Pontypridd 18 – 33 Aberavon
by Paul Williams
Aberavon’s 100% record this season remained intact following this hard-earned victory at Sardis Road – a ground that hasn’t historically been the happiest of hunting grounds for the Wizards, yet on this occasion they outscored the home side 5-2 on tries.
Late changes in the Aberavon line-up saw Sam Pailor promoted from the replacements bench and Joe Tomalin-Reeves promoted from a weekend off, due to the withdrawals of lock Shay Smallman and flanker Lloyd Evans. The Aberavon team was, however, captained on this occasion by Joe Gage, having been named as skipper when the team was first selected, and it was an attack spearheaded by the dynamic centre that paved the way for Tomalin-Reeves to race over for the Wizards’ first try four minutes in, overhauling a 3-0 home lead from a Joseph Scrivens penalty just a minute earlier.
Rhys Jones added the conversion, but the first half went on to be a battle-royal as play swung from end to end with the lead changing hands several times. Number eight Ben Miles put the home side back in front with a try converted by Scrivens before Jay Baker, back in Aberavon colours at long last, threaded his way down the touchline in typical fashion to go over in the corner for an unconverted try that made the score 10-12 in the visitors’ favour.
Four minutes later the home side were back in front thanks to a Scrivens penalty, then as half-time approached that lead was increased to 18-12 when replacement hooker Nathan Huish touched down. It was, however, very short-lived, as Aberavon went on the attack from the restart, winning a series of penalties that took them to within five metres of the home line. A clearly rehearsed tap-penalty move involving quickfire passing and a bewildering switch of direction then followed, with Ashton Evans hitting the line for a try converted by Jones on the stroke of half-time.
The match remained on a knife-edge for ten minutes with defences remaining on top, but it was the Wizards who broke the deadlock as sustained pressure on the home line enabled scrum-half Rhodri Cole to cross for his third try in two games, with Jones once again converting.
The result was virtually sealed in spectacular fashion at the end of the third quarter, as a loose clearance kick from Pontypridd was fielded and sent across field to where Sam Pailor was charging up from deep. The big lock took the ball at full tilt and showed an astonishing turn of speed to race through a shell-shocked defence and score at the posts. Jones’ conversion was to be the last score of the match, with the best endeavours of both sides in attack unable to further break down resolute defences, but the Wizards had the satisfaction of coming away with their fifth successive bonus-point victory to maintain their position at the top of the table.
The Wizards’ coaching staff must be particularly pleased with the manner in which the team is performing, with this season’s new recruits slotting in seamlessly alongside the more experienced squad members, bringing greater options to rotate starting and bench positions regularly without compromising the on-field strength.
Pontypridd 18 – 33 Aberavon
Jonathan Phillips; Frankie Jones (temp rep Rhys Fawcett 08-19 min), Callum Carson, Joe Gage (capt), Jay Baker (rep Joe Thomas half-time); Rhys Jones (rep Bradley Roderick 66 min), Rhodri Cole (rep Iwan Temblett 80+1 min); Rowan Jenkins (rep Rhys Fawcett 61 min), Luke Davies (rep Ieuan Davies 69 min), Geraint James (rep Chris Davies 61 min), Sam Pailor, Rhodri Hughes, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite (rep Iestyn Davies 80+1 min), Joe Tomalin-Reeves (rep Dan Baker 61 min).
T – Joe Tomalin-Reeves, Jay Baker, Ashton Evans, Rhodri Cole, Sam Pailor
C – Rhys Jones (4)
T – Joe Miles, Nathan Huish
C – Joseph Scrivens
P – Joseph Scrivens (2)
Man Of The Match:
1 – Andrew Waite
2 – Joe Gage
3 – Sam Pailor
03 min: Pontypridd – PG – Joseph Scrivens (3 – 0)
04 min: Aberavon – T – Joe Tomalin-Reeves & C – Rhys Jones (3 – 7)
06 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Rowan Jenkins
13 min: Pontypridd – T – Joe Miles & C – Joseph Scrivens (10 – 7)
19 min: Aberavon – End Yellow Card – Rowan Jenkins
23 min: Aberavon – T – Jay Baker (10 – 12)
27 min: Pontypridd – PG – Joseph Scrivens (13 – 12)
36 min: Pontypridd – T – Nathan Huish (18 – 12)
40+4 min: Aberavon – T – Ashton Evans & C – Rhys Jones (18 – 19)
40+5 min: Half Time
51 min: Aberavon – T – Rhodri Cole & C – Rhys Jones (18 – 26)
51 min: Pontypridd – Yellow Card – Kris Parker
51 min: Aberavon – Yellow Card – Joe Tomalin-Reeves
58 min: Aberavon – T – Sam Pailor & C – Rhys Jones (18 – 33)
61 min: Pontypridd – End Yellw Card – Kris Parker
61 min: Aberavon – End Yellow Card – Joe Tomalin-Reeves
80+2 min: Full Time