Having tasted derby day defeat against Cross Keys last Sunday, Ebbw were hoping to put things right at the Talbot Athletic Ground on Saturday afternoon. However, nobody in the camp was under illusions about the size of the task: Aberavon’s recent wins over Bedwas and Llandovery, and the closeness of the fixture at ECP in November, belie their lowly league position.
Ebbw’s injury list grew just before kick off, when lock Ashley Sweet pulled up and Josh Jacas had to move up from number 8 to lock, bringing Spencer Gibson in from the bench. The first 15 minutes were frantic and fierce, two Dai Langdon penalties to one by Cameron Clement making it 6-3. Spencer Gibson, very prominent in the early exchanges with a couple of damaging charges at the Wizards’ midfield, limped off to be replaced by Lewis Young, making his first competitive appearance since his injury at Tondu 11 months ago.
Aberavon scored the game’s first try through hooker Gareth Harvey, converted by Clements. Langdon pegged the lead back to 10-9 but, when the outside half was caught in possession in his own 22m area, Aberavon turned the ball over and winger Richard Carter finished the move with his side’s second touchdown, again converted by Clements.
Ebbw bounced back and patient phase play resulted in Adam Jones making a great burst to score and make it 17-14. The last incident of note of a topsy-turvy first half was the dismissal of Aberavon scrum half, David Pritchard, for what Mr Hodges indicated was a stamp.
Five minutes into the second period, Ebbw conceded a penalty close to their own line. Aberavon chose to tap and move it wide only for Owen Williams to intercept and race 80m to cross under the posts. Langdon’s goal made the score 21-17 and Ebbw must have fancied their chances, with half an hour to go against 14 men.
A great burst by prop Rowan Jenkins carved the Steelmen’s defence open, and his pass found Joe Gage who secured his team’s thrd try, converted by Clements. The outside half slotted another penalty to take it to 26-21 but there were still 20 minutes to go. Ebbw could not unlock the Wizards’ defence, however, and found the home pack a real handful. As the game came to a close, it was the Steelmen who were defending their losing bonus as Aberavon pressed for a fourth try. That’s how it finished, though, leaving the squad and coaches with plenty to mull over and work on in the week before the cup game with Pontypridd.
There were positives for Ebbw: Rhys Clarke looked excellent in a rare back row outing; Gareth Rusby-Davies made a real impression coming off the bench for his first appearance of the season; Adam Jones caused his opponents problems all afternoon;and it was great to see Lewis Young on the field, and Gareth ‘Denver’ Williams taking an active part in the warm-up.
Dan Haymond, Tom James, Tom Hiscock, Adam Jones, Owen Williams; Dai Langdon, Chris Thomas; Ross Jones, Rhys Francis, Rob Sevenoaks, Damien Hudd (Capt), Josh Jacas; Rhys Clarke, Cameron Regan, Spencer Gibson. Bench: John Lavender, Joe Franchi, Gethin Robinson, Gareth Rusby-Davies, Lewis Young, Rhys Downes, Iain Smerdon, Tom Watkins.