SWANSEA 42 EBBW VALE 20
Twenty-seven points from the boot of star outside half Dan Biggar helped Swansea set a new club record of consecutive wins since the conception of the modern Welsh leagues back in 1990. Despite trailing by 11 points at one stage, the Whites scored 30 unopposed points in the second half, including three tries.
Full back Ricky Williams almost opened the scoring after 10 minutes when Rhys Jones powered his way forward on the wing, but despite good work by Rhodri Wells and Alun Wyn-Davies, he was bundled into the corner flag. Biggar kicked his side into the lead two minutes later though after offside in defence by the visitors.
A piercing run by Simon Hunt forced the Swansea defence to kill the ball resulting in Bryan Shelbourne converting a penalty goal. Biggar soon restored the Whites’ lead after the Steelmen were guilty of pulling down at the lineout.
Lock Matthew Griffin secured a superb turnover before former Swansea centre Aaron Bramwell broke clear with the supporting John Bowd providing the link to offload to the scoring Anthony Lott. Shelbourne converted. A chip and chase by Rhys Jones set up a dangerous attack as Hunt was forced to hack the ball into touch. However backchat from the Swansea camp gave the visitors a lifeline and they cleared with a penalty.
Quick thinking by Shelbourne, who kicked into space with a penalty, almost sent in Hunt but Biggar managed to track back and clear. Ebbw Vale grabbed a second try on 28 minutes as flanker Rhys Jenkins was driven over from a routine lineout catch and drive. Shelbourne converted.
A powerful run by Rhys Jones saw him break through a tackle and feed Matthew Brayley but his pass to Wyn-Davies went forward bringing an end to the move. Kristian Owen was sent to the stands for ten minutes after committing a high tackle on Biggar, who punished the ill-discipline with another penalty goal.
A promising attack orchestrated by Brayley and Andrew Joy was illegally killed by the visitors allowing Biggar to add a fourth penalty goal. An off the ball push by Rhys Jones gifted Shelbourne three points on the stroke of half time.
Half-Time:- Swansea 12 Ebbw Vale 20
Coach Richard Webster obviously fired up his side at half time as they came close to scoring after only one minute when Richard Kelly broke through and offloaded to Brayley only for the supporting Joy to lose the ball in contact. Biggar narrowed the deficit to just five points with another penalty goal after an excellent run by Richard Payne and a powerful surge forward by Harbir Singh forced an indiscretion within the visitors’ defence.
Holding on the ground by Wyn-Davies gave Shelbourne a penalty chance but he missed from a relatively straightforward position. A powerful run by Joy set up another attack but a poor pass by Wells brought an end to the move.
Wells sparked an exciting move as he glided through the Vale defence but he panicked and threw a loose pass to the grateful Owen. The Whites retook the lead soon after when the pack remained patient with good phase play before charges by Brayley and Marc Popham set up Kelly who crashed over. Biggar converted.
Offside at a ruck from Ebbw Vale resulted in Biggar stretching the Whites’ lead with a penalty goal. Swansea tightened their grip on the match after Biggar hacked forward a loose ball that Vale failed to defend, resulting in a try for Payne. Biggar converted.
Biggar added his seventh successful penalty when he was illegally prevented from gathering a chip and chase. Nio Aiono became the second Vale player sent to the sin-bin for killing the ball after the Whites embarked on a promising move with Rhys Jones, Popham and Brayley threatening. The home side sealed an emphatic victory with a late try for Chris Shelmerdine who crashed over from close range. Biggar converted.
Despite a lacklustre first half display, the “30-0” post-interval score will have pleased Webster as the side re-wrote club history. Biggar ran the show with a fantastic all-round performance and will surely be challenging for a place in the regional side in the near future. The Whites face a daunting away finale to the season at champions and local rivals Neath on Tuesday night as they seek to clinch second spot in the league.
Full-Time:- Swansea 42 Ebbw Vale 20
Venue:- St. Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Sunny, 14C
Competition:- Principality Welsh Premiership
Swansea Scorers:- Biggar (7 Pens, 3 Cons), Kelly (Try), Payne (Try), Shelmerdine (Try)
Ebbw Vale Scorers:- Shelbourne (2 Pens, 2 Cons), Lott (Try), Jenkins (Try)
Swansea Team:- 15 R. Williams 14 Rhys Jones 13 R. Payne 12 M. Brayley 11 C. Shelmerdine (rep: N. Jones) 10 D. Biggar 9 R. Wells 1 A. Wyn-Davies (rep: Roy Jones) 2 A. Joy 3 D. Matthews (rep: R. Morgan) 4 R. Kelly 5 D. Lloyd-Jones 6 S. Kiley (rep: P. Tucker) 7 H. Singh (rep: E. Price) 8 M. Popham
By Paul Hopkins