Preview: Aberavon v Newport

This Saturday, Aberavon (4th – 50pts) welcome Newport (7th – 40pts) to the Talbot Athletic Ground in the Indigo Group Premiership, kick-off at 2:30 pm.

Newport have won seven of their fourteen league games this season and have the most bonus points in the Premiership (six try bonus points and six losing bonus points). They started their season with four straight losses – all within four points – going down to Ebbw Vale, Cardiff, Llandovery and Swansea. The Black and Ambers then won their next four games, seeing off Aberavon, Carmarthen Quins, Pontypridd and Merthyr. A four point loss followed at Ebbw Vale before wins over RGC 1404 and Cardiff. Newport then picked up two points in their loss at Bridgend before they lost away to RGC 1404. In their last outing, at home to Swansea, the Black and Ambers had a bonus point win.

The Black and Ambers are in the semi-finals of the Welsh Cup having secured their place by topping their Pool after gaining bonus point wins over Swansea and Llanelli. They will face Pontypridd in Bridgend later this month in the semi-final of the competition.

Looking at the Premiership, in “attack”, Newport have scored 25.6 points on average per game (ranked 5th) and 3.3 tries (ranked 4th). In “defence” they have conceded 22.2 points on average per game (ranked 6th) and 2.7 tries (ranked 6th). Aberavon have scored 29.1 points per game (ranked 2nd) and 4.2 tries (ranked 2nd), and conceded 23.6 points (ranked 7th) and 2.9 tries (ranked 7th).

Head-to-head, Aberavon and Newport have met each other 46 times in the Welsh National League, with the Black and Ambers leading the series 25 – 20 with 1 game drawn. At the Talbot Athletic Ground, the Wizards lead 12 – 10 with 1 game drawn with Newport winning the last time the sides met at the ground in the league (30 – 25 in 2021-22).

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 Tom Spurrier, aided by Elgan Williams and Steve Harwood.