try (0 – 14)
33 min: Aberavon – T – Will Price & C – Aled Thomas (0 – 21)
37 min: Llandovery – T – Lee Rees & C – Tomi Lewis (7 – 21)
40+1 min: Llandovery – T – Tomi Lewis (12 – 21)
40+6 min: Half Time
54 min: Llandovery – PG – Kristian Jones (15 – 21)
56 min: Llandovery – T – Lee Rees (20 – 21)
68 min: Llandovery – PG – Kristian Jones (23 – 21)
71 min: Aberavon – PG – Dan Edwards (23 – 24)
80+9 min: Full Time

Team v Llandovery

The Aberavon team to face Llandovery at Merthyr’s The Wern ground (Cup Semi-Final) on Saturday at 2:30 pm is…

Aberavon Starting XV:
Jonathan Phillips; Chris Banfield, Joe Thomas, Will Price, Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas, Rhodri Cole; Rowan Jenkins, Ieuan Davies, Geraint James, Shay Smallman, Sam Williams, Lee Purnell, Ashton Evans, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (capt).

Iwan Temblett, Joe Gage, Dan Edwards, Luke Davies, Lloyd Evans, Sam Pailor, Rhys Fawcett, Chris Davies.

Preview: Aberavon v Llandovery

Aberavon take on Llandovery at Merthyr’s The Wern ground this Saturday in the semi-final stage of the Indigo Group Premiership Cup, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

The Drovers finished the pool stage of the competition in top spot of the West division after winning nine of their ten games. They did the double over Aberavon, Carmarthen Quins, Swansea and Llanelli and beat Bridgend away but lost 19 – 25 at home to the Ravens back in October. Earlier this month they beat Pontypridd 12 – 3 at Church Bank in the quarter-final stage to set up Saturday’s semi-final clash with Aberavon.

In the other semi-final this weekend, Cardiff will face Newport at Pontypridd’s Sardis Road.

In the Indigo Group Premiership, the Drovers have won three from six games. They have beaten RGC 1404 (bonus point win), Merthyr (bonus point win) and Swansea, but have lost to Newport, Pontypridd and, last weekend, Ebbw Vale.

Back in the 2010-11 season, the Wizards met Llandovery in the semi-finals of the Swalec Cup at Carmarthen Park with Aberavon winning 18 – 12 by somehow holding off huge Llandovery attacks, especially in the final quarter of the game. Aberavon led 15 – 7 at the break thanks to tries by Nathan Strong and Chris Lewis, with Matthew Jarvis converting both and kicking a penalty. For the Drovers, Dan Evans scored a first half try for them with Howard Thomas adding the extras. In the second half, Jarvis kicked another penalty whilst Llandovery scored a second try when Lee Rees touched down with twenty minutes still left on the clock. It proved the final score but there was great effort by the Drovers attackers and Wizard defenders, with Aberavon’s defensive wall holding out for the win to send the Wizards to their third Welsh Cup final and their first for 36 years.

The Aberavon team that day was: Matthew Jarvis; Richard Carter, Will Price, Liam Gadd, Chris Lewis (rep Ricky Thomas); Jamie Davies, Dan Davies (rep David Pritchard); Neil White (rep Lloyd Howell), Marc Breeze, Anthony Edwards (rep James Jones), Sam Williams, Ian Moore, Aaron Bray (rep James King), Nathan Strong, Chris Davies (capt).

The referee for Saturday’s game is Rhys Jones, aided by Jason Bessant and Dai Cambourne.

Match Report: Aberavon 45 – 14 Llanelli

by Howard Evans

Aberavon outscored Llanelli by 7-2 on tries to win an entertaining match at the Talbot Athletic Ground.

The visitors tried hard, but though they had pace in the backs, Aberavon matched them in the running game and had too much experience all around.

With several changes from last week’s win over Carmarthen, Aberavon were trying out several new combinations.

Joe Gage played splendidly in the centre as did Iwan Temblett at scrum-half in his first start since a bad shoulder injury and Jordan Walters was strong at loose-head prop.

With Johnny Phillips again outstanding at full-back, there were players all over the park putting their hands up for a place in the cup semi-final side.

In the pack, they all went well and Lee Purnell once again played like an enthusiastic teenager.

Even the replacements all gave their best with young Zac Fifield showing great maturity as scrum-half and wing Aled Rees romping over for his try.

Temblett was particularly effective and he totally outplayed Wales under-20 cap Harri Williams at the base of the scrum.

After only three minutes Temblett broke splendidly and the alert Stef Andrews finished off a clever move.

Andrews soon gained another try after brilliant play by Gage and just beat Purnell to the touchdown that Aled Thomas converted.

However, Llanelli hit back with a high-speed try touched down by winger Amir Jiwa-Walji that fly-half Ioan Hughes converted.

The home forwards then took a hand and hooker Ieuan Davies gained the touchdown and then Gage sent Temblett over (though many thought it was Joe Thomas) for a 24-7 half-time lead.

Aberavon started to ring the changes as all the replacements got a much-needed runout.

Davies scored his second try and fourth in the league after a forward rumble and Aled converted, though Jira-Walji replied for Llanelli with his second and the lively Hughes again converted.

But, Aberavon finished far stronger and a great team effort went to the left, then back across to the right and was finished off in style by Frankie Jones with Thomas kicking a superb conversion.

There was still time for the seventh try that saw replacement wing Aled Rees racing clear and Aled added his fifth successful conversion.

Aberavon 45 – 14 Llanelli

Aberavon Team:
Jonathan Phillips (rep Aled Rees 58 min); Frankie Jones, Joe Thomas (rep Chay Smith half-time), Joe Gage, Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas, Iwan Temblett (rep Zac Fifield 55 min); Jordan Walters (rep Rowan Jenkins half-time), Ieuan Davies (rep Cameron Lewis 58 min), Chris Davies (rep Geraint James 47 min), Shay Smallman, Sam Williams (rep Sam Pailor 55 min), Lee Purnell, Ashton Evans (rep Andrew Waite 57 min), Joe Tomalin-Reeves (capt).

Zac Fifield appeared from Glamorgan Wanderers RFC; Sam Pailor appeared from Trebanos RFC.

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Stef Andrews (2), Ieuan Davies (2), Iwan Temblett, Frankie Jones, Aled Rees
C – Aled Thomas (5)

Llanelli Scorers:
T – Amir Jiwa-Walji (2)
C – Ioan Hughes (2)

Rhys Jones

Man Of The Match:
1 – Joe Gage
2 – Ieuan Davies
3 – Stef Andrews

Time Line:
03 min: Aberavon – T – Stef Andrews (5 – 0)
11 min: Aberavon – T – Stef Andrews & C – Aled Thomas (12 – 0)
13 min: Llanelli – T – Amir Jiwa-Walji & C – Ioan Hughes (12 – 7)
30 min: Aberavon – T – Ieuan Davies (17 – 7)
35 min: Aberavon – T – Iwan Temblett & C – Aled Thomas (24 – 7)
40+1 min: Half Time
54 min: Aberavon – T – Ieuan Davies & C – Aled Thomas (31 – 7)
68 min: Llanelli – T – Amir Jiwa-Walji & C – Ioan Hughes (31 – 14)
73 min: Aberavon – T – Frankie Jones & C – Aled Thomas (38 – 14)
80 min: Aberavon – T – Aled Rees & C – Aled Thomas (45 – 14)
80+6 min: Full Time

Paul Williams (Llanelli Programme Notes)

Divided Loyalty

Six nations, four ‘regions’, twelve clubs… it’s a busy time for your average Welsh rugby club supporter with competing demands for attention from the numerous ongoing competitions.

Of course the fortunes of Wales tend to take centre-stage at this time of the year, although I’m not too sure that the assertions expressed in past years that the results achieved by the Welsh team has a major bearing on the country’s overall mood – Friday evening’s match against France, albeit resulting in defeat for the men in red, has been hailed by just about everyone I’ve spoken to as a great game. This, perhaps, is down to our collective talent for expecting the worst… a dogged, if somewhat limited, performance that prevented the high-flying French from recording the expected resounding victory, leaving we Welsh with an odd combination of relief and optimism, with tomorrow’s attention now being focused on the sideshow of Wales v Italy along with the French bid for their first Grand Slam in a dozen years, during which many, if not all, of us will exercise our talent for supporting “whoever’s playing England”.

Far, far closer to home is the club scene, so important to those of us for whom following local rugby forms a huge part of our lives – something that I often feel has never been understood by the powers that be. Here at the Talbot Athletic Ground this strange somewhat stop-start season got back on track last weekend with a solid victory over Carmarthen Quins – a team who have tended to cause us quite a few problems in seasons past, so to record a third win of the season at their expense was something of a rarity.

In between these two, of course, is the European/South African professional tournament – the United Rugby Championship. Despite the extensive television coverage of this, it does tend to sometimes get overlooked in our household, not least due to some strange kick-off times that clash with daily life.

The net result of all this is, for me, the reinforcement of a long-held sense of priority that has Aberavon RFC firmly at the top of my list of rugby-related activities. Personal involvement at the Talbot Athletic Ground plays a big part in this, of course, as does a lifelong commitment to supporting a club with which I also have ancestral family connections, that the ‘family’ atmosphere that pervades the club and has down the years fostered so many close friendships with like-minded people.

Talking of strange kick-off times (and please forgive the sudden return to discussing an aspect of the Six Nations), but I have yet to speak to anyone who supports the concept of Friday night internationals. Hopefully the powers that be will take the broad hint provided by thousands of unsold seats at the Wales v France encounter. With the limitations of the transport infrastructure, it’s difficult for working people to get into Cardiff, even more difficult to get back out again, it’s not in the least bit family-friendly – parents don’t want to be taking their children to such an event when the prospects of getting home at a child-friendly time are nil.

So to this evening, and if the kick-off time is somewhat at odds with much of the content of this article (well done for managing to read this far down, by the way!), we must remember that it’s the Welsh climate that must shoulder the blame, having put paid to the originally scheduled Saturday afternoon slot with a night and morning of torrential rain.

Enjoy the game.

Howard Evans (Llanelli Programme Notes)

We look forward tonight to welcoming the Llanelli rugby squad (The real Scarlets) and also their splendid ‘young’ coach Paul Fisher and the ‘aged’ Anthony Buchanan.

One thing about any side that Paul coaches is that you know they will always attempt to play good rugby and that is becoming a rarity in club matches these days.

My first visit to Stradey Park was in 1948 when taken by my father to watch Cardiff beat Llanelly (it was spelt that way) on a night with no floodlights.

That was before Gareth Jenkins, ‘Buks’ and Paul were born, but also before floodlights were used. And it gets dark early in West Wales!

I had never been there before and my next visit was the day they beat The All Blacks. However, I had met Carwyn James twice before then – in the back of East Wales grandstands.

I also met Ossie Williams, a great Wales/Llanelli forward, and he was amused when I said he was a dirty player for hitting Bleddyn Williams. He smiled at me and said: “Ah, it’s only way to stop the bugger, but I take care of him for Wales.”

They know their rugby in Llanelli and produce a heck of a lot more top-class players than Cardiff do. Now, the likes ex-Scarlets Jason Hyatt, Rowan Jenkins, Rhys Fawcett and Aled Thomas will be looking to put one over them. It makes for a good game.

Action Replay (Llanelli Programme Notes)

Aberavon 23-5 Carmarthen Quins
Indigo Group Premiership, Saturday, 12th March 2022
by Paul Williams

The Wizards completed an unique treble for the season over Carmarthen Quins, having produced their best away performance of the season in the picturesque surroundings of Carmarthen Park on a fine autumnal October afternoon, secured a much narrower win here at Aberavon on a gloomy November Friday evening, and then making far better use of the blustery conditions here at the Talbot Athletic Ground last weekend.

The Quins’ had selected an experienced and bulky pack to counter the Wizards’ scrummaging strength that had previously caused them so many problems, but while this made for a more solid set-piece, they found the constant ball carrying of the Aberavon forwards difficult to contain, with Lee Purnell, Ashton Evans, Rhys Fawcett and Chris Davies leading the way.

A strong gusting wind blowing diagonally across the field made things difficult for both teams, but with Rhodri Cole constantly at the heels of his pack to whip away the ball, his half-back partner Aled Thomas, a former Carmarthen player, provided a master-class in using the conditions, apparently operating in an oasis of calm control amid the committed physical encounter taking place around and about him. Meanwhile, the Quins’ efforts to break out of their own territory were regularly thwarted by wing Chris Banfield and full-back Jon Phillips, with the former’s usual tactic of running the ball back into traffic at top speed and the latter’s inch-perfect kicking game keeping the home side on top territorially.

The Wizards opened the scoring when Banfield’s fellow wing Frankie Jones showed great anticipation to intercept a pass on half-way and go racing clear to the posts for Thomas to convert before adding two penalties to make it 13-nil at half-time.

After the interval Jones was again instrumental in gaining a foothold deep in Quins territory that was to yield a try for hooker Ieuan Davies. Jones’ acceleration took him clear of a couple of attempted tackles, and he was then obstructed after kicking ahead and giving chase, earning a penalty five metres from the visitors’ try line. A period of sustained pressure saw the home pack secure lineout possession and drive forward before Davies broke away and darted over in the corner.

Even with the wind in their favour, the visitors were unable to mount any kind of threat, with the home pack still having the ascendency in loose play, and even the usual second-half changes of personnel that saw both sides empty their benches, failed to change things, with the Wizards’ strength-in-depth in key positions keeping them on top. There was a last-minute consolation try scored by replacement wing Morgan Griffiths, but by then the Wizards were leading by 23-nil after a cross-kick to the left-hand corner found its way into the hands of skipper Joe Tomalin-Reeves, who sprinted over in the corner to put the result well and truly beyond doubt.

Team v Llanelli

The Aberavon team to face Llanelli at the Talbot Athletic Ground on Friday at 7:15 pm is…

Aberavon Starting XV:
Jonathan Phillips; Frankie Jones, Joe Thomas, Joe Gage, Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas, Iwan Temblett; Jordan Walters, Ieuan Davies, Chris Davies, Shay Smallman, Sam Williams, Lee Purnell, Ashton Evans, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (capt).

Zac Fifield, Chay Smith, Aled Rees, Cameron Lewis, Andrew Waite, Sam Pailor, Rowan Jenkins, Geraint James.