By Paul Hopkins
The All Whites let slip a 13 point half time lead as champions Ebbw Vale showed their class to bag four tries after the interval.
It was a match that Swansea could have won, but they will be satisfied with a losing bonus point considering the Steelmen’s total dominance up front.
Fly half Jac Wilson was on form with the boot and after just three minutes he found touch just a couple of metres from the visitors’ try line. Centre Ryan Evans burst through the middle from the lineout, but the move broke down.
Vale were reduced to 14 men inside the opening few minutes when centre Liam Jones was shown a yellow card for a spear tackle. Wilson punished him by kicking three points.
A deliberate knock down by fly half Josh Lewis gifted Wilson another kick at goal, which he duly converted.
Swansea extended their lead when the impressive lock Tudor Hughes tapped down a lineout and centre Jedd Evans was found on a crash ball. He handed off a tackler to score a well taken try. Wilson converted.
The All Whites’ front row was penalised for standing up at a scrum and Lewis kicked the resulting penalty goal.
It seemed to spark Ebbw Vale into life as Lewis made a superb break and found winger Ryan Gardiner, who sprinted through the middle, only for Hughes to force a knock on with a crucial tackle.
The visitors’ forwards were penalised for driving inwards at a scrum and Wilson restored his side’s 13 point lead with a penalty goal.
Ebbw Vale looked certain to score when the pack created a good platform for Lewis to kick to the corner. Winger Chris Leversley caught the high ball, but replacement centre Julian Mogg saved the day with a superb try saving tackle.
Lewis had an opportunity to cut the deficit on the stroke of half time when the Whites’ forwards were driven backwards at a scrum, but he hit the crossbar with his effort at goal.
Half-time:- Swansea 16 Ebbw Vale 3
Ebbw Vale must have had a stern talking to at half time as they came out on fire after the interval. When the Whites’ front row collapsed another scrum they were given a warning by referee Simon Mills. Lewis kicked to touch and from the lineout the visitors’ formed an unstoppable maul to the line, with flanker Ronny Kynes claiming the try. Lewis converted.
When Mogg fired out a quick pass to his backs, Ryan Evans made a break and found Hughes in support. The lock powered towards the line, but was tackled and support was too slow to arrive so the move broke down. It was arguably the turning point of the match.
The All Whites were temporary reduced to 14 men when number eight Rory Gallagher was penalised for illegally bringing down a maul.
The visitors opted for a close range scrum from the penalty and the pack kept up the pressure on the Swansea line. They finally broke through a tiring Swansea defence with number eight Ethan Doyle crashing over for a try. Lewis converted.
When the home side were penalised for diving over the top of a ruck Lewis had another penalty opportunity, but he missed his shot at goal.
Scrum half Chris Thomas stole the ball against the head in a scrum and raced down the wing, but he ran out of steam and was tackled into touch.
The Swansea backs made an elementary error by straying in front of a high kick. Lewis found touch deep inside the home twenty-two and the Vale forwards drove towards the line, with replacement hooker Paul John killing the ball, and promptly given his marching orders for ten minutes.
There was no stopping the Steelmen as they went through a few phases and flanker Rhys Clarke dived over to score a bonus point try. Lewis converted.
The home side gave themselves a fighting chance inside injury time when John took a pass and powered past the Vale defence to score. Wilson converted to bring the Whites back to within a score.
In the dying seconds Wilson found touch inside the Ebbw Vale twenty-two with a penalty, but they lost the ball forward in the lineout, bringing an end to a pulsating match.
Next up for Swansea is a trip to Pontypridd, while Ebbw Vale host Carmarthen.
Full-time:- Swansea 23 Ebbw Vale 29
Tries:- Jedd Evans (18), Paul John (80+1)
Cons:- Jac Wilson (19, 80+2)
Pens:- Jac Wilson (4, 13, 32)
Yellow cards:- Rory Gallagher (55), Paul John (70)
Ebbw Vale scorers:
Tries:- Ronny Kynes (45), Ethan Doyle (56), Rhys Clarke (72), Dawid Rubasniak (78)
Cons:- Josh Lewis (46, 57, 73)
Pens:- Josh Lewis (21)
Yellow cards:- Liam Jones (4)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Referee:- Adam Jones
Weather:- Light rain, 10C
Man of the match:- Rhys Clarke
15 Josh Jones
14 Richard Williams (rep: Josh Martin 8)
13 Ryan Evans
12 Jedd Evans (rep: Julian Mogg 36)
11 Will Lewis (rep: Ricky Guest 74 – 80+4)
10 Jac Wilson
9 Rhodri Wells (rep: Martin Luckwell 80)
1 Richard Murphy (rep: Tom Sloane 48)
2 Ricky Guest (rep: Paul John 65)
3 Sam Martin (rep: Mitchell Walsh 73)
4 Jay Williams (rep: Gavin Ronan 62)
5 Tudor Hughes
6 Jon Vaughan © (rep: Mike Sully 59)
7 Jon Fox
8 Rory Gallagher
16 Paul John
17 Tom Sloane
18 Mitchell Walsh
19 Gavin Ronan
20 Mike Sully
21 Martin Luckwell
22 Julian Mogg
23 Josh Martin
Ebbw Vale team:
15 Dan Haymond
14 Chris Levesley (rep: Craig Duncan 68)
13 Nathan Preece (rep: Jordan Howells 36)
12 Liam Jones
11 Ryan Gardiner
10 Josh Lewis
9 Chris Thomas (rep: Ben Ellis 76)
1 Ian George (rep: Rob Sevenoaks 59)
2 Joe Franchi (rep: Nicky Thomas 79)
3 Gethin Robinson (rep: Ross Jones 41)
4 Joe Bartlett (rep: Josh Jacas 62)
5 Damien Hudd ©
6 Rhys Clarke
7 Ronny Kynes (rep: Dawid Rubasniak 76)
8 Ethan Doyle
16 Nicky Thomas
17 Ross Jones
18 Rob Sevenoaks
19 Dawid Rubasniak
20 Josh Jacas
21 Ben Ellis
22 Jordan Howells
23 Craig Duncan