Swansea kept their faint title hopes alive by grinding out an impressive bonus point victory at the Talbot Athletic Ground. The Whites had previously never won at Aberavon during the semi-pro era but adapted to the wet conditions better than their opponents. Hanno Dirksen returned to the side after missing the last few matches due to injury and his presence told as he grabbed a brace of tries.
The visitors scored their first try within a minute when Owen Phillips peeled off a powerful maul to crash over. James Dixon converted. Standing up in the scrum gave Dixon a penalty chance but his effort at goal hit the crossbar.
The Wizards replied after 14 minutes when their forwards kept patience through a few phases before number eight Richard Morris crashed over to score. Jamie Davies converted. The visitors' pack pulled down a maul to give Swansea a penalty. Dixon chipped to the corner but the Whites' pack was held up just short of the line and Aberavon were able to turn over possession.
The Whites opted for a close range scrum from a penalty, but while the visitors' pack seemed to disrupt the surge forward, Rhodri Wells tidied things up and sent Dixon over for a try, which the fly half also converted. Neil White was sent to the sin-bin by referee David Jones after committing a professional foul. Dixon missed touch with the penalty and a Chris Lewis chip through was gathered by Marc Bennett who took advantage of a Leigh Bevan error to score. Jamie Davies converted. Swansea regained the lead just before half time when captain Sam Kiley chipped ahead for Dirksen to control, gather and score. Dixon failed to convert.
Half time:- Aberavon 14 Swansea 19
A moment of magic by Dirksen secured a bonus point for the visitors. The pack turned over possession and got quick ball out to the winger who raced away down the wing, kicked ahead into space and slid over for a try in the corner. Dixon converted from out wide. Ten minutes later Phillips was yellow carded for a professional foul.
The home side came close to getting back in the game after Swansea made a mess of a clearance but they failed to make the most of an attacking scrum five. David Blyth became the second Swansea player sin-binned, this time for killing the ball. Jamie Davies's attempt at goal sailed wide of the post though.
Dirksen came close to completing a hat trick of tries when he chipped another loose ball, but this time the Aberavon defence managed to track back and clear. The Wizards should have scored in the final minute but failed to capitalise on a close range lineout.
The win takes Swansea level on points with Neath at the top, although the Welsh All Blacks have two games in hand. Next up for Aberavon is a Swalec Cup quarter-final match at Pontypridd while the All Whites take on Ebbw Vale at St Helen's in the league.
Full time:- Aberavon 14 Swansea 26
Venue:- Talbot Athletic Ground, Port Talbot
Weather:- Rain, 9C
Competition:- Principality Premiership
Referee:- David Jones
Aberavon scorers:- Morris (Try), J Davies (2 Cons), Bennett (Try)
Swansea scorers:- Phillips (Try), Dixon (3 Cons, Try), Dirksen (2 Tries)
Man of the match:- Hanno Dirksen
Swansea team:- 15 R Williams 14 H Dirksen 13 C Shelmerdine 12 A Thomas (rep: A Lewis) 11 L Bevan 10 J Dixon 9 R Wells (rep: D Karauna) 1 L May 2 O Phillips (rep: A Joy) 3 A Clatworthy (rep: R Jones) 4 S Kiley 5 J Goode 6 L Jones 7 M Popham 8 D Blyth (rep: T Morgan)
By Paul Hopkins