Action Replay (RGC 1404 Programme Notes)

Llandovery 16-25 Aberavon
Indigo Premiership, Friday 10th March 2023

by Paul Williams

Surely few would have predicted the Wizards getting back to winning ways against a hitherto on-song Llandovery team on their own patch, particularly after a series of hard-to-swallow defeats that owed much to a number of injuries, illnesses and other non-availabilities of regular squad members. The Drovers, meanwhile, came into this match on the back of an impressive victory over table-toppers Cardiff the previous week.

However, the Aberavon line-up had more of a settled look on this occasion, with key players such as Ashton Evans, Rhodri Cole and Joe Gage all returning to the starting XV, although a debut was given to open-side flanker Casey Williams, appearing on permit from Trebanos. It must be said that the youngster, a product of junior rugby at Morriston RFC, made quite an impression; not the biggest of back-row players, but quick to the breakdown, energetic and providing the kind of disruptive influence that is expected of any good number 7 in the absence of club captain Joe Tomalin-Reeves

This was, however, very much a collective effort from the Wizards, and early stages suggested that there were two evenly-matched teams on display. The Llandovery scrum proved to be one of very few to have matched the Aberavon eight in recent times, while the scrum-half clash between Cole and Lee Rees would have been eagerly anticipated. In the event, however, the contribution of Rees, a player held in high regard by the Wizards’ squad, was somewhat muted by the visitors’ defence having done their homework.

Not surprisingly play swung first one way then the other early on, but with defences on-top it was initially a kicking duel between home full-back Jack Maynard and Aberavon fly-half Rhys Jones, which itself saw honours even at two penalties apiece midway through the first half. The scales were tipped in Aberavon’s favour, however, when the Wizards took play through several phases to within touching distance of the home line for Cole to dart over for a try on the half-hour mark. Rhys Jones added the conversion to make it 6-13 and that remained the score for the remainder of the first half.

Maynard reduced the deficit with his third penalty as the second half continued in much the same vein as the first, but as the hour mark approached the Wizards were again on the attack and gained a foothold in home territory. From a scrum on the Drovers’ 22 Ashton Evans picked up and drew the home back-row before offloading to Cole who sold a huge dummy before accelerating through a fractured defence for his second try of the evening. Jones’ conversion made it 9-20, but with a quarter of the match still to play, nobody was counting any chickens, particularly after the home side responded within a couple of minutes with a converted try of their own, centre Rhodri Jones crashing over from close range for Maynard to convert.

The final quarter, however, saw the Wizards comfortably contain what confronted them, and with both teams having introduced fresh legs off their respective benches, a memorable victory was sealed when replacement scrum-half Iwan Temblett put an inch-perfect kick over the home defence for another replacement, Chris Banfield, to chase it down and claim an unconverted try to cap a fine evening’s work by the Wizards.