By: Paul Hopkins
A late rally by the All Whites wasn’t enough as the Aberavon Wizards ground out a hard fought victory at the Talbot Athletic Ground.
With the heavens opening just moments before kick off, it was clear that the game would turn into a forwards-dominated affair, played out in gale force winds too.
A transgression at the scrum by the visitors gave Aberavon an early penalty chance, but fly half Rhys Jones missed his relatively straightforward kick at goal.
A huge Garryowen kick by Jones was spilled forward by full back Iestyn Hopkins to give the home side an attacking platform inside the Swansea 22.
Hooker Garin Lloyd almost intercepted a loose pass, but moments later the Wizards were awarded another penalty following offside at the ruck. Jones kicked deep inside the All Whites’ 22 with yet another penalty given for offside – he again found touch.
Lock Sam Williams slapped down the lineout and luckily found his own player, but a chip through meant for winger Gabe Lacey was shepherded dead by Hopkins.
Swansea took a quick goal line drop out and quick thinking by Jones saw the fly half successfully kick a snap drop goal from near half way.
Straight from the restart, the Wizards were penalised for straying in front of a kick after Hopkins expertly rose to claim a high ball. Fly half Dan Edwards kicked the resulting penalty goal to tie the score at 3-3.
The seesaw nature of the match continued with Aberavon awarded a penalty when the Whites’ defence crept offside at the breakdown. Jones chipped to the corner and a well worked lineout and driving maul saw hooker Luke Davies crash over for a try. Jones converted.
Hopkins tried to run back a chip ahead but was tackled on his own 22. Instead, a long pass out to Lacey saw the winger cut back inside, before the visitors gave away a penalty after the defence handled the ball on the floor. Jones chose to kick long to the corner, but Aberavon were penalised for driving into a maul from the side.
Prop Geraint James stole a malfunctioning lineout and the home side looked to attack, but winger Stef Andrews dropped the ball out wide. Yet another penalty followed with the pattern of Jones chipping to the corner continuing, although this time the Wizards’ lineout was poor.
Swansea were unable to clear from their own line and were turned over, conceding a scrum five. The home pack were penalised at the set piece though, giving away a further 10 metres for back chat.
The Aberavon forwards destroyed a Swansea scrum, earning a penalty that Jones kicked up to the 22. Number eight Andrew Waite powered forward and found scrum half Rhodri Cole in support, but as the Wizards got the ball out wide, a high tackle by the visitors saw a penalty awarded. A poor lineout throw by Luke Davies brought an end to the move though.
Williams stole in at a lineout with Lacey showing good strength out wide, but Dan Edwards knocked the ball forward as he scrambled to reclaim possession. Swansea gave away another penalty at the scrum which led to the familiar sight of Jones chipping into the corner. A dummy throw by Luke Davies gave the visitors a relieving free kick though.
Luke Davies charged over half way but became isolated and held on after the tackle. Dan Edwards found touch on the Aberavon 22 but lock Lewis Jones spilled the lineout forward.
Williams intercepted a pass in midfield and the Whites’ defence was penalised for offside. Given it was on the stroke of half time, Jones opted to kick at goal from inside his own half but his effort at goal hit the base of the posts.
Half-time:- Aberavon 10-3 Swansea
A high Rhys Jones kick was well taken by Hopkins, but Dan Edwards kicked possession away, although a period of ping pong ended in the home side giving away a penalty for offside. Dan Edwards missed touch with his kick, but an error by the Wizards gifted the All Whites an attacking scrum.
A powerful scrum by the visitors drove their counterparts backwards with a rare penalty awarded. Dan Edwards fund touch inside the Aberavon 22 with lock Matt Dodd rising high to collect the lineout. Winger Harri Houston looked to have scored but a pass was intercepted by Callum Carson, although the centre was unable to wriggle clear of a tackle.
James charged through the middle, before the referee’s patience gave in as he yellow carded Garin Lloyd for a professional foul.
Jones kicked to the corner from the penalty and a clever grubber kick into the corner by Carson was pounced on by full back Jon Phillips, who slid in to score a superb try. Jones’ conversion fell well short of the posts.
Dan Edwards took his eye off the ball inside his own half as he dropped a pass that was then hacked forward by Cole, but the visitors’ defence managed to get back to defend and clear.
The home side grabbed a third try moments later through Waite from an unstoppable rolling maul against seven forwards. Jones converted.
A rare error by Jones followed as he kicked out on the full to gift the Whites an attacking lineout on the 22. Dodd took the lineout and centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler looked to have lost the ball forward, but play was brought back for an earlier penalty.
Replacement prop Tom Sloane chose a tap and go inside the 22 with his side needing to respond quickly. The visitors threw the kitchen sink at the try line before Jones was penalised for holding on after the tackle.
Aberavon were penalised for stepping offside in midfield with Dan Edwards kicking to the corner, although an excellent counter drive by the Wizards’ forwards slowed down the attack.
A superb break by replacement scrum half Ben Ley sparked an attack for the home side but an off the ball high tackle by Ashton Evans saw the flanker yellow carded.
Dan Edwards found touch on the 22 but lock Rhodri Hughes stole the lineout and a penalty followed when the Swansea defence failed to release the man in the tackle.
Jones found touch on the 22 with a penalty and Hughes took the lineout, but a poor pass saw the move lose impetus, although Andrews superbly hacked a ball forward and came within inches of scoring in the corner, but the visitors managed to ground the ball dead.
The Wizards were awarded a penalty inside the Swansea 22, which they took quickly, but it proved the wrong decision as they were unable to break a determined Swansea defence and instead gave away a penalty.
A superb move by the All Whites saw Ley spin out of a tackle and race into the 22, but the forwards were penalised for diving over the top of a ruck. The backs managed to get the ball out to Houston and he chipped ahead, but it was well defused by Phillips.
Replacement hooker Ieuan Davies was yellow carded for a professional foul as Swansea looked to claim a consolation try. Substitute winger James Davies took a tap penalty but the Wizards secured a turnover.
The moment of the match came in the last play when the Wizards looked odds-on to claim a bonus point try, except Hopkins and Houston had other ideas as they both stretched their legs from deep inside their own half with Houston claiming a sensational try. Davies missed the conversion.
Full-time:- Aberavon 22-8 Swansea
Tries:- Luke Davies (15), Jon Phillips (51), Andrew Waite (54)
Cons:- Rhys Jones (16, 55)
DGs:- Rhys Jones (10)
Yellow cards:- Ashton Evans (69), Ieuan Davies (80+6)
Tries:- Harri Houston (80+8)
Pens:- Dan Edwards (13)
Yellow cards:- Garin Lloyd (49)
Venue:- Talbot Athletic Ground, Port Talbot
Weather:- Heavy Rain Showers, 10C
Referee:- Tom Spurrier
Man of the match:- Andrew Waite
15 Jon Phillips
14 Gabe Lacey
13 Callum Carson (rep: Joe Thomas 69 (rep: Rhodri Cole 80))
12 Brad Roderick
11 Stef Andrews
10 Rhys Jones
9 Rhodri Cole (rep: Liam Seaward 55)
1 Rowan Jenkins (rep: Jordan Walters 62)
2 Luke Davies (rep: Ieuan Davies 62)
3 Geraint James (rep: Rhys Fawcett 69)
4 Shay Smallman (rep: Rhodri Hughes 62)
5 Sam Williams (rep: Sam Pailor 62)
6 Ashton Evans
7 Joe Tomalin-Reeves (rep: Lloyd Evans 74)
8 Andrew Waite
16 Liam Seaward
17 Joe Thomas
18 Ieuan Davies
19 Rhodri Hughes
20 Jordan Walters
21 Lloyd Evans
22 Sam Pailor
23 Rhys Fawcett
15 Iestyn Hopkins
14 Matthew Jenkins (rep: James Davies 55)
13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler
12 Kieran Charles (rep: Gareth O Rees 67)
11 Harri Houston
10 Dan Edwards
9 Harvey Nash (rep: Ben Ley 67)
1 Garyn Phillips (rep: Tom Sloane 53)
2 Garin Lloyd (rep: Lewis Lloyd 59)
3 Rhys Henry (rep: Ellis Fackrell 69)
4 Lewis Jones (rep: Liam Edwards 67)
5 Matt Dodd
6 Will Hickey
7 Callum Bowden ©
8 Morgan Morse (rep: Dai Francis 11)
16 Lewis Lloyd
17 Tom Sloane
18 Ellis Fackrell
19 Liam Edwards
20 Dai Francis
21 Ben Ley
22 James Davies
23 Gareth O Rees