by Paul Williams
Long-standing Aberavon supporters will remember all too well those dark days of the 1990’s when they would travel home from Cardiff time and time again having witnessed a heavy defeat for the Wizards. In more recent years trips to the capital have been rather more fruitful, with the Arms Park having become considerably less of a “fortress” at Premiership level, with away wins occurring quite regularly and home winning margins having been reduced to at most a small handful of points.
A cursory glance at the final score on this occasion may suggest things had begun to turn back the other way but, in truth, the result could have been very different but for some uncharacteristic moments of generosity on the part of the Aberavon defence, of which a sharp Cardiff attack was to take full advantage. The chief beneficiary and star of the show, with a personal haul of 26 points from two tries, two penalties and five conversions, was Cardiff full-back Jacob Beetham, with hooker Alun Rees, scrum-half Ethan Lloyd and wing Theo Cabango also touching down.
It is, of late, taken as read that the Aberavon scrum will trouble just about anyone. Cardiff will have been aware of the set-piece prowess of Rowan Jenkins and Geraint James having seen their ‘regional’ side draft in both props on loan to help them through an injury crisis during a couple of European cup ties, but currently any Aberavon pack, regardless of its personnel, is a force with which to be reckoned and it came as no surprise to see the home scrum constantly forced to reverse and resort to wheeling, collapsing and just about any other measure to try and halt the relentless drive of the Wizards’ eight, and in doing so eroding the patience of the referee. Ultimately it was the scrum that saw the visitors open the scoring, with the familiar sight of Andrew Waite expertly controlling the ball at his feet and claiming the touchdown delighting the travelling support.
Aled Thomas’ conversion made it 0-7, but it was a short-lived lead as “The Beetham Show” took centre-stage, with two penalties, a try and conversion, followed by his conversion of Rees’ try giving the home side a thirteen-point lead before a clever reverse pass from Rhodri Cole gave Chris Banfield the chance to dart in for a try with Thomas’ conversion making it 20-14 at the interval.
The Wizards’ pack was once again to the fore after the interval, with a series of close-range scrums eventually yielding a penalty try after repeated infringements. Their one-point lead was again short-lived, however, and if the touchdowns of Lloyd and Cabango, aided by two conversions from Beetham, looked like putting paid to any hope of an Aberavon victory, Beetham’s personal finale of another converted try made certain.
The Wizards, however, were able to salvage a bonus point when replacement wing Matthew Jenkins grabbed their fourth try after, almost inevitable, the Aberavon scrum had once again put the home pack under intolerable pressure. Jenkins is imbued with both pace and strength, and the sight of him in full flight would strike fear into the most resilient of defences, so it came as no surprise when he ran onto a pass at top speed five metres out and took two would-be tacklers over the try-line with him, with Thomas converting from the touchline to bring down the curtain.
Cardiff 41 – 28 Aberavon
Jonathan Phillips; Chris Banfield, Chay Smith, Joe Thomas (rep Joe Gage 69 min), Stef Andrews (rep Matthew Jenkins 73 min); Aled Thomas, Rhodri Cole (rep Zac Fifield 68 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 58 min), Luke Davies (rep Ieuan Davies 58 min), Geraint James (rep Chris Davies 61 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (capt) (rep Lee Purnell 66 min), Andrew Waite (rep Sam Pailor 68 min), Lloyd Evans.
Zac Fifield appeared from Glamorgan Wanderers RFC; Matthew Jenkins & Sam Pailor appeared from Trebanos RFC.
T – Andrew Waite, Chris Banfield, Penalty Try, Matthew Jenkins
C – Aled Thomas (3)
T – Jacob Beetham (2), Alun Rees, Ethan Lloyd, Theo Cabango
C – Jacob Beetham (5)
PG – Jacob Beetham (2)
Man Of The Match:
1 – Rowan Jenkins
2 – Andrew Waite
3 – Geraint James
05 min: Aberavon – T – Andrew Waite & C – Aled Thomas (0 – 7)
08 min: Cardiff – PG – Jacob Beetham (3 – 7)
12 min: Cardiff – PG – Jacob Beetham (6 – 7)
21 min: Cardiff – T – Jacob Beetham & C – Jacob Beetham (13 – 7)
33 min: Cardiff – T – Alun Rees & C – Jacob Beetham (20 – 7)
36 min: Aberavon – T – Chris Banfield & C – Aled Thomas (20 – 14)
40+3 min: Half Time
53 min: Cardiff – Yellow Card – Ollie Drake
57 min: Aberavon – T – Penalty Try (20 – 21)
59 min: Cardiff – T – Ethan Lloyd & C – Jacob Beetham (27 – 21)
70 min: Carduff – T – Theo Cabango & C – Jacob Beetham (34 – 21)
74 min: Cardiff – T – Jacob Beetham & C – Jacob Beetham (41 – 21)
80 min: Cardiff – Yellow Card – Llyr Green
80+3 min: Aberavon – T – Matthew Jenkins & C – Aled Thomas (41 – 28)
80+6 min: Full Time