Aberavon RFC 22- 47 Llanelli RFC
(by Howard Evans)
Llanelli avenged their league defeat of two weeks earlier by winning this GB & Irish Cup tie and the clubs meet again at Parc y Scarlets on December 3.
As that kick-off will be at Noon, there will certainly be a shoot-out worth watching!
Aberavon had scored 7-4 on tries in the league but Llanelli deserved their 5-3 try-count this time.
Strangely, it was a game that Aberavon probably dominated territorially, but the Llanelli defence had grown out of all proportion.
Most that was thrown at centres Nic Reynolds and Gareth Maule, in particular, was tackled and behind them they had a match-winner in full back Jordan Williams.
There were parts where Aberavon were better with centre Richard Thomas the game’s best attacker and at 24, he has still not peaked, though probably as a wing.
Sam Williams and David Pritchard also excelled but Craig Hawkins gave another splendid show for Llanelli and his tackle on Pritchard saved a certain try.
Llanelli coach Kevin George, a former Wizard, said: “It was a step forward. We were now more mature.”
Head of Rugby, Anthony Buchanan, noted: “We want this Cup and played with purpose. I thought we were good value, tackled better and we still will improve as we go on.”
Aberavon backs coach Nicky Lloyd commented: “Llanelli were worthy of the win, but eight scrums and no penalty try? We had a lot of the play.”
There was no doubting that Aberavon did not like young Ulster referee Mark Parton, who had the biggest cheer when he limped off after 62 minutes.
Touch judge Gareth Saunders of Pontypridd took over and not for the first time did he show that Welsh referees are streets better than Irish.
Playing with the wind, Llanelli used it well with Williams and Dan Newton kicking superbly and the former landed all of his nine shots at goal.
Aberavon were 16-0 down after 14 minutes as the wily Hawkins raced over and Williams kicked the conversion and three penalties.
Pritchard charged down a Tavis Knoyle kick to score and Jamie Davies placed a penalty, but then came a crucial score as Newton intercepted and ran clear for a hotly-disputed try.
Then, Maule and Reynolds combined for a splendid try finished by Jonny Lewis and after the break came another fine try as Dan Thomas and Lewis sent Knoyle away.
Williams added five more points and it was 40-8, yet the Aberavon response was strong and scrum after scrum followed before the official departed to the relief of many.
Richard Thomas ran 50 metres for a dummying, weaving try that really should have been a penalty try for obstruction but in any event Davies goaled.
As the game fell into the gloom Shaun Hopkins scored an amazing try when 15 other forwards were yards away looking for the ball and Richard Carter scored in the 87th minute.
Aberavon – Tries: D. Pritchard, Richard Thomas, R. Carter. Cons: J. Davies (2). Pen: J. Davies.
Team – H. Thomas; R. Carter, D. Ritchie (L. Gadd 80), Richard Thomas, Ricky Thomas, J. Davies, D. Pritchard (D. Davies 55); R. Jenkins (N. White 55), G. Harvey (M. Breeze 55), A. Edwards (C. John 72), R. Gierat (G. Ronan 55), S. Williams, J. King, N. Strong (C. John 60-72, N. Brown 72), C. Davies (capt).
Llanelli – Tries: C. Hawkins, D. Newton, J. Lewis, T. Knoyle, S. Hopkins. Cons: J. Williams (5).
Pens: J. Williams (4).
Team – J. Williams; J. Lewis (R. Bayliss 76), N. Reynolds, G. Maule (C. Keenan 60), I. Evans (J. James 71); D. Newton, T. Knoyle; S. Hopkins (S. Gardiner 32), C. Hawkins, A. Hopkins (S. Hopkins 72), Adam Powell (capt) (A. Paxton 40), N. White, D. Thomas (G. George 51-61), Allan Powell (E. Price 76), D. Eager.
Referee – Mark Parton (Ireland) (replaced by Gareth Saunders (Pontypridd) 62).
Other B & I Cup Results
Ayr 7-32 Cross Keys
Leinster 42-20 Melrose
Neath 9-23 Munster
Pontypridd 39-17 Swansea