By: Paul Hopkins
The All Whites fell to a cruel last minute defeat after Ebbw Vale took advantage of three home yellow cards to secure an unlikely comeback victory.
Swansea created the first chance when fly half James Davies fired a pass out to centre Osian Knott on the wing, who sprinted up to the 22, but support was slow to arrive and Ebbw Vale were awarded a relieving penalty.
The home side deservedly took the lead when enterprising play by the backs saw Knott race down the wing and chip ahead. Full back Morgan Richards failed to deal with the ball and centre Tom Florence stole in to send scrum half Gareth J Rees over for a try under the posts. James Davies converted.
A superb move by the Steelmen saw winger Carrick McDonough chip ahead, beating the defending winger Matthew Jenkins, but Gareth J Rees saw the danger and cleared into touch.
From the lineout, the visitors’ pack inched towards the line with the Swansea defence driving in from the side. This time an unstoppable drive saw hooker Rhys Francis crash over for a try. Fly half Evan Lloyd missed the conversion.
Ebbw Vale looked to flex their backs but it was the home side that extended their lead when Florence read a looping pass well and intercepted to score under the posts. James Davies converted.
A huge kick by James Davies bounced into touch in the opposing 22, giving Swansea an attacking lineout. The visitors were penalised for offside, and James Davies kicked his side 12 points ahead.
A 30 metres break by Florence got the home side back on the front foot and James Davies chipped into the corner. Lock Tristan Davies claimed the lineout, but the ball became trapped and Swansea were awarded an attacking scrum. From the set piece, number eight Scott Jenkins sneaked around the blindside to score in the corner. James Davies converted.
Swansea looked to cut loose and full back Gareth O Rees raced through the middle, but his pass fell behind the supporting Matthew Jenkins, who was unable to gather the ball.
Evan Lloyd ran back at the Swansea defence following a period of pressure and lock Dylan Bartlett tidied up play in midfield. Gareth J Rees initially secured a turnover, but he was then penalised for holding on in the tackle. Evan Lloyd chipped into the corner with a penalty, but the Whites managed to steal possession at the lineout.
The home side came desperately close to scoring in the corner following an exciting passage of rugby, but Knott was felled a metre short of the line with support too slow to arrive.
Half-time:- Swansea 24-5 Ebbw Vale
Centres Knott and Florence combined in midfield as the home side went in search of an early bonus point try, but a dropped pass brought an end to the move.
Gareth J Rees spilled the ball forward at the base of a ruck, gifting Ebbw Vale possession inside the Swansea half, but centre Dom Franchi held on after the tackle.
Evan Lloyd found touch on the Whites’ 22 with a penalty, although determined tackling by the home side slowed down the attack. Offside at the breakdown saw the Steelmen awarded a penalty and Evan Lloyd chipped into the corner, although great defence by Swansea repelled the advance.
The visitors continued to throw the kitchen sink at Swansea with Evan Lloyd yet again finding touch deep inside the 22 with a penalty. A powerful maul by the visitors saw scrum half Mathew Flanagan creep around the blindside to score. Evan Lloyd missed the conversion.
A superb counterattack by the Swansea backs took play over the half way line, but James Davies kicked possession down the throat of winger Ryan Davies with the visitors able to clear.
Replacement flanker Lewis Young made a powerful break with Tristan Davies yellow carded for a professional foul. Evan Lloyd found touch inside the 22 and lock Curtis Gregory collected the lineout, but the All Whites’ defence kept the ball up over the line.
Flanker Callum Bowden was shown a yellow card for a professional foul to leave the Whites down to 13 men for a good seven minutes. Evan Lloyd kicked to the corner and the Vale forwards also fashioned a try, but Young was held up over the line.
The Steelmen came back to within a converted try when centre Ethan Phillips backed his pace to score a well taken try in the corner. Evan Lloyd converted.
Prop Ben Warren was yellow carded for a professional foul to leave Swansea back down to 13 men again. Evan Lloyd found touch on the Swansea 22 with the penalty, although the All Whites stole possession.
The home side lost a scrum against the head to allow the Ebbw Vale backs to get quick ball out wide to winger Carrick McDonough, who backed his pace to score in the corner. Evan Lloyd converted to tie the scores.
A powerful scrum by the All Whites earned a penalty but James Davies’ effort strayed just wide of the post. At the next play Young intercepted a James Davies pass to win the game for the visitors, leaving the All Whites heartbroken. Evan Lloyd converted.
Full-time:- Swansea 24-31 Ebbw Vale
Tries:- Gareth J Rees (6), Tom Florence (22), Scott Jenkins (30)
Cons:- James Davies (7, 23, 31)
Pens:- James Davies (26)
Yellow cards:- Tristan Davies (66), Callum Bowden (71), Ben Warren (80)
Tries:- Rhys Francis (19), Mathew Flanagan (59), Ethan Phillips (74), Carrick McDonough 80+5), Lewis Young (80+16)
Cons:- Evan Lloyd (75, 80+6, 80+17)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Sunny, 8C
Referee:- Gareth Newman
Man of the match:- Ethan Phillips
15 Gareth O Rees
14 Harvey James (rep: Willis Wood 68)
13 Tom Florence
12 Osian Knott (rep: Luke Scully 61)
11 Matthew Jenkins (rep: Kian Hire 80+3)
10 James Davies
9 Gareth J Rees (rep: Ben Ley 65)
1 Richard Murphy (rep: Oli Rees 71)
2 Owen Thomas (rep: Garan Williams 71)
3 Ben Warren
4 Tristan Davies
5 Matt Dodd
6 Lewis Ellis-Jones
7 Callum Bowden ©
8 Scott Jenkins
16 Garan Williams
17 Oli Rees
18 Kian Hire
19 Jo Clarke
20 Joe Pearce
21 Ben Ley
22 Luke Scully
23 Willis Wood
Ebbw Vale team:
15 Morgan Richards (rep: Liam Lloyd 75)
14 Carrick McDonough
13 Ethan Phillips (rep: Kieron Meek 75)
12 Dom Franchi
11 Ryan Davies
10 Evan Lloyd
9 Matthew Flanagan (rep: Dylan Davies 78)
1 Luke Garrett (rep: Charley Kearns 60)
2 Rhys Francis © (rep: Alex Watkins 80+3)
3 Dave Whiting
4 Dylan Bartlett (rep: Joe Bartlett 80+3)
5 Curtis Gregory
6 Gethin Williams
7 Joe Thomas (rep: Lewis Young 60)
8 Chad Thomas
16 Alex Watkins
17 Charley Kearns
18 Adam Court
19 Joe Bartlett
20 Ryan Jenkins
21 Dylan Davies
22 Keiron Meek
23 Liam Lloyd