Swansea overcame a stern test from the Wizards to record their fifth win in a row despite being outscored by three tries to two. The All Whites included Ospreys Academy players Martin Roberts and Craig Mitchell with hooker Richard Hibbard and prop Tim Evans also making appearances on their respective return from injury. Full back Ricky Williams thoroughly deserved his man of the match award with an excellent all round performance, capped off with 16 points from the boot.
Aberavon benefited from an ill-discipline start by the Whites after fly half Damian Karauna was singled out by referee Nigel Whitehouse for back chat. Jamie Davies duly converted the penalty goal. An excellent run by Richard Carter nearly resulted in an opening try for the visitors but his link up with Darren Ryan broke down.
Superb work by Ryan and Davies caused panic in the Swansea defence, forcing them to stray offside. Davies was unsuccessful with a straight forward penalty chance. Ricky Williams levelled matters after 16 minutes with a penalty from in front of the posts after an excellent dart through the middle by David Watts.
Nicky Thomas and Bevan combined well out wide as the Swansea backs began to turn on the style. The visitors transgressed but Williams dragged his penalty wide. Aberavon were gift wrapped a try on 28 minutes after the Whites’ backs gave away a poor interception with winger Darran Griffiths racing in to score. Davies missed the conversion. Swansea took the lead for the first time just ten minutes before half time as Karauna danced his way past the Wizards’ defence before setting up a platform for Watts to race clear and touch down under the posts. Williams converted.
Half-Time:- Swansea 10 Aberavon 8
Nicky Thomas pounced on a loose ball deep inside his own half and hacked upfield only to be tackled just a metre from the line. However, the Wizards prevented quick release and gave away three points to Williams. Flanker Darryl Thomas was yellow carded by Whitehouse for foul play after he almost sparked a fight. To his credit, Whitehouse stood firm against any attempts to bring foul play into the game and stamped his authority well.
Three minutes later Swansea were awarded a penalty after a superb tackle by Williams. However the full back failed with his effort on goal in a swirling wind. Superb combination work by Watts and Chris Shelmerdine resulted in a try for Marc Popham who raced in under the posts. Williams converted.
Griffiths broke clear down the wing but was superbly tackled into touch by Williams. Aberavon failed to deal with a Karauna chip through and held the ball illegally on the floor to give Williams a simple three points.
The visitors began their fight back with ten minutes remaining as the backs fired the ball out wide with Griffiths stretching the Swansea defence to score. Davies converted. Four minutes later, Williams eased the pressure with a penalty goal after the visitors held the ball on the ground. The Wizards set up an exciting finale with a last minute try after replacement scrum half Richard Morgan darted away from a ruck to score with Davies converting. However, the Swansea defence stood firm and held out for a fifth successive victory.
Swansea’s victory marks their fifth win in a row and has ensured they go into next week’s important Cup match with Cardiff in the right frame of mind. Williams starred with his all round game and even though the forwards struggled early on, they turned the screw in the second half buoyed by Tim Evans’ comeback from injury.
Full-Time:- Swansea 26 Aberavon 20
Venue:- St. Helen's, Swansea
Weather:- Clear, 9C
Competition:- Principality Premiership
Referee:- Nigel Whitehouse
Swansea Scorers:- Williams (4 Pens, 2 Cons), Watts (Try), Popham (Try)
Aberavon Scorers:- Davies (Pen, Con), Griffiths (2 Tries), Richard Morgan (Try)
Swansea Team:- 15 R. Williams 14 L. Bevan 13 C. Shelmerdine 12 D. Watts 11 Nicky Thomas 10 D. Karauna 9 M. Roberts 1 L. May (rep: T. Evans) 2 R. Hibbard 3 C. Mitchell 4 I. Evans 5 Noel Thomas (rep: M. Collins 6 M. Popham (rep: D. Blyth) 7 H. Singh 8 G. Newman
By Paul Hopkins