Action Replay (Newport Programme Notes)

Llanelli 21-55 Aberavon
Indigo Group Premiership, 11th February 2023

by Paul Williams

The Wizards got back to winning ways with an emphatic eight-try performance to score a league ‘double’ for the season against a Llanelli side that never gave up despite facing an Aberavon side that was clearly determined to get their season back on track following some recent disappointments.

While Aberavon’s scrummaging prowess has been a feature for much of the season, on this occasion it was the Wizards’ collective running and handling that the home side struggled to contain. A decent supply of possession came from a pack that worked tirelessly, in which lock Rhodri Hughes was a tower of strength in both lineout and loose play. Behind them experienced fly-half Aled Thomas was in masterful form as the midfield playmaker, and the sparse crowd were treated to some scintillating moments as the visitors’ set about building a commanding lead.

It took just two minutes for the Wizards to register their first score, as a clever kick ahead from flanker Lloyd Evans saw Stef Andrews comfortably win the race to touch down for the opening try. Thomas added the conversion, and shortly afterwards added a penalty goal.

Evans himself was then in on the act as he forced his way over from close range for Thomas to again convert, taking the score to 0-17 after fifteen minutes.

A rare Llanelli sortie into Aberavon territory then saw the home side register their first points, with Ieuan Davies adjudged by referee Dewi Phillips to have collapsed a driving maul close to the goal line, earning the home side a penalty try and himself a ten-minute spell in the sin-bin.

Any thoughts of the Aberavon hooker’s temporary absence letting Llanelli back into the game, however, were short-lived as within a couple of minutes a bout of quick passing saw full-back Jonathan Phillips cross for Thomas to again convert, and ten minutes later a length-of-the-field move that featured a superb run from Liam Seaward saw Phillips go racing in for his second try. Thomas’ fourth conversion made it 7-31, and although Aberavon skipper Joe Tomalin-Reeves was himself sin-binned for a technical offence close to the visitors’ goal-line, there seemed to be little cause for optimism in the home camp with the Wizards having already secured a bonus point.

Shortly after the interval the Wizards were again on the attack, and scrum-half Seaward did well to dart around the blind side of a scrum and squeeze in at the corner for an unconverted try.

Seconds before Tomalin-Reeves returned to the fray Llanelli got their second try through centre Joe Hutchings, with Luke Davies adding the extras to make it 14-36, but with the Wizards back to full strength a driving line-out saw Ieuan Davies claim a typical touch-down with Thomas again adding the conversion.

The final few minutes brought another flurry of scoring. Back row replacement Andrew Waite launched an attack from inside the Aberavon 22 that gained impetus as the backs joined in, with centre Callum Carson eventually crossing in the left-hand corner for an unconverted try to make it 14-48, before Hutchings and Davies between them conjured a further converted try for the home side, but the Wizards then produced a fitting finale as they ran out the ball from close to their own line, with Brad Roderick racing away before linking with Carson who in turn found Chris Banfield racing up inside him. Support appeared in the form of replacement scrum-half Rhodri Cole, returning to action after a spell out injured, racing up the middle to take Banfield’s pass and cross at the posts for Thomas to convert with the final kick of the match.