Aberavon 31 – 24 Llanelli
by Paul Williams
Aberavon registered their third bonus-point victory of the season but were made to work hard by a determined Llanelli side who managed to salvage a losing bonus-point of their own.
Early play swung from end to end, with the visitors applying much of the early pressure, although unable to turn it into points as a solid home defence repelled their best efforts.
The Wizards eventually opened the scoring in fine style ten minutes in when Aled Rees pounced on a Llanelli handling error near half-way. The powerful wing found full-back Stef Andrews racing up the touchline, and he in turn sent the ball inside to Joe Gage who touched down near the left-hand corner, with Rhys Jones adding the extras with a fine kick.
Fifteen minutes later a prolonged period of pressure on the visitors’ line yielded the Wizards’ second try, with play being switched first right and then left before prop Rowan Jenkins appeared in the threequarter line to deliver the scoring pass to Andrews. This time Jones’ conversion attempt narrowly missed the target.
A fine cover tackle from Rees thwarted a promising Llanelli attack, but it did give the visitors a foothold in Aberavon territory, and eventually lock Jac Price was able to force his way over from close range for fly-half Josh Phillips to convert. On the stroke of half time Phillips added a penalty goal to close the gap to just two points.
The Wizards began the second half with increased intensity, and although a fine display from hooker Cameron Lewis was brought to a premature end by an ankle injury, Luke Davies, replacing him, was quick to make his mark, throwing into a lineout deep inside the Llanelli ‘22’, joining the subsequent maul and then charging away with the ball, ploughing over for a try despite the attentions of a couple of defenders.
Jones converted to make it 19-10 and, after the introduction of five replacements from the Aberavon bench, it became 26-10 as the match entered its final quarter, with the dependable Ashton Evans displaying great speed and determination to force his way over for a corner try that was converted by Aled Thomas.
Llanelli, however, were far from done, and replacement scrum-half Luke Davies crossed after a series of penalty awards had enabled them to lay siege to the Aberavon line. Replacement fly-half Tal Rees added the straightforward conversion to narrow the margin to nine points.
With time ticking away, things once again swung in Aberavon’s favour and, with the home scrum driving Llanelli rapidly backwards and earning a penalty, the quick-thinking Andrew Waite took a quick tap and thundered over the line to all but secure the win with an unconverted try.
Two minutes later it was back to the other end of the field, and again the home scrum shunted the visitors backwards, but on this occasion, not for the first time, the penalty award went Llanelli’s way – a situation on that was visibly frustrating both the Aberavon forwards and their coaching staff. Big wing Ben Raivalitia tapped and ran at a tiring defence and crashed over near the posts for Rees to convert, bringing his team into losing bonus point territory before the clock ran down and the final whistle sounded.
Aberavon 31 – 24 Llanelli
Stef Andrews; Frankie Jones, Joe Thomas (rep Callum Carson 51 min), Joe Gage, Aled Rees; Rhys Jones (rep Aled Thomas 51 min), Rhodri Cole (rep Iwan Temblett 51 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 51 min), Cameron Lewis (rep Luke Davies 44 min), Chris Davies (rep Geraint James 51 min), Shay Smallman (rep Sam Pailor 62 min), Rhodri Hughes, Ashton Evans (rep Lloyd Evans 65 min), Andrew Waite, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (capt).
Club debut for Callum Carson.
T – Joe Gage, Stef Andrews, Luke Davies, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite
C – Rhys Jones (2), Aled Thomas
T – Jac Price, Luke Davies, Ben Raivalitia
C – Tal Rees (2), Josh Phillips
P – Josh Phillips
Man Of The Match:
1 – Andrew Waite
2 – Ashton Evans
3 – Stef Andrews
10 min: Aberavon – T – Joe Gage & C – Rhys Jones (7 – 0)
22 min: Llanelli – Yellow Card – Christian Long
25 min: Aberavon – T – Stef Andrews (12 – 0)
29 min: Llanelli – T – Jac Price & C – Josh Phillips (12 – 7)
33 min: Llanelli – Yellow Card – Harri Williams
40+3 min: Llanelli – PG – Josh Phillips (12 – 10)
40+3 min: Half Time
48 min: Llanelli – Yellow Card – Jac Price
49 min: Aberavon – T – Luke Davies & C – Rhys Jones (19 – 10)
61 min: Aberavon – T – Ashton Evans & C – Aled Thomas (26 – 10)
71 min: Llanelli – T – Luke Davies & C – Tal Rees (26 – 17)
78 min: Aberavon – T – Andrew Waite (31 – 17)
80+1 min: Llanelli – T – Ben Raivalitia & C – Tal Rees (31 – 24)
80+6 min: Full Time
Picture by Alison Tomalin-Reeves