Action Replay (Llandovery Programme Notes)

Aberavon 32-15 RGC 1404
Indigo Premiership, 1st April 2023

by Paul Williams

On an afternoon that saw the weather switch back and forth between wind, rain and glorious sunshine the Wizards were deserved winners, with a bonus point coming their way in the dying moments courtesy of a superb team try finished in the corner by Stef Andrews.

The home side were quicker out of the blocks and within moments were applying pressure via their pack, eventually taking an early lead via scrum-half Rhodri Cole, who darted over from close range after a series of forward drives. Aled Thomas added the conversion and ten minutes later the scenario repeated itself with the home pack taking up residency close to the visitors’ line after good approach work spearheaded by centre Joe Gage. This time it was number eight Andrew Waite who picked up from a ruck and powered through a couple of tackle attempts for Thomas to again add the extras.

Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the field, RGC were struggling to find a way through a solid home defence, despite the best efforts of lively scrum-half Efan Jones, their most dangerous runner. On several occasions they gained a foothold inside the home ‘22’, but solid tackling from the Wizards, with flanker Ashton Evans an absolute tower of strength, kept them at bay and repeatedly turned over possession.

The Wizards’ much-vaunted scrummaging prowess also came very much to the fore as time went on. The Wizards have a wealth of front-row talent available as evidenced when Rowan Jenkins, Luke Davies and Chris Davies, having dominated the set-piece for an hour, were replaced by Jordan Walters, Ieuan Davies and Rhys Fawcett – changes in personnel that made absolutely no difference to the superiority of the home scrum. Meanwhile Rhodri Hughes and Sam Williams ensured a steady flow of lineout possession.

After half an hour of play the Wizards added to their tally when another sustained attack saw forwards and backs combine to stretch RGC first one way then another, with Gage leading the midfield charge. Prop Davies was sent thundering through almost to the line, then quickly recycled ball was sent left where Gage, under immense pressure, fed right-wing Jay Baker, who had popped up out near the left touchline. He did well to take the pass and hold off a would-be tackler before cantering in for Aberavon’s third try.

The visitors finally got themselves on the scoreboard moments as half-time loomed large on the horizon, with wing Rhys Tudor rounding off a handling move for experienced full-back Dion Jones to convert, before adding a penalty on the stroke of half-time to make the score 19-10 at the interval.

Both teams seemed to take a while to find top gear after the interval, a situation hardly helped by a torrential rain shower that thankfully blew over, but Aled Thomas was first to draw blood with a penalty to restore the Wizards’ twelve-point lead before a lengthy period where handling errors, perhaps not surprisingly in the wet conditions, ruled the roost. The pattern was then broken in some style when the visitors took a quick free-kick near half-way and swift, accurate passing put wing Matt Buchanan clear for a fine corner try.

With the lead reduced to just seven points the Wizards redoubled their efforts, and eventually the pressure told as the visitors conceded a series of penalties, the last of which was stroked over by Thomas to make it 25-15.

The best was yet to come, however. With time rapidly ticking away Brad Roderick, who had replaced the injured Gage, sent the ball out wide to fullback Jon Phillips. His clever back-handed inside pass found Lloyd Evans whose return pass was taken by Phillips who then threw an overhead pass for Andrews to take and cross in the left-hand corner. Thomas converted with a fine kick, and while the visitors had one final sortie into home territory from the restart, they were unable to create another score before time ran out.