Match Report: Bridgend 18 – 24 Aberavon
by Paul Williams
The Wizards registered their second league victory of the season in a tough encounter at the Brewery Field, the result of which hung in the balance right up until the final whistle. Aberavon skipper Joe Gage put his team ahead with the ultimate captain’s try some eight minutes from time, but the Wizards had to endure some tense moments before eventually running down the clock until the ball could be booted off the field to bring down the curtain on a hard-fought match.
The Wizards are still having to manage without certain key players, particularly in the pack, but this has provided the chance to run the rule over several young newcomers who are seizing the opportunity to stake their claim for a regular place in the club’s matchday squad.
Flanker Casey Williams made his debut at the tail end of last season, and the flanker continues to impress. Very much a typical traditional open-side flanker, reliant on speed about the field and strength over the ball, he was on hand to finish off a fine team try on this occasion, dummying over in the left-hand corner for a first-half touchdown.
Other new faces to impress were full-back Scott Delnevo, fly-half James Davies and scrum-half Aaron Hemmings, whose addition to the Wizards’ collection of scrum-halves has come at a crucial time with the popular and experienced Rhodri Cole currently out of action with a broken collarbone. At the same time the Wizards handed a debut to back row man Travis Huntley, who came off the bench in the second half to make his mark with some powerful ball-carrying.
As a tentative opening ten minutes unfolded, there was little to choose between the two sides until the Wizards gained a foothold in the home 22 and quickly sent the ball out to the right wing where Jay Baker made short work of scything through the Bridgend defence. James Davies added the extras with a fine conversion, then five minutes later added a penalty goal. His opposite number Luke Price responded in kind to reduce the arrears, and then the scores were suddenly level when Bridgend centre Rhys Williams somehow scrambled his way over at the posts for Price to convert.
With half-time drawing near, an Aberavon attack was launched from deep with the ball passing through numerous pairs of hands and given momentum with some great running by Baker, before Casey Williams popped up to finish things off, with Davies’ conversion ultimately giving the Wizards a 10-17 lead at the interval.
From the restart the third quarter, in terms of scoring, at least, belonged to the home side. While both teams had their moments, a further penalty from Price and a try from scrum-half Chris Williams saw Bridgend go ahead for the first time in the match 18-17, with a half-hour left to play.
Indeed, but for some resolute defence things may have been a great deal worse for the Wizards as Bridgend sought to pull away and secure the win. The visitors somehow hung in there, however, with one memorable moment exemplifying their determination – as Bridgend sought to drive a five-metre lineout over the try-line, Aberavon hooker Luke Davies somehow got his hands on the ball, ripped it out from the maul and went bursting up the touchline before putting in a long kick and seconds later being on hand to put in a tackle some fifty metres upfield.
Gage’s heroic effort, coming at the tail end of a contest in which he must have covered every blade of grass as he led by example, was set up by Hemmings, who burst away from a maul, committing two defenders before handing on to Gage, whose pace and strength took him through the home defence and over for the crucial winning score.
Bridgend redoubled their efforts as the clock ran down but were unable to find a way through the Wizards’ defence, and ultimately it was the visitors who seized possession, holding on to the ball and taking it through phase after phase before sending it off the field for the final whistle to sound.
Saturday September 9th, 2023
Bridgend 18 – 24 Aberavon
Scott Delnevo; Jay Baker, Frankie Jones (rep Bradley Roderick 67 min), Joe Gage (capt), Stef Andrews; James Davies (rep Aled Thomas 74 min), Aron Hemmings; Rowan Jenkins (rep Jordan Walters 49 min), Luke Davies (rep Cameron Lewis 71 min), Geraint James (rep Rhys Fawcett 49 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Ben Gregory (rep Travis Huntley 63 min), Rhys Thomas, Casey Williams (rep Joe Tomalin-Reeves 63 min).
Replacement Not Used:
Travis Huntley appeared from Maesteg Harlequins RFC.
Debut game for Travis Huntley for Aberavon RFC.
T – Jay Baker, Casey Williams, Joe Gage
C – James Davies (3)
P – James Davies
T – Rhys Williams, Chris Williams
C – Luke Price
P – Luke Price (2)
Man Of The Match:
1 – Luke Davies
2 – Joe Gage
3 – Jay Baker / Casey Williams (tied)
11 min: Aberavon – T – Jay Baker & C – James Davies (0 – 7)
15 min: Aberavon – PG – James Davies (0 – 10)
19 min: Bridgend – PG – Luke Price (3 – 10)
26 min: Bridgend – T – Rhys Williams & C – Luke Price (10 – 10)
34 min: Aberavon – T – Casey Williams & C – James Davies (10 – 17)
40+2 min: Half Time
44 min: Bridgend – PG – Luke Price (13 – 17)
50 min: Bridgend – T – Chris Williams (18 – 17)
73 min: Aberavon – T – Joe Gage & C – James Davies (18 – 24)
80+2 min: Full Time