Swansea 17 – 39 Aberavon
by Paul Williams
The Wizards kept their momentum just five days after their spectacular league opener against Bridgend, crossing for six tries against a lively and committed Swansea side that clearly had ambitions of their own to claim ‘top dog’ status amongst the Indigo Premiership clubs within the Ospreys region.
For forty minutes the match swung back and forth with neither side able to gain the upper hand on either field or scoreboard, but the visitors pulled away after the interval to claim their second bonus-point victory within a week.
Fly-half Rhys Jones got the Wizards off the mark with a penalty goal after five minutes, but the All Whites were showing plenty of enterprise which was rewarded when scrum-half Connor Tantum went racing clear after good work from prop Scott Jenkins, on as a blood replacement, to score at the posts for fly-half James Davies to add the conversion.
The Wizards response was almost instant, with Iwan Temblett breaking away and putting in a grubber kick that was picked up by Joe Gage. The versatile and popular Gage, now looking very settled in the inside centre position, showed great strength and footwork to go in under the posts for Jones to add the extras and make it 7-10.
The Wizards went further ahead as the match entered the second quarter, with number eight Dan Baker, already causing problems with his powerful running, claiming a try at the back of an advancing Aberavon scrum. Jones’ conversion attempt from out wide drifted just outside the uprights.
A penalty from Davies narrowed the margin to 10-15 and then, as half-time beckoned, the experienced Hanno Dirksen sprinted over for a try at the posts, with Davies’ conversion putting the home side ahead again. It was, however, a short-lived lead, as a minute later Rhys Fawcett forced his way over after a series of rucks close to the Swansea line. Jones made no mistake with the conversion, and the score stood at 17-22 as the half-time whistle sounded.
The game changed dramatically after the interval as Aberavon upped the intensity of their play, used their bench judiciously and ran in three further tries to take their tally to six. With a replacement front-row every bit as strong as that which started the match, plus the experienced Rhodri Cole coming on to take over from the lively Temblett, there was a visibly growing confidence to the visitors’ play. The bonus point came when a pinpoint-accurate cross-kick from Rhys Jones was fielded by left-wing Stef Andrews. With one hapless defender to beat, and Jonathan Phillips streaking down the touchline outside him, Andrews just had to time his pass to the full-back and the result was inevitable, with Phillips running in a try every bit as spectacular as the one he scored at the Talbot Athletic Ground the previous weekend. Jones added to his own personal tally with a truly magnificent left-footed conversion from way out on the left.
Swansea, to their great credit, refused to roll over but the visitors’ defence proved capable of repelling their efforts, and at 17-29 the Wizards were looking well in control, and any doubt was removed when replacement hooker Cameron Lewis broke away from a driving lineout to plunge over for an unconverted try near the right-hand corner.
The sight of Ashton Evans hobbling off in the final quarter brought some cause for concern in the Aberavon camp, but replacement Sam Pailor, clearly itching to get involved during the closing stages, took the field and caused all kinds of problems for the home defence. The home side then lost Cameron Jones to the sin-bin after a clumsy off-the-ball shoulder charge was picked up by the TMO, and with the clock running down Andrews almost got to a kick-ahead to claim a sixth try, only for it to be adjudged to have crossed the dead-ball line just before he grounded it. He was not to be denied, though, as a desperate attempt by Swansea to launch a counterattack foundered when a wayward pass bounced into the winger’s path, giving him the easiest of run-ins to make the final score 17-39.
Swansea 17 – 39 Aberavon
Jonathan Phillips; Frankie Jones (rep Bradley Roderick 74 min), Joe Thomas, Joe Gage, Stef Andrews; Rhys Jones (rep Aled Thomas 80+3 min), Iwan Temblett (rep Rhodri Cole 46 min); Rhys Fawcett (rep Rowan Jenkins 49 min), Luke Davies (rep Cameron Lewis 49 min), Geraint James (rep Chris Davies 49 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Ashton Evans (rep Sam Pailor 70 min), Dan Baker (rep Andrew Waite 56 min), Joe Tomalin-Reeves (capt).
T – Joe Gage, Dan Baker, Rhys Fawcett, Jonathan Phillips, Cameron Lewis, Stef Andrews
C – Rhys Jones (3)
P – Rhys Jones
T – Connor Tantum, Hanno Dirksen
C – James Davies (2)
P – James Davies
Man Of The Match:
1 – Dan Baker
2 – Ashton Evans
3 – Rhys Jones
05 min: Aberavon – PG – Rhys Jones (0 – 3)
15 min: Swansea – T – Connor Tantum & C – James Davies (7 – 3)
17 min: Aberavon – T – Joe Gage & C – Rhys Jones (7 – 10)
23 min: Aberavon – T – Dan Baker (7 – 15)
31 min: Swansea – PG – James Davies (10 – 15)
39 min: Swansea – T – Hanno Dirksen & C – James Davies (17 – 15)
40+3 min: Aberavon – T – Rhys Fawcett & C – Rhys Jones (17 – 22)
40+5 min: Half Time
48 min: Aberavon – T – Jonathan Phillips & C – Rhys Jones (17 – 29)
67 min: Aberavon – T – Cameron Lewis (17 – 34)
80+2 min: Swansea – Yellow Card – Cameron Jones
80+11 min: Aberavon – Stef Andrews (17 – 39)
80+12 min: Full Time
Picture by Ioan Dyer ( @Ioan_Dyer )