Preview: Aberavon v Newport

Aberavon (3rd – 5 points) will be looking to build on their opening day bonus-point win over Swansea last week when they welcome Newport (4th – 4 points) to the Talbot Athletic Ground this Saturday in the Indigo Group Premiership, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

In the Indigo Group Premiership Cup, Newport finished the pool stage of the competition at the top of the East division after winning eight of their ten games. Their only losses coming at Pontypridd back in September and at home to RGC 1404 last month. After topping the division, the Black & Ambers are rewarded by having a home game against Bridgend in the quarter-finals of the Cup in the new year.

In their opening game of the Premiership last weekend, Newport beat Bridgend 25 – 9 at Newport Stadium. The Ravens led 9 – 7 at half-time after hooker Will Griffiths scored the opening try for the Black & Ambers. Outside-half Will Reed added the extras. In the second half, lock Josh Skinner and centre Matt O’Brien scored tries for the home side with Reed adding eight more points through his boot.

Head-to-head, Aberavon and Newport have met each other 44 times in the Welsh National League, with the Black and Ambers leading the series 23 – 20 with 1 game drawn. At the Talbot Athletic Ground, Aberavon lead 12 – 9 with 1 game drawn and won the last time the sides met in the league at the ground (16 – 12 in 2019-20).

Looking back to the 1998-99 season when the sides met at the ground for the second time that season after the league table had split into two, Newport came to Aberavon for a midweek game after the Wizards were already relegated from the Premier Division.

The visitors got on the scoreboard first when lock Gareth Taylor went over for a try converted by outside-half Scott Mitchell. Aberavon tied the scores halfway through the opening half when outside-half Cerith Rees made a break before passing to flanker Howard Merrett for the try. Rees added the two points.

Late in the half, Newport scored two quick tries as first Mitchell, and then centre Matthew Watkins scored, with Mitchell converting both.

There was still time in the half however for the Wizards to respond – scrum-half Andrew Jacobs scored in the corner, whilst deep into injury time, wing Daran Griffiths sprinted 60 metres for a try after full-back Richard Lewis had kicked ahead a loose pass by Newport. Rees converted the try by Griffiths to make the score 21 – 19 to the visitors at the interval.

Early in the second half, replacement flanker Alex Popham scored Newport’s fourth try. Mitchell converted. Shortly afterwards, it was the Wizards turn to score their fourth try as centre Peter Roberts touched down. A Rees penalty then made the score 28 – 27 to Newport.

Aberavon went ahead for the first time in the game when Rees scored a wonderful try that started from his own 22. His conversion put the Wizards 34 – 28 up and, halfway through the second half, he added a penalty to put Aberavon nine points up.

Mitchell and Rees then traded penalties before Mitchell scored his second try of the game deep in injury time. When he converted his own try, the referee blew for full-time with the Wizards winning 40 – 38.

The Aberavon starting XV that day was: Richard Lewis; Daran Griffiths, Tim Green, Peter Roberts, Paul Jones; Cerith Rees, Andrew Jacobs; Lloyd Howell, Justin Hughes (capt), Alun Bevan, Ian Strang, Aled Jones, Damien Neill, Richard Morris, Howard Merrett.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Ben Whitehouse, aided by Stuart Kibble and Ryan Randall.