By: Paul Hopkins
An impressive scrummaging display by the Aberavon Wizards condemned Swansea to an opening day Premiership defeat at the Talbot Athletic Ground.
From the kick off winger Matthew Jenkins spilled possession forward under little pressure to give the visitors a scrum inside the twenty-two, but they were unable to capitalise on the chance.
Following a period of ping pong with the boot, a superbly weighted chip by fly half James Davies bounced into touch as a 50/22. However, lock Shay Smallman disrupted the lineout to force a vital error.
The scene for the match was set at the first scrum, which resulted in a penalty after the Wizards’ pack proved too much to handle for their counterparts.
Back in possession, winger Llien Morgan picked up a loose ball and sprinted 40 metres upfield, but when support finally arrived it was too late and the Whites were penalised for diving in at the side of a ruck.
Aberavon were penalised for a high tackle and James Davies chipped his penalty touch finder to the Wizards’ 22. Lock Jake Baker collected the lineout and was driven backwards, but flanker Lloyd Evans entered a ruck offside, giving James Davies a straightforward penalty attempt from which he made no mistake.
A sustained period of pressure for Aberavon resulted in a penalty and lock Matt Dodd was sin-binned for cynically preventing a quick penalty. Fly half Joe Thomas kicked to the corner and the visitors illegally brought down the resulting maul. Another penalty followed with the home side opting for a scrum against a seven man Swansea pack.
The visitors gave away a further two penalties at the scrum, before referee Dewi Phillips’ patience gave in and he awarded the home side a penalty try.
As the home side went hunting for another try Ashton Evans collected a loose ball at the back of a lineout, before Morgan failed to deal with a high kick under pressure from centre Will Price. An unstoppable Aberavon scrum saw prop Kaid O’Neill yellow carded.
From the penalty Thomas kicked to touch and it looked as though the visitors pack would maul over the try line, but the Swansea defence managed to hold the ball off the ground, securing a turnover.
Swansea were able to enjoy a rare attack and were awarded a penalty on half way after the Wizards’ defence crept offside at the breakdown.
James Davies found touch a metre from the try line and the visitors went through the phases, before being held up over the try line. Play was brought back though and James Davies knocked over the penalty goal to cut the gap to a solidary point at half time.
Half-time:- Aberavon 7-6 Swansea
After the interval flanker Callum Bowden stole in at the back of a lineout to gather a loose Ieuan Davies throw. Dodd powered past two Aberavon defenders and found scrum half Connor Tantum in support, but he was tackled a few metres short of the line and his fellow Whites were unable to arrive early enough.
Scrum half Rhodri Cole made a mini break and got the ball out wide to winger Stef Andrews , but he was stopped on the 22. As the Wizards tried to get quick ball out wide, centre Chay Smith took his eye off the ball, bringing the promising move to an end.
A second Aberavon try came when the powerful Wizards pack pushed their Whites’ counterparts off a scrum and got quick ball out wide for Cole to squeeze over at the corner. Full back Chris Banfield converted.
The home side were awarded a penalty after the Swansea defence failed to roll away after the tackle. A cheeky darting kick by Cole almost took Josh Carrington by surprise, but the winger managed to deal with the danger and clear.
In a move that came out of nowhere Smith sprinted down the wing, but the Swansea defence was alive to the danger and prevented the offload.
Another scrummaging infringement gave the Wizards a penalty and this time Thomas kicked to touch. Although the original set piece failed to bear fruit, a second lineout saw Ieuan Davies crash over for a try. Banfield converted.
The All Whites’ first notable spell of possession in the second half came from a scrappy Wizards error. Carrington made a weaving run over the 22 and was supported by James Davies. Replacement lock Jon Fox dropped a pass on the wing, but referee Phillips brought play back for a visitors’ penalty.
James Davies kicked to touch with the penalty and centre Hanno Dirksen took a crash ball, before a long pass out wide saw Carrington dive over for a try. James Davies converted.
The home side were soon back on the hunt for a bonus point though and were awarded a penalty on half way after the visitors failed to release in the tackle. Thomas’ kick sailed over the dead ball line though.
Banfield took a long pass out wide and weaved inside a couple of tackles, but he was stopped and play was brought back for an Aberavon scrum. Replacement scrum half Chris Morgans did well to disrupt play at the scrum and substitute winger Kian Abraham almost latched onto James Davies’ chip ahead, but he was tackled.
The home side secured their bonus point in style when replacement scrum half Rhodri Lewis took a pass before dancing past two tacklers and sprinting clear to score a magical try. Banfield converted in what was the final play of the match.
Full-time:- Aberavon 28-13 Swansea
Tries:- Penalty Try (28), Rhodri Cole (51), Ieuan Davies (64), Rhodri Lewis (80+1)
Cons:- Chris Banfield (52, 65, 80+2)
Tries:- Josh Carrington (73)
Cons:- James Davies (74)
Pens:- James Davies (16, 40+3)
Yellow cards:- Matt Dodd (19), Kaid O’Neill (31)
Venue:- Talbot Athletic Ground, Port Talbot
Weather:- Light rain showers, 9C
Referee:- Dewi Phillips
Man of the match:- Rhys Fawcett
15 Chris Banfield
14 Matthew Jenkins (rep: Joe Gage 59)
13 Chay Smith
12 Will Price (rep: Dan Edwards 65)
11 Stef Andrews
10 Joe Thomas
9 Rhodri Cole (rep: Rhodri Lewis 71)
1 Rhys Fawcett (rep: Jordan Walters 67)
2 Ieuan Davies (rep: Cameron Lewis 67)
3 Chris Davies
4 Shay Smallman (rep: Rhodri Hughes 63)
5 Sam Williams
6 Sam Pailor (rep: Lee Purnell 63)
7 Lloyd Evans
8 Ashton Evans
16 Rhodri Lewis
17 Dan Edwards
18 Joe Gage
19 Cameron Lewis
20 Lee Purnell
21 Rhodri Hughes
22 Jordan Walters
23 Geraint James
15 Harri Houston
14 Llien Morgan (Jordan Pritchard 33-40)
13 Gareth Rees
12 Hanno Dirksen
11 Josh Carrington (rep: Kian Abraham 75)
10 James Davies
9 Connor Tantum (rep: Chris Morgans 56)
1 Tom Sloane © (rep: Cameron Jones 53)
2 Owen Thomas
3 Kaid O’Neill (rep: Jordan Pritchard 71)
4 Matt Dodd
5 Jake Baker (rep: Jon Fox 47)
6 Leon McNally
7 Callum Bowden (rep: Iestyn Merriman 54)
8 Charlie Davies
16 Garan Williams
17 Cameron Jones
18 Jordan Pritchard
19 Jon Fox
20 Iestyn Merriman
21 Chris Morgans
22 Liam Popham
23 Kian Abraham