Aberavon 31 – 48 Llandovery
by Paul Williams
It was always going to be the tallest of orders for Aberavon to finish off their home programme with a victory. Forced to make compromises in team selection by a crippling injury list that left them with only one recognised back-row forward and one scrum-half available for a match against table topping Llandovery – a side well equipped to exploit the situation.
Despite the scoreline, however, the Wizards made a fine contribution to a high-scoring spectacle, and there should be no criticism of a display that saw them stay in touch until the final quarter when the pace of the game took its toll on a heavyweight pack that featured Sam Williams and Sam Pailor, nowadays more accustomed to the second row, as flankers on either side of number eight Ashton Evans.
For the best part of an hour it was end-to-end stuff, with seldom more than a handful of points separating the two teams. Wing Rhodri Wall put the visitors ahead with a corner try converted by Jack Maynard. That was cancelled out shortly afterwards when a midfield burst from Aberavon centre Brad Roderick split the Drovers’ defence. Scrum-half Iwan Temblett was on hand to carry the move on, and he put in a perfect cross-kick that was picked up by Stef Andrews, playing at full-back for a try in the right-hand corner. The prolific boot of Aled Thomas added the conversion.
Maynard added a straightforward penalty to give the visitors a three-point lead, and that was extended to eight points when centre Rhodri Jones crossed for an unconverted try. Then came the opportunity for the home pack to use their considerable bulk to good effect, driving forward from a line-out that, with an air of inevitability, ended with hooker Ieuan Davies crashing over for Thomas to convert and narrow the margin to a single point.
On the half-hour the Wizards’ backs got in on the act as centre Joe Thomas rounded off a lively attack to cross in the right-hand corner, putting the Wizards ahead for the first and, as it turned out, last time in the match. It was a short-lived lead, as Rhodri Jones went over for his second try in the run-up to half-time, with Maynard adding the extras.
Five minutes after the interval Adam Warren put Llandovery further ahead with a defence-splitting run with Maynard again converting, and things began to look ominous as the visitors, with scrum-half Lee Rees pulling the strings, tried to pick up the pace at every opportunity.
The Wizards, meanwhile, were far from ready to throw in the towel. Makeshift flankers Williams and Pailor ran themselves into the ground time and time again, lock Rhodri Hughes was a huge presence in the lineout, while connoisseurs of number-eight play must surely have been impressed by the work-rate and positional sense of Ashton Evans, who barely put a foot wrong. It was again the home pack that reduced the arrears, relentlessly driving forward and forcing a string of penalties until a rolling maul was illegally dragged to the ground, yielding a penalty try to take the score to 26-29.
Midway through the second-half, however, the match was virtually put beyond Aberavon’s reach when an interception try from Ioan Hughes, converted by Maynard, was followed by an unconverted touchdown from lock Joe Powell. Ieuan Davies was again on the end of a driving maul to crash over and make it 31-41, but the visitors had the last word when replacement Lloyd Pike ran through a tired defence for Maynard to convert with only seconds left to play.
It was an emotional home farewell for Aberavon stalwarts Ieuan Davies and Sam Williams, who are both set to retire from playing after the Wizards’ single remaining fixture at Ebbw Vale, and both were deservedly applauded warmly as they took the field and again as they left. Both have played well over two-hundred matches for in respective Aberavon careers lasting more than a decade, and all at the club wish them well in whatever the future may hold for them.
Aberavon 31 – 48 Llandovery
Stef Andrews; Jay Baker (rep Chris Banfield 46 min), Joe Thomas, Bradley Roderick (rep Jonathan Phillips 46 min), Frankie Jones; Aled Thomas (rep Rhys Jones 68 min), Iwan Temblett; Rhys Fawcett (rep Rowan Jenkins 50 min), Ieuan Davies (rep Luke Davies 80+1 min), Chris Davies, Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Sam Parris-Williams (capt) (rep Steffan Lewis 68 min), Ashton Evans, Sam Pailor (rep Jordan Walters 79 min).
Replacements Not Used:
Steffan Lewis appeared from Tondu RFC.
T – Ieuan Davies (2), Stef Andrews, Joe Thomas, Penalty Try
C – Aled Thomas (2)
T – Rhodri Jones (2), Rhodri Wall, Adam Warren, Ioan Hughes, Joseff Powell, Lloyd Pike
C – Jack Maynard (5)
P – Jack Maynard
Man Of The Match:
1 – Ieuan Davies
2 – Ashton Evans
3 – Sam Parris-Williams
07 min: Llandovery – T – Rhodri Wall & C – Jack Maynard (0 – 7)
11 min: Aberavon – T – Stef Andrews & C – Aled Thomas (7 – 7)
17 min: Llandovery – PG – Jack Maynard (7 – 10)
19 min: Llandovery – T – Rhodri Jones (7 – 15)
23 min: Aberavon – T – Ieuan Davies & C – Aled Thomas (14 – 15)
30 min: Aberavon – T – Joe Thomas (19 – 15)
33 min: Llandovery – T – Rhodri Jones & C – Jack Maynard (19 – 22)
40+3 min: Half Time
45 min: Llandovery – T – Adam Warren & C – Jack Maynard (19 – 29)
51 min: Aberavon – T – Penalty Try (26 – 29)
51 min: Llandovery – Yellow Card – Llyr Green
57 min: Llandovery – T – Ioan Hughes & C – Jack Maynard (26 – 36)
61 min: Llandovery – T – Joseff Powell (26 – 41)
63 min: Llandovery – End Yellow Card – Llyr Green
68 min: Aberavon – T – Ieuan Davies (31 – 41)
80+1 min: Llandovery – T – Lloyd Pike & C – Jack Maynard (31 – 48)
80+5 min: Full Time