Words by: Paul Hopkins
Photo by: Riley Sports Photography
Swansea to an agonising late defeat to Aberavon despite a magnificent second half comeback that left them with some crumbs for comfort in the form of a bonus point.
After an early spell of kicking ping pong, former All Whites fly half James Davies chipped out on the full to gift the home side an early attacking lineout. After a man was taken out in the air, Swansea were awarded a penalty, which fly half Rhys Jones slotted between the posts.
It seemed to wake the visitors up as they began an attack of their own, with number eight Rhys Thomas bursting through a tackle, before the ball was sent out wide for centre Brad Roderick to weave his way over for a try. James Davies converted.
Hooker Owen Thomas broke through the middle but was tackled just shy of the 22, and the Whites got quick ball out wide to Llien Morgan, but the winger was brought down. The home side were awarded a penalty when the Wizards’ defence failed to release the man in the tackle and Jones chipped to the corner.
The home pack created a powerful maul from the resulting lineout and the Aberavon defence was powerless to stop Thomas being driven over for a try in the corner. Jones missed the conversion.
Number eight Joe Greaves fielded a high kick and ran back at the visitors’ defence, but the supporting prop Freddie Chapman was penalised for holding on after the tackle. The Wizards were awarded a further penalty and James Davies kicked his side back ahead.
A superb 50/22 kick by James Davies gave Aberavon an attacking platform with lock Rhodri Hughes taking the lineout, and hooker Luke Davies controlling a rolling maul up to within a metre of the line. At the next phase Thomas picked up from the base of the ruck and dived over for a try. James Davies converted.
The Aberavon forwards were penalised for diving into a ruck offside and Jones found touch on the 22, but second row Lloyd Ashley lost possession at the lineout.
Roderick tried a cheeky chip and chase, but he lost the ball forward, although the home side managed to just about keep possession under huge pressure at the scrum.
The visitors backs ran out from their own 22 through Roderick and centre Frankie Jones, but the move broke down and play was brought back for an earlier penalty.
Full back Gareth O Rees sprinted back at the Aberavon defence with lock Matt Dodd powering forward at the next phase, but Jones’ chip through was fielded by James Davies, who cleared.
Greaves lost a lineout and the Wizards counterattacked through full back Stef Andrews, who sprinted through the middle, and then fed Jones who did the rest to score his side’s third try. James Davies converted.
The home side were awarded a penalty from the restart after the Wizards failed to release the ball at the tackle.
Jones kicked to the corner and replacement prop Ed Thompson charged forward, before the ball was fired out wide for Ashley to pick up, but he was tackled. The Aberavon defence remained solid as they secured a turnover, allowing James Davies to clear.
The home pack collapsed a scrum on half way and sensing the approaching interval, James Davies chose to kick at goal, but his effort strayed wide of the posts.
Half-time:- Swansea 8-24 Aberavon
The home side began the second half on fire with Dodd making a break through the middle and finding centre Joe Thomas, who sprinted into the 22, but the supporting winger Matthew Jenkins lost possession.
Swansea were soon back on the attack again, although winger Morgan James came close to intercepting a stray pass, but he couldn’t keep hold of the ball.
James Davies found touch deep inside the Swansea 22 with a penalty and lock Shay Smallman took the lineout. A chip over the top by Roderick almost resulted in a try, but the Whites’ defence managed to get back to take the ball dead.
From the scrum five, the home pack drove their counterparts off the ball, resulting in a penalty try, which also gave the visitors a bonus point.
Moments later the visitors made a calamitous error in midfield to allow Gareth O Rees to chip the ball forward. He was brought down a metre short of the line, but Swansea recycled the ball for flanker Callum Bowden to score. Jones converted.
The Wizards were penalised for offside at the ruck and Jones found touch on the 22 with his penalty. It was the Whites’ turn to maul forward with a penalty try awarded after the visitors’ pack illegally collapsed the maul. Flanker Joe Tomalin-Reeves was also yellow carded.
Prop Rowan Jenkins was penalised for a high tackle on Gareth O Rees, who needed to temporarily leave the field for a blood injury. Jones chipped to the corner and following a patient build up by the pack, Thomas crashed over for a try to bring his side back to within a score, along with a bonus point. Jones converted.
The home side were penalised for straying in front of the kicker and James Davies found touch on the 22. Thomas ripped possession out of the hands of an Aberavon player, but the long chip forward by Jones went over the dead ball line.
Replacement scrum half Rhodri Lewis superbly nicked a scrum against the head and chipped forward, but substitute flanker Lloyd Evans was over eager in his chase and gave away a penalty.
With four minutes plus injury time remaining, Jones opted to kick for goal with a penalty near half way, and to the delight of the home support, he curled his attempt at goal between the posts to give Swansea a late lead.
In the closing stages, Evans was yellow carded for dissent and James Davies kicked to the corner with the resulting penalty.
A powerful rolling maul by the home pack was stopped a metre short of the line, but Aberavon managed to recycle the ball with Smallman charging forward to score under the posts. James Davies converted.
The Aberavon forwards drove their Swansea counterparts off a scrum, earning a penalty, with James Davies finding touch on the 22. The home side managed to force Aberavon backwards, but the visitors managed to stand firm and to see out the victory.
Full-time:- Swansea 32-38 Aberavon
Tries:- Owen Thomas (10, 64), Callum Bowden (54), Penalty Try (57)
Cons:- Rhys Jones (55. 65)
Pens:- Rhys Jones (4, 76)
Yellow cards:- Lloyd Evans (78)
Tries:- Brad Roderick (6), Rhys Thomas (18), Frankie Jones (33), Penalty Try (51), Shay Smallman (79)
Cons:- James Davies (7, 19, 34, 80)
Pens:- James Davies (14)
Yellow cards:- Joe Tomalin-Reeves (57)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Heavy rain, 13C
Man of the match:- Shay Smallman
15 Gareth O Rees (rep: Harvey James 63-73)
14 Matthew Jenkins (rep: Harvey James 73)
13 Joe Thomas
12 Osian Knott
11 Llien Morgan (rep: Brandon Wood 49)
10 Rhys Jones
9 Gareth J Rees (rep: Rhodri Lewis 55)
1 Freddie Chapman (rep: Tom Sloane 74)
2 Owen Thomas (rep: Finn Thomas 80)
3 Kian Hire (rep: Ed Thompson 36)
4 Lloyd Ashley
5 Matt Dodd
6 Sam Pailor (rep: Lloyd Evans 49)
7 Callum Bowden ©
8 Joe Greaves
16 Finn Thomas
17 Tom Sloane
18 Ed Thompson
19 Sam Martin
20 Lloyd Evans
21 Rhodri Lewis
22 Harvey James
23 Brandon Wood
15 Stef Andrews
14 Jay Baker (rep: Callum Carson 69)
13 Frankie Jones
12 Brad Roderick
11 Morgan James
10 James Davies
9 Aron Hemmings (rep: Iwan Temblett 67)
1 Rowan Jenkins (rep: Rhys Fawcett 72)
2 Luke Davies (rep: Cameron Lewis 40-63)
3 Geraint James (rep: Jordan Walters 72)
4 Shay Smallman
5 Rhodri Hughes
6 Ben Gregory
7 Joe Tomalin-Reeves (rep: Casey Williams 72)
8 Rhys Thomas
16 Iwan Temblett
17 Scot Jardine
18 Callum Carson
19 Casey Williams
20 Cameron Lewis
21 Travis Huntley
22 Jordan Walters
23 Rhys Fawcett