Preview: Bridgend v Aberavon

Aberavon (1st) travel to the Brewery Field on Saturday to take on Bridgend (4th) in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

Before the cancellation of the 2019-20 season, Bridgend were twelfth in the Premiership after winning three of their eighteen games, whilst Aberavon were third after winning eleven of their sixteen games.

This season, the Ravens have won one and lost one.

In their opening game of the season, they lost 15 – 38 at home to Carmarthen Quins. The Ravens led 10 – 7 at the interval with them outscoring their visitors by 2 tries to 1. Bridgend’s first-half tries were scored by centre Tom Morgan and outside-half Jamie Murphy. The Quins hit back in the second half scoring a further 5 tries before the home side scored their third try late on through full-back Edd Howley.

Last weekend, Bridgend took on Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets where the home side led 10 – 5 at half-time with the Ravens scoring a 38th minute try by hooker Lee Murphy. The visitors took the lead just two minutes into the second half when wing Tom Florence scored a try that outside-half Matthew Jones converted. Both sides then traded penalties before a second Jones penalty saw Bridgend go into an 18 – 13 lead with half-hour to go. Llanelli tied the game with an unconverted try ten minutes later before Jones kicked his third penalty in the 72nd minute to win it for Bridgend 21 – 18.

Looking back to when the sides met at the ground in February 2006, Aberavon made a sensational start as they raced into a 21-point lead in the opening 11 minutes thanks to tries from Anthony Edwards, Richard Morris and Darryl Thomas. Jamie Davies added the extras. Bridgend hit back at the end of the first quarter with a try by Adam Whitney before Davies and Gareth David traded penalties. The Wizards were awarded an injury-time penalty try and Davies’s conversion gave the visitors a 31 – 8 interval lead.

Davies kicked his second penalty early in the second half before the home side fought back. In the last half hour, the Ravens scored tries through Roger Davies and Mike Powell and were awarded a penalty try themselves. David converted all three while Davies kicked a third penalty for the Wizards to make the final score 37 – 29 to Aberavon.

The Wizards team that day was: Liam Gadd; Richard Carter, Paul Bamsey, David Hawkins, Daran Griffiths; Jamie Davies, Daniel Hawkins; Lloyd Howell (rep Mike Harris), Chris Wells (capt), Anthony Edwards (rep James Jones), Paul Morgan (rep Chris Kinsey, rep Christian Richards), Andrew Fisher, Ian Moore, Richard Morris, Darryl Thomas.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Aled Evans, aided by Elliott Mayer and Kristoff Young.

Max Wiltshire – Funeral Details

Max’s funeral is at Margam Crematorium next Tuesday 5/10 at 1.45pm. Due to current restrictions the service is by invitation only.

The cortege will pass Aberavon RFC at approximately 1.15pm on it’s way to Margam.

We will be gathering on Dan Y Bryn Road to mark our respects to this great Wizard.

Please join us there.

Fixture Amendment

Due to the Welsh International game against Australia on Saturday 20 November, the planned Aberavon fixture against Carmarthen Quins has been moved to Friday 19 November, 1930hrs.

Supporters Bus to Bridgend

Aberavon play their first away game of the season with a small trip down the M4 to the Brewery Field to play Bridgend.

There will be a supporters bus leaving the club at 1230hrs and leaving Bridgend at 1800hrs.

Tickets are £10 per person.

Please contact Jeff Preece for more information and to book – 07967426231

Match Report: Aberavon 27 – 14 Swansea

by Howard Evans

Aberavon must surely have scored the fastest-ever try from a kick-off, touched down by centre Chay Smith in about 15 seconds.

Swansea kicked off well, but wing Stef Andrews caught it and raced away from his own half, Smith was with him and took the pass to score in the corner.

Thereafter, the game was disappointing in some ways as Aberavon continually shoved the Swansea scrum backwards, even though prop Rowan Jenkins was not playing.

The front row of Rhys Fawcett, Luke Davies and Geraint James were far too good and Swansea had two front-rowers yellow-carded.

Swansea led 9-8 when former ‘Wizard’ Liam Popham kicked a hat-trick of penalties against one by Aled Thomas. But, it was never going to be good enough.

In the time added on Aberavon’s pack pushed Swansea backwards and a penalty try was awarded to send the sides in at half-time at 15-9.

On the resumption Aberavon looked like running clear with it when after 43 minutes full-back Joe Gage scored after a good Andrews tackle and a run by hooker Luke Davies. Thomas converted and Swansea had no answer.

After 54 minutes a sweeping move and a long crossfield pass saw wing Chris Banfield dive over for a bonus point try, but somehow no others followed.

With the game way into stoppage time, Swansea, who had tackled bravely, suddenly scored a try when centre Hanno Dirksen forced his way over after good forward drives.

Aberavon head coach Jason Hyatt said: “Of course I am delighted with another bonus-point win, but somehow we always seem to struggle against Swansea.

It was, as outside half Aled Thomas commented: “There just seemed to be little continuity to the game”.

For Aberavon, all six front-rowers did well with Fawcett and James laying the foundations. Possibly the best player was the hardworking young Rhondda lock Shay Smallman, who has made a good start to the season.

In the backs, Joe Thomas and Chay Smith were a fine pair of centres, while with skipper Joe Tomalin-Reeves and deputy Will Price amongst those missing with injury, flanker Lee Purnell led the side.

Score:
Aberavon 27 – 14 Swansea

Aberavon Team:
Joe Gage; Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Joe Thomas, Stef Andrews (rep Matthew Jenkins 73 min); Aled Thomas (rep Frankie Jones 56 min), Rhodri Cole (rep Iwan Temblett 56 min); Rhys Fawcett (rep Jordan Walters 64 min), Luke Davies (rep Cameron Lewis 68 min), Geraint James (rep Nicky Thomas 64 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Lee Purnell (rep Billy Moxey 72 min), Andrew Waite (rep Ashton Evans 59 min), Lloyd Evans.

Notes:
Matthew Jenkins and Billy Moxey appeared from Trebanos RFC.

Aberavon Scorers:
T – Chay Smith, Penalty Try, Joe Gage, Chris Banfield
C – Aled Thomas
PG – Aled Thomas

Swansea Scorers:
T – Hanno Dirksen
PG – Liam Popham (3)

Referee:
Dewi Phillips

Man Of The Match:
1 – Rhys Fawcett
2 – Lee Purnell
3 – Luke Davies

Time Line:
20 sec: Aberavon – T – Chay Smith (5 – 0)
06 min: Swansea – PG – Liam Popham (5 – 3)
10 min: Aberavon – PG – Aled Thomas (8 – 3)
13 min: Swansea – PG – Liam Popham (8 – 6)
15 min: Swansea – PG – Liam Popham (8 – 9)
40 min: Swansea – Yellow Card – Owen Thomas
40+2 min: Aberavon – T – Penalty Try (15 – 9)
40+2 min: Half Time
42 min: Aberavon – T – Joe Gage & C – Aled Thomas (22 – 9)
47 min: Swansea – End Yellow Card – Owen Thomas
51 min: Swansea – Yellow Card – Cameron Jones
54 min: Aberavon – T – Chris Banfield (27 – 9)
63 min: Swansea – End Yellow Card – Cameron Jones
80+2 min: Swansea – T – Hanno Dirksen (27 – 14)
80+3 min: Full Time

Action Replay (Swansea Programme Notes)

Aberavon 43-17 Llanelli
Premiership Cup, 18th September 2021
by Paul Williams

Aberavon’s first fully competitive match since March 7th 2020 yielded a six-try victory, albeit after an uncertain start. A strong start from the kick-off saw the Wizards making good progress into the visitors’ half but suddenly a wayward pass gifted Llanelli with seven points as centre Joe Roberts seized the opportunity presented by the loose, bouncing ball to race some 70 metres to the posts, presenting full-back Josh Phillips with the simplest of conversions.

It was an unexpected turn of events, particularly when the power of the home pack was already causing havoc at the set scrums, yet the end of the opening quarter was approaching when the Wizards got back on terms, with an attacking scrum-five marching the Llanelli pack backwards for number eight Andy Waite to claim the touchdown, and fly-half Aled Thomas to add the conversion.

Llanelli, however, had not come to roll over, and a period of sustained attack earned home flanker Lloyd Evans a yellow card for an illegal tackle. The visitors took full advantage of the defence being a man short, and scrum-half Archie Hughes ran well to score close to the posts for Phillips to again convert.

Thomas and Phillips then traded penalties before, as half-time approached, the Aberavon scrum did its usual thing, with the front row of Rowan Jenkins, Ieuan Davies and Geraint James causing no small degree of chaos in the opposing ranks, and after two further phases lock Shay Smallman scooped up the ball from a ruck and ploughed over for his first try since joining Aberavon, with Thomas’ conversion levelling things to 17-17 at the interval.

The second half was ten minutes old when the Wizards finally went ahead, and it was again a set scrum that did the damage, with the visitors’ front row standing up en-bloc to try and halt the relentless drive, inevitably yielding a penalty try.

The usual second-half changes in personnel made no noticeable difference to the pattern of play. Front rowers Jenkins, Davies and James made way for Rhys Fawcett, Luke Davies and Nicky Thomas and the scrummaging mayhem continued unabated, while behind the scrum Joe Thomas, a blood replacement for acting skipper Will Price, went tearing through midfield before brilliantly offloading out of a tackle to send co-centre and prolific try-scorer Chay Smith racing in beneath the crossbar. Thomas’ conversion made it 31-17 and at last the Wizards looked likely victors.

In the final minutes the result was put well and truly beyond doubt when Iwan Temblett, having replaced the excellent Rhodri Cole at scrum-half, went racing away after good running from replacements Jon Phillips and Ashton Evans, bamboozling the defence with several full-tilt changes of direction to score out on the left. Thomas again converted, but was inches out after, in the final minute, the apparently indestructible Lee Purnell capped an 80-minute display of non-stop hard graft, tackling, clearing-out and covering every blade of grass by turning up in exactly the right place to go over in the right-hand corner following a sustained attack that had swept back and forth across the field.

Llanelli, for their part, are a young side that will only improve if they are allowed to play together on a regular basis. On this occasion, however, Aberavon’s customary blend of youth and experience ultimately held too many aces. While the home supporters’ clubhouse vote for the ‘Merlin Man of the Match’ award went to Andy Waite, there were numerous others who deserved an ‘honourable mention’ in that category.

Paul Williams (Swansea Programme Notes)

Continuity

When confronted with their first truly competitive match on over a year and a half, any sports team seeking to ‘pick up where they left off’ is surely faced with the most enormous of challenges, as all momentum has surely been lost, and finding that rarer-than-hens’-teeth commodity, continuity, is surely the most challenging aspect of the lot.

Aberavon, however, took a long view of the situation, and when the world ground to a halt following that hard-earned win over Cardiff in March 2000, the club brought its unique sense of community to the fore, providing care to those struggling to come to terms with the lockdown, delivering provisions to those unable to venture our into a virus-infected world, and providing moral support for any and all who needed it. I got the distinct impression, from regular conversations with Head Coach Jason Hyatt, that the strong team spirit that has brought with it a degree of success to the old club of ours, it a moveable feast, with the playing squad working together off the field as well as they did on it.

That the entire squad from the aborted 2019-2020 season had been retained for 2021-22 therefore came as no surprise. Quite few of the additional signings, however, were pleasant surprises, as several familiar faces made welcome returns to the fold, complementing the customary crop of academy and development players seeking to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Justin Tipuric (a man who, incidentally, has never forgotten the seasons he spent here at Aberavon, however much the media choose to ignore that stage of his playing career).

And so, following three tough pre-season friendlies that gave the coaching staff the chance to run the rule over all and sundry, at last came a ‘proper’ Saturday afternoon fixture as traditionally enjoyed at this time of the year – a match played out before a healthy live audience, tired of televised rugby from empty stadia with a recorded soundtrack of crowd noises. Here was ‘real’ club rugby at long last, and for many of us, I think, it brought home the reality of what we’d missed these past eighteen months – a full-blooded encounter played out with a crowd cheering on their heroes, and a post-match drink and chat any anyone who happened to be in the clubhouse.

Not surprisingly, that oh-so-precious continuity wasn’t immediately apparent. It took almost a quarter of the match before the Wizards got properly going on all cylinders, and over half the game before they finally hit top gear, but when they did there was no stopping them. At the end of eighty-plus minutes the best efforts of a young, fit, spirited and fast-moving Llanelli team were not sufficient to overcome the continuity of another rare commodity – team spirit. Aberavon have had it in spades; the players play for one another, and their enthusiasm spreads throughout the club’s loyal supporter base, more so when squad members turn up en bloc in the public bar following their post-match meal. Team spirit was preserved during lockdown due to all that work in the community, and, as I gathered from a short conversation with returning hero Nicky Thomas after last Saturday’s match, is being fully embraced by those recent additions to the squad. When I said it was good to see him back at the club, his response was, “I wanted to come back to Aberavon because this is where I really enjoyed my rugby.”

Let’s hope for continuity of enjoyment, for us all. It’s been a long wait.

A brief but sincere message of thanks from the backroom boys…

Jon Nightingale, after many years of providing a welcome pair of matchday hands in and around the Aberavon dressing room, has stepped down from the role, but doesn’t go without the thanks of his colleagues. While this was mentioned in last week’s programme, in particular Dai Beaton, Jeff Thomas and Max Waliczek would like to personally express their sincere thanks to Jon for all his hard work over the years.

Howard Evans (Swansea Programme Notes)

Today we welcome the famous ‘All-Whites’ of Swansea RFC, who have a great history and indeed, they are the club that our captain Joe Tomalin-Reeves first played for.

A well-known Wales international forward once said that Justin Tipuric was the most famous of Swansea players. Well, he never played for Swansea, but certainly the likes of Trew, Bancroft (x2), Owen, Davey, ‘Stoker’ Williams, Dewi Bebb, Clem Thomas, Scott Gibbs and even our former coach Kevin Hopkins did play.

Welcome today to my friend Dave Dow, who is producing the early history of Swansea rugby and will no doubt be taking photographs of this game.

Also, a welcome to our former player, Liam Popham, who is still remembered here by players and supporters.

I think everyone was happy with last week’s win over Llanelli, especially a great performance by the pack, while Swansea went down at Llandovery.

Sadly, we probably will have another minute’s silence before the game as you no doubt will know of the passing of our great lock forward Max Wiltshire. Max was a tough nut at the front of the line-out and with his great friend, the late Billy Mainwaring in the middle if it.

Also, I hear of the death of Billy Pascoe’s wife Betty. Billy was a fine rugby player and their son Colin was capped at football from Swansea City.

Our condolences go both the Wiltshire and Pascoe families.

I wish the injured Joe Tomailin-Reeves, David Pritchard, Jay Baker, Will Price and Sam Williams well for their recoveries and I must also mention today’s referee, Dewi Phillips, good luck for this afternoon.

Dewi’s father, the Reverend Eldon Phillips, is a friend of mine and a great entertainer, even though he supports the Scarlets!!

Team v Swansea

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

Aberavon Starting XV:
Joe Gage; Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Joe Thomas, Stef Andrews; Aled Thomas, Rhodri Cole; Rowan Jenkins, Luke Davies, Geraint James, Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Lee Purnell, Andrew Waite, Lloyd Evans.

Replacements:
Iwan Temblett, Jonathan Phillips, Matthew Jenkins, Cameron Lewis, Billy Moxey, Ashton Evans, Rhys Fawcett, Nicky Thomas.

Preview: Aberavon v Swansea

Aberavon (2nd) will be looking to build on their opening day win over Llanelli last weekend when they welcome Swansea (6th) to the Talbot Athletic Ground this Saturday in the Indigo Group Premiership Cup, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

Before the cancellation of the 2019-20 season, Swansea were ninth in the Premiership after winning seven of their seventeen games, whilst Aberavon were third after winning eleven of their sixteen games.

The All Whites played one pre-season game as they took on Neath at the Gnoll to commemorate the Welsh All Blacks’ 150th anniversary. Swansea led 14 – 0 at the interval thanks to tries by hooker Owen Thomas and flanker/captain Jay Williams. Outside-half James Davies converted both. Davies extended the visitors lead almost halfway through the second half with a penalty, with Neath scoring two converted tries in the last ten minutes to make the final score 17 – 14 to Swansea.

Swansea got their Premiership Cup campaign underway last weekend with a 5 – 21 loss at Llandovery with all the scoring taking place in the first half. The Drovers were 18 – 0 up before Swansea scored their opening try of the season when hooker Owen Thomas went over from short range after a lineout in the corner.

Looking back at the fixture eight seasons ago, the match was played in the wind and rain. The game was Ian Moore’s 300th game for the Wizards whilst there were club debuts for Rheon James & Tom Duncan who were both on loan from Cornish Pirates. Aberavon’s wing Richard Carter scored the opening try in the corner after 22 minutes of play. However, Swansea’s Cameron Clement kicked two penalties to put the visitors ahead at 6 – 5. A Ceiron Thomas penalty and a Clement miss saw Aberavon lead 8 – 6 at the break and it stayed that way until 11 minutes from time when replacement Jamie Davies placed a penalty. Then, Chris Morgans and Moore took play to the Swansea line and James, though tackled, crashed over from a Morgans pass with Davies converting to make the final score Aberavon 18, Swansea 6.

The Wizards team that day was: Jonathan Phillips; Richard Carter, Richard Thomas (rep Aaron Jones), Rheon James, Stef Andrews; Ceiron Thomas (rep Jamie Davies), Chris Morgans; Rowan Jenkins, Ieuan Davies, Anthony Edwards (rep Andrew Clatworthy), Gavin Ronan, Ian Moore, Ben Thomas, Tom Duncan (rep James Bija), Chris Davies.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Dewi Phillips, aided by Lewis Harrison and Rhodri Morgan.