Bridgend 15 – 18 Aberavon
by Paul Williams
The Wizards picked up another league win on Boxing Day, making it three victories from three matches against Bridgend this season, although this hard-fought encounter is less likely to endure in the memory than either of the two earlier meetings between the two clubs.
Aberavon, having scored the only two tries of the afternoon, will consider themselves deserved winners, but this was a far cry from the best of the Wizards’ performances this season, with the ferocity of the home defence, no doubt smarting from two forty-plus-point hidings at the hands of the Wizards in September and October, severely disrupting any chance of the visitors cutting loose and using their pace out wide to good effect.
Languishing perilously close to the foot of the table Bridgend, for their part, adopted a limited style of play based largely on kicking for position, looking for penalty-goal chances that were duly converted into points by the prolific boot of fly-half Luke Price. It was simple, effective but ultimately not quite enough to avoid yet another defeat, with the tense closing stages seeing them unable to find a way through or around a solid Aberavon defence, despite them having gained a foothold or two inside the Wizards’ 22.
The first half was a somewhat untidy affair, with the only scores coming from respective fly-halves Price and Aled Thomas, with two penalties apiece. Price added three more to his tally after the interval, but in the meantime the Wizards had finally found their way to the try-line when the ball was for once moved swiftly wide, for centre Joe Thomas to feed Jay Baker. The powerful right winger once again proved impossible to stop from close range as he crashed over for an unconverted try.
With the score standing at 15-11, the Wizards at last found some forward dominance after Joe Gage had clearly been obstructed while chasing his own kick ahead as it rolled towards the Bridgend line. It looked somewhat cynical, but the referee saw it as no more than a penalty offence and the ball was kicked into touch five metres out. The ensuing lineout brought with it the familiar sight of the Aberavon pack trundling relentlessly forward for replacement hooker Luke Davies to claim the try. With Thomas having just left the field, replacement Chris Banfield took over the kicking duties and his conversion attempt from wide out on the right grazed the inside of the right-hand goalpost on its way over the bar to make it 18-15.
All that was left was for the Wizards to defend that three-point lead during those frenetic final few minutes, in which they were ultimately successful although not without several nervous moments as the home side desperately but fruitlessly tried to find a way through.
Bridgend 15 – 18 Aberavon
Stef Andrews; Frankie Jones (rep Chris Banfield 63 min), Joe Thomas, Joe Gage (capt), Jay Baker; Aled Thomas (rep Bradley Roderick 65 min), Rhodri Cole (rep Iwan Temblett 52 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 57 min), Ieuan Davies (rep Luke Davies 52 min), Geraint James (rep Chris Davies 63 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Joe Tomalin-Reeves, Ashton Evans, Lloyd Evans.
Replacements Not Used:
Steffan Lewis, Sam Pailor.
Steffan Lewis appeared from Tondu RFC.
T – Jay Baker, Luke Davies
C – Chris Banfield
P – Aled Thomas (2)
P – Luke Price (5)
Man Of The Match:
1 – Lloyd Evans
2 – Ashton Evans
3 – Joe Gage
02 min: Aberavon – PG – Aled Thomas (0 – 3)
04 min: Bridgend – PG – Luke Price (3 – 3)
14 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Rowan Jenkins
25 min: Aberavon – End Yellow Card – Rowan Jenkins
29 min: Bridgend – PG – Luke Price (6 – 3)
40+2 min: Aberavon – PG – Aled Thomas (6 – 6)
40+2 min: Half Time
43 min: Bridgend – PG – Luke Price (9 – 6)
57 min: Aberavon – T – Jay Baker (9 – 11)
61 min: Bridgend – PG – Luke Price (12 – 11)
63 min: Bridgend – PG – Luke Price (15 – 11)
66 min: Aberavon – T – Luke Davies & C – Chris Banfield (15 – 18)
80+2 min: Full Time