Action Replay (Neath Programme Notes)
2022-23… Highs and Lows
Last season kicked off with something of a bang. An opening-day seven-try win over Bridgend (45-14) was followed by a 39-17 Thursday evening victory over Swansea at Saint Helens, with a home 31-24 win over Llanelli bringing down the curtain on September.
October was ushered in with another home win, this time at the expense of Carmarthen Quins by 33-24, which was followed by a memorable performance at Sardis Road that saw Pontypridd beaten 33-18. Merthyr then left the Talbot Athletic Ground after going down 39-32 to the Wizards, and a cup tie at the Brewery field saw another heavy defeat inflicted on the home side as the Wizards ran in another seven tries to emerge 49-14 victors.
However, the winning streak had reached its end – a visit to Newport saw the home side take the spoils 30-20, and worse was to follow as we entered November with a bad-tempered home encounter against Ebbw Vale resulting in a 17-24 defeat after a bright start that featured two superb tries from Liam Seaward. Making matters worse, there was also a series of injuries that would take their toll in the weeks that followed. November’s only other fixture, as domestic rugby fixtures gave way to Autumn internationals, was a trip to North Wales, where RGC emerged victorious 34-26 in a fixture that had, historically, seen the Wizards enjoy considerable success.
December saw the Wizards exit the cup at the hands to Pontypridd, who came to Aberavon and left on the right side of a 24-5 scoreline, but the televised visit of Cardiff the following Thursday saw the Wizards bounce back with a well-deserved 30-23 win that saw the much fancied Cardiff pack absolutely demolished. The Boxing Day match at Bridgend was, in comparison, a muted affair with a narrow 18-15 win making it three out of three against the Ravens.
The new year saw inconsistency proliferate. A 22-8 home win over Swansea was followed by a 10-27 home loss to a determined Pontypridd, then in February an impressive 55-21 win at Parc y Scarlets was followed by defeats at Merthyr (31-38) and Carmarthen (17-28). March saw Newport complete the double (10-17) before the Wizards made the long trip up to Llandovery on a cold, damp Friday night and confounded their critics by producing a superb performance to defeat the eventual champions 25-16.
April saw the season effectively fizzle out, with a home win over RGC (32-15) followed by defeats at Cardiff (15-32), at home to Llandovery (31-48) and at Ebbw Vale (26-38).
Another “Captain Joe”
Looking ahead to this season, we see an Aberavon squad featuring a host of new faces but missing one or two household names who have hung up their boots, and unfortunately must come to terms with a less-than-clean bill of health with a few players still on the injured list. Meanwhile, the captaincy has passed from Joe Tomalin-Reeves to Joe Gage (who deputised admirably on a few occasions). Our thanks go to JTR for his whole-hearted efforts since taking up the role in 2019 after leading the side occasionally prior to that, and our best wishes go to JG as he formally steps up to the role.