By: Paul Hopkins
On a difficult day for the country following the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Swansea and Aberavon played out a game of rugby at St Helen’s.
Both sides and spectators paid tribute to The Queen with a two minute silence prior to the match – both sides also wore black armbands.
On the field, it was Aberavon who ran out comfortable winners with a dominant second half display where they prevented the All Whites from scoring a point.
The Wizards began the match on the front foot and a powerful break by prop Rhys Fawcett earned a penalty, which fly half Rhys Jones kicked to the corner. An excellent lineout steal gave Swansea the chance to clear though.
Aberavon drove their counterparts backwards at a scrum and were awarded a penalty. This time Rhys Jones chose to kick at goal and it proved the right decision as his effort sailed between the posts.
A poor chip through by scrum half Iwan Temblett was gathered by number eight Cai Davies, who helped to prevent another Wizards attack. A crossfield kick by Rhys Jones was well marked by winger Llien Morgan, but he failed to mark the ball and the visitors secured a turnover.
It looked as though the Wizards’ pack were set to claim a penalty try after driving forward, but they were penalised for turning inside.
Winger Gareth Rees half collected a Connor Tantum high kick, feeding flanker Callum Bowden, who tidied up possession for the home side. The visitors were caught offside in midfield and fly half James Davies found touch on the 22.
A second penalty followed when Aberavon failed to roll away in the tackle and Tantum quickly tapped to keep his side on the front foot. The scrum half linked up with Cai Davies who threw a deft return pass back to him for a try under the posts. James Davies converted.
Aberavon hit back immediately when Temblett burst through the middle, and upon finding three defenders in his path, he side footed a kick through for centre Joe Gage to pick up and use his power to score. Rhys Jones converted.
The visitors looked to attack from inside the Swansea 22, but flanker Jay Williams, making his final appearance for the club before a move to Hong Kong, superbly stole in at the lineout to regain possession. However, the home side struggled to clear and when play broke down, Aberavon were awarded a close range scrum.
On this occasion the Wizards’ pack controlled the scrum well with former Ospreys and Welsh international number eight Dan Baker touching down for a try as the set piece advanced over the line. Rhys Jones sliced the conversion wide.
A superb looping pass out wide by James Davies saw Morgan back his pace in the corner, but an outstanding tackle by full back Jon Phillips saved a certain try.
This time it was the Wizards who struggled to clear with Temblett’s clearance kick charged down. While Aberavon initially recovered, they surrendered possession at the breakdown to give Swansea a scrum five, but a mistake brought an end to the chance.
Fawcett was penalised for offside at the ruck and James Davies successfully cut the deficit to just five points with a penalty goal.
The Wizards regathered a short and high restart and centre Joe Thomas raced down the wing, but the supporting winger Stef Andrews stepped into touch inside the 22.
Hooker Garan Williams failed to throw the lineout straight to give Aberavon a scrum inside the 22. The Swansea defence managed to repel the first wave of visitors’ attacks and secured a much deserved penalty when the Wizards’ fived over the top of a ruck.
Andrews failed to prevent a superb James Davies 50-22 kick, which gave the home side an attacking lineout. The Whites mauled forward, before Tantum fired a pass out to centre Hanno Dirksen, who squeezed over for a try. James Davies converted.
Inside first half injury time the Whites gave away a penalty after being caught offside following a knock on. Rhys Jones found touch inside the 22 and the Wizards drove up to the line with flanker Ashton Evans crashing over for a try at the next phase. Rhys Jones converted.
Half-time:- Swansea 17-22 Aberavon
Immediately after the restart Dirksen scrambled a ball off the floor to set up a Whites attack. Cai Davies charged forward, but the home side lost possession and gave away a penalty.
A clever box kick by Temblett was shepherded out of play by full back Harri Houston inside his own 22. Andrews made a break on the wing and forced the All Whites offside and Rhys Jones opted to chip to the corner, but prop Tom Sloane caught the lineout allowing his side to clear.
The respite was short lived though as the Wizards got the ball out wide at the next play with Phillips sprinting clear to score in the corner. Rhys Jones converted.
Rhys Jones fielded a high Houston kick superbly but promptly booted possession away downfield. A high tackle by the home side gifted the visitors a penalty, but Rhys Jones missed touch with his kick.
In a turn up for the books the Swansea pack drove Aberavon off the ball and were awarded a penalty. James Davies found touch just shy of the 22 and the home side got quick ball out wide, but Rees failed to take the long pass.
Rees expertly took a high ball but the support was too slow and his side were penalised for entering the breakdown offside. Rhys Jones kicked to the corner and replacement hooker Cameron Lewis looked to have scored a try, but it was chalked off by the TMO.
Instead, the Wizards were awarded a penalty, which Rhys Jones again chipped into the corner. It was the exact same routine with Lewis this time claiming a legitimate try. Rhys Jones missed the conversion.
A magnificent 50-22 by Phillips gave the visitors an attacking lineout inside the 22, but the home defence managed to keep the ball up in the maul to regain possession.
Houston made a break on the wing, forcing the Aberavon defence offside. With time running out replacement scrum half Harvey Nash took a quick tap penalty, but fortunes were reversed when substitute prop Cameron Jones was yellow carded for an off the ball challenge.
In the dying seconds Aberavon were awarded a penalty after the Whites failed to release the man in the tackle. Replacement fly half Aled Thomas found touch in the 22 and Andrews almost put the icing on the cake with a try in the corner after he chased down a clever grubber kick by Thomas, but the TMO adjudged that the ball won the race past the dead ball line.
A sixth try did finally come for Aberavon when Andrews intercepted a pass to score in the corner. Aled Thomas missed the conversion.
May Queen Elizabeth II rest in peace.
Full-time:- Swansea 17-39 Aberavon
Tries:- Connor Tantum (16), Hanno Dirksen (40)
Cons:- James Davies (17, 40+1)
Pens:- James Davies (31)
Yellow cards:- Cameron Jones (80+5)
Tries:- Joe Gage (18), Dan Baker (24), Ashton Evans (40+4), Jon Phillips (50), Cameron Lewis (69), Stef Andrews (80+14)
Cons:- Rhys Jones (19, 40+5, 51)
Pens:- Rhys Jones (7)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Clear, 16C
Man of the match:- Ashton Evans
15 Harri Houston
14 Llien Morgan (rep: Matthew Jenkins 34)
13 Hanno Dirksen
12 Dan O’Sullivan
11 Gareth Rees (rep: Liam Popham 75)
10 James Davies
9 Connor Tantum (rep: Harvey Nash 48)
1 Tom Sloane © (rep: Cameron Jones 71)
2 Garan Williams (rep: Owen Thomas 71)
3 Richard Murphy (rep: Scott Jenkins 8-13, 71)
4 Lewis Jones
5 Lewis Marsh (rep: Ben Gregory 77)
6 Jay Williams
7 Callum Bowden (rep: Tom Sloane 80+7)
8 Cai Davies (rep: Jon Fox 55)
16 Owen Thomas
17 Cameron Jones
18 Scott Jenkins
19 Ben Gregory
20 Jon Fox
21 Harvey Nash
22 Liam Popham
23 Matthew Jenkins
15 Jon Phillips
14 Frankie Jones (rep: Brad Roderick 75)
13 Joe Thomas
12 Joe Gage
11 Stef Andrews
10 Rhys Jones (rep: Aled Thomas 80+5)
9 Iwan Temblett (rep: Rhodri Cole 48)
1 Rhys Fawcett (rep: Chris Davies 51)
2 Luke Davies (rep: Cameron Lewis 51)
3 Geraint James (rep: Rowan Jenkins 51)
4 Shay Smallman
5 Rhodri Hughes
6 Ashton Evans (rep: Andrew Waite 72)
7 Joe Tomalin Reeves
8 Dan Baker (rep: Sam Pailor 58)
16 Rhodri Cole
17 Aled Thomas
18 Brad Roderick
19 Cameron Lewis
20 Rowan Jenkins
21 Sam Pailor
22 Andrew Waite
23 Chris Davies