By: Paul Hopkins
The All Whites were outmuscled by a powerful Ebbw Vale side in a low scoring affair at Eugene Cross Park.
In the opening phases lock Ethan Doyle took a lineout mid way inside the Swansea half and the Ebbw Vale forwards looked to secure field position with a drive forward, but the Whites’ pack managed to keep the ball off the ground to gain a turnover.
It was clear from the opening stages that the home side had an edge up front and a collapsed visitors’ scrum saw fly half Rhys Jones find touch a couple of metres from the try line with a penalty.
Swansea managed to slow down the Ebbw Vale drive, but lock Huw Sutton was penalised for offside at the ruck. Rhys Jones again chose to kick to the corner and this time the ball was fed out to the backs with centre Ethan Phillips stopped just short. The immense pressure soon paid off with number eight Alex Grey squeezing over for a try from close range. Rhys Jones converted.
The All Whites were awarded a penalty after the home side killed the ball at a ruck and fly half Josh Thomas found touch on the 22. Following the lineout number eight Charlie Davies charged forward to set up a platform for Josh Thomas to send a clever chip over the top for full back Gareth Rees to collect for a try. Josh Thomas missed the conversion.
Josh Thomas slipped in his own 22 as he tried to deal with a Rhys Jones grubber kick, but he recovered and his supporting backs managed to clear. A well worked move by the Ebbw forwards saw lock Lance Randall charge forward, but winger Dafydd Howells dropped a pass and Swansea were able to clear long through Josh Thomas.
Winger Callum Dodd was almost given a chance to stretch his legs out wide, but he was tackled high. Instead, Josh Thomas found touch on the 22 with the penalty but a dummied throw gifted the home side with a relieving free kick.
A huge touch finder by Josh Thomas gave the visitors a lineout five metres from the Ebbw Vale try line. Another poor lineout throw by hooker Owen Thomas was collected by the home side, who were able to clear.
A quick lineout saw the All Whites back on the attack immediately and Josh Thomas should have kicked his side into the lead after the Ebbw backs were penalised for offside in midfield, but his effort at goal sailed wide of the posts.
Winger Carrick McDonough superbly ripped the ball out of Josh Thomas’ hands, but the home side were unable to make it count as prop Joel Harries was penalised for holding on after the tackle.
Rees fielded a loose kick and raced up to half way and replacement full back Evan Lloyd spilled a Connor Tantum box kick forward to present the Whites with another attack. Offside at the ruck by the home side gave the visitors a penalty and this time Josh Thomas kicked to the corner. Swansea failed to make the most of the opportunity though after the backs strayed offside from a Josh Thomas high kick.
Centre Dom Franchi broke through a tackle and sent a long pass out wide to McDonough, but the winger was well tackled just short of the line. A Swansea knock on gave Ebbw Vale a close range scrum, but a crooked feed gave the visitors a much needed free kick on the stroke of half time.
Half-time:- Ebbw Vale 7-5 Swansea
An error in the Swansea backline gave Ebbw Vale an early second half attack and a box kick by scrum half Jonathan Evans was taken back over his own try line by winger Cori Lewis-Jenkins. From the goal line drop out Ebbw built an attack, but the All Whites secured a turnover.
A short lineout to Harries caught the Whites by surprise as the Ebbw pack made yards into the Swansea 22. The ball came loose though and Lewis-Jenkins gratefully pounced on the ball on the floor.
A superb break by Jonathan Evans took out the visitors’ defence and he found replacement fly half Matthew Flanagan in support, but a handling error brought an end to the move.
Owen Thomas made a half break as the home side tried to inject some pace, but replacement flanker Ben Asprea was penalised for holding on after the tackle. A huge kick by Flanagan found touch just inside the Swansea 22. Howells made a break, but Jonathan Evans was unable to take a scoring pass out wide.
The home side earned another scrummaging penalty with prop Tom Sloane yellow carded. Another scrum followed and the home side chose to use their backs, which paid off with Howells crashing over for a try. Flanagan converted.
Callum Dodd showed superb strength to race through the middle, but he was stopped on half way by the Ebbw defence. However, the home defence were caught offside from Jonathan Evans’ box kick and a short lineout to Matt Dodd gave the visitors an attacking platform, but they were unable to release the ball and surrendered possession.
The home pack won another scrum penalty on half way which Flanagan chipped up to half way. Replacement hooker Lewis Kinsella’s lineout throw failed to reach five metres though and Swansea were able to clear with a free kick.
The match petered out in the closing stages as the All Whites were simply unable to break through an outstanding Ebbw Vale defence.
Full-time:- Ebbw Vale 14-5 Swansea
Tries:- Alex Grey (8), Dafydd Howells (62)
Cons:- Rhys Jones (9), Matthew Flanagan (63)
Tries:- Gareth Rees (12)
Yellow cards:- Tom Sloane (57)
Venue:- Eugene Cross Park, Ebbw Vale
Weather:- Light cloud, 9C
Referee:- Simon Mills
Man of the match:- Ethan Doyle
Ebbw Vale team:
15 Dan Haymond (rep: Evan Lloyd 35)
14 Carrick McDonough
13 Dom Franchi ©
12 Ethan Phillips
11 Dafydd Howells
10 Rhys Jones (rep: Matthew Flanagan 50)
9 Jonathan Evans
1 Joel Harries (re: Ross Jones 69)
2 Mikhail Blake (rep: Lewis Kinsells 69)
3 Dave Whiting (rep: Rob Sevenoaks 69)
4 Lance Randall (rep: Corey Talbot 69)
5 Ethan Doyle
6 Dan Hill
7 Joe Thomas
8 Alex Grey (rep: Gethin Williams 77)
16 Lewis Kinsella
17 Ross Jones
18 Rob Sevenoaks
19 Corey Talbot
20 Gethin Williams
21 Matthew Flanagan
22 Evan Lloyd
23 Ryan Evans
15 Gareth Rees (rep: Jamie Davies 49)
14 Callum Dodd (rep: Tom Northy 57-69)
13 Hanno Dirksen (rep: Kieran Charles 63)
12 Osian Knott
11 Cori Lewis-Jenkins
10 Josh Thomas (rep: Tom Crockett 80)
9 Connor Tantum (rep: Harvey Nash 47)
1 Tom Sloane © (rep: Tom Northy 69)
2 Owen Thomas (rep: Garan Williams 53)
3 Jordan Pritchard
4 Matt Dodd
5 Huw Sutton
6 Ben Asprea (rep: Ben Williams 35)
7 Callum Bowden
8 Charlie Davies (rep: Liam Edwards 65)
16 Garan Williams
17 Tom Northey
18 Tom Crockett
19 Liam Edwards
20 Ben Williams
21 Harvey Nash
22 James Davies
23 Kieran Charles