Aberavon surprised everyone with a richly deserved win that keeps their play-off chances alive and kicking at the weekend.
Llandovery 16 - Aberavon 25
Report by Huw S Thomas
It was just Llandovery’s third defeat in 16 games and a real blow to their hopes of finishing in the top two and a home draw in the play-offs.
Even though the Drovers failed to get a single point from the game, they remain in second position eight points behind Cardiff but the chasing pack is now snapping at their very heels.
Aberavon’s win takes them back up into fourth but they have only four games to play whereas Merthyr and Newport have seven left, Ebbw Vale and Llandovery six left.
Nor are RGC completely out of it following their 42-2 drubbing of Pontypridd on Saturday.
Under the Church Bank lights, the Drovers had the lion’s share of territory and possession but it was the Wizards who took their chances better and this, allied to some wonderfully aggressive defence, brought home the bacon.
In comparison to their fine form against Cardiff, the Drovers looked curiously out of sorts against a side that fought tooth and nail to retain hopes of a top four finish. Whether it was an unconscionable over confidence or not on the part of Llandovery, it was Aberavon who looked the more precise, urgent and organised side.
There are tricky away games to come, starting with Swansea this Friday and coach Euros Evans faces a real challenge to get his side mentally as well as physically prepared for the trip to St Helen’s.
“A very disappointing outcome,” said Evans. “But full credit to Aberavon who came with a set plan to close us down and we were not good enough on the night to lift our game to the heights reached against Cardiff.
“The Blue and Blacks bonus point 23-18 win against Bridgend on Thursday now makes them clear favourites to top the table and we will have to come back to our very best if we are to get second spot.”
The Drovers have two home games remaining – against Llanelli and Swansea – but difficult trips to vastly improved Bridgend, Swansea, Aberavon and Newport. The Wizards had an outstanding all action No 8 in Ashton Evans but the star of the night was scrum half Rhodri Cole.
It is rare for anyone in the Premiership to get the better of Llandovery scrum half Lee Rees but Cole’s general incisiveness and sharp eye brought him two tries, the second of which was a stunning solo try.
Llandovery will rue missed chances as they were held up on the Aberavon line three times when tries looked inevitable and the line breaks they did make petered out through lack of quick support or rash decision making.
Despite a yellow card for lock Sam Williams, Aberavon led 13-6 at half time through a close range try by Cole and eight points from the boot of fly half Rhys Jones against two home penalties by full back Jack Maynard. A Maynard penalty made it 13-9 before Cole sped away from a scrum to race clear of the defence for a converted try.
The Drovers had their best patch of the night in attack to put in centre Rhodri Jones, Maynard converting but a yellow card for flanker Lloyd Pike checked momentum and in the last play of the game, replacement scrum half Iwan Tremlett chipped to the corner for another replacement in wing Chris Banfield to get the touchdown.
It was a try that robbed the Drovers of a consolation losing bonus point and may well turn out to be very costly in the eventual scheme of things.
The Drovers are away at Swansea this Friday evening in a must-win game for play-off hopes.
Star Man: Rhodri Cole (Aberavon)
Try: Rhodri Jones
Con: J Maynard
Pens: J Maynard (3)
Tries: R Cole (2), C Banfield
Cons: Rhys Jones (2)
Pens: Rhys Jones (2)
Llandovery: J Maynard; R Wall, Adam Warren, R Jones, Aaron Warren; K Jones, L Rees; D Dallavalle, R Guest, L Green, J Jones (capt), J Powell, L Pike, O Davies, S Worrall
Replacements:R Owens, J Hughes, B Watkins, M Dallavalle, T Poole, C Dodd, I Hughes, B Thomas
Aberavon: S Andrews; J Baker, J Thomas, J Gage (capt), F Jones; R Jones, R Cole; R Jenkins, L Davies, G James, S Smallman, S Williams, S Pailor, A Evans, C Williams
Replacements: I Tremlett, A Thomas, C Banfield, I Davies, R Hughes, S Lewis, R Fawcett, C Davies