Llandovery 30 Aberavon 7
(by Marina Jones)

The Wizards travelled to Church Bank yesterday evening in the first match of the newly merged Principality Premiership. Following an encouraging win in the Derby on Boxing Day, and able to call upon Ospreys Jay Baker, Rowan Jenkins and Joe Thomas, the Wizards were hoping to set out their stall for the second half of the season. It was a case of attack versus defence; we were the leading try scorers in the Premiership West and the Drovers had the best defence of both conferences.

The match started in a positive fashion with the Wizards earning three early penalties, the latter would surely have been a sanctionable offence if later in the game. Garland turned down 3 points and we found ourselves camped on the Drovers’ line, but we lost possession at the vital moment and Llandovery cleared. Not be be deterred, we mounted another series of attacks, culminating in a lovely pop pass from Rowan Jenkins to send Will Price in for the try. 

At all levels of rugby, one of the biggest challenges is to stop the inevitable counter charge from the opposition following a score, and just 3 minutes later the Drovers earned a penalty. Outside-half Maynard took a shot at the post and 3 points seemed to be on the cards. The kick faltered and hit the upright, the ricochet catching several Wizards off guard, allowing winger Aaron Waren to dive onto the loose ball for the score. This was followed minutes later by a second Drovers try; a line break and several missed tackles being our downfall. The game had changed on its head and from there Llandovery took control. 

As the weather deteriorated in the second half, the Drovers’ stranglehold continued. We simply could not get the ball out wide to our dangerous back three. Maynard added three penalties to make it a three score game and from there it was always going to be an uphill task. We never gave up; we were able to secure good ball and territory but some poor handling let us down at crucial moments and we were unable to convert any chances. Replacement Lee Purnell was carded late on for an alleged swinging arm, prompting the commentator to declare, somewhat unprofessionally, “it was not the card he was looking for this Christmas”. This allowed the Drovers to gain territory deep in our 22 and launch a catch and drive resulting in a score with the final play of the game.

There can be no arguments, the best team won on the day, and Llandovery’s defence is fully deserved of it’s accolade. They will surely be challenging for honours at the end of the season. Despite the scoreline, there were some good performances from the men in red and black. Will Price was a deserved man of the match, carrying strongly and always breaking the first tackle. Luke Davies had another strong match and is improving game on game. Jay Baker looks like a player who needs regular rugby - Ospreys takes note. It’s also worth noting that we had a 4 day turnaround from the highly attritional match on Boxing Day, and so it was always going to be a tough task at Church Bank. There is a lot more to come from this team and when it clicks, we’ll see some great rugby.

It’s National Cup time next weekend and we welcome Skewen RFC of the WRU Championship to the Talbot Athletic Ground. Hope to see you all there. 

Happy New Year :-) 

Llandovery 30 - 7 Aberavon

Aberavon Team:
Chris Banfield; Stef Andrews (rep Shaun Pearce 78 min), Joe Thomas, Will Price, Jay Baker; James Garland (capt), Jacob Flynn; Rowan Jenkins (rep Tomos Northey 78 min), Luke Davies (rep Ieuan Davies 64 min), Jon Thomas (rep Rhys Forse 46 min), Ben Jones, Sam Williams (rep Ben Thomas 40 min), Jacob Blackmore (rep Lee Purnell half-time), Luke Joseph (rep Craig Price 66 min), Joe Tomalin-Reeves.

Replacements not used: Steffen Williams.
Joe Thomas, Jay Baker & Rowan Jenkins appeared from the Ospreys; Jacob Blackmore appeared from Waunarlwydd RFC; Tomos Northey appeared from Gowerton RFC.

Aberavon Scorers:
T - Will Price
C - James Garland

Llandovery Scorers:
T - Aaron Warren, Lee Rees, Emyr Price
C - Jack Maynard (3)
PG - Jack Maynard (3)

Aled Evans

Man Of The Match:
1 - Will Price
2 - Rowan Jenkins
3 - Luke Davies

Time Line:
13 min: Aberavon - T - Will Price & C - James Garland (0 - 7)
16 min: Llandovery - T - Aaron Warren & C - Jack Maynard (7 - 7)
18 min: Llandovery - T - Lee Rees & C - Jack Maynard (14 - 7)
40+2 min: Half Time
46 min: Llandovery - PG - Jack Maynard (17 -7)
50 min: Llandovery - PG - Jack Maynard (20 -7)
63 min: Llandovery - PG - Jack Maynard (23 -7)
80+4 min: Aberavon - Yellow Card - Lee Purnell
80+6 min: Llandovery - T - Emyr Price & C - Jack Maynard (30 - 7)
80+8 min: Full Time