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
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.
T – Dan Edwards, Geraint James, Rhodri Cole, Lloyd Evans
C – Dan Edwards (4)
T – Rhys Cherry (2), Archie Hughes, Alex Jeffries
C – Josh Phillips
Man Of The Match:
1 – Dan Edwards
2 – Lloyd Evans
3 – Ashton Evans
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