THE first half of Aberystwyth’s season closed with seven wins and three defeats from 10 games, placing them in third place in Division One West - an immensely creditable achievement - and with a game in hand.
Parc Stephens was in perfect condition as Aber took on high-flying league leaders Kidwelly on Saturday.
Within seconds, the home side signalled the threat they were to pose as their right wing Robin Davies collected a rebound from Aber’s failed fielding of the kick-off, to score wide out. An excellent conversion by centre Elliot Davies saw Kidwelly take a 7-0 lead within the first two minutes.
Aberystwyth were looking disorganised and error-prone in the early stages as they failed to find the composure and teamwork that they have shown all season. Kidwelly took full advantage of this, and put pressure on them in all phases of the game.
This paid off as, after 10 minutes, they stole the ball from a failed Aber attack and fed it along the line for full back Dafydd Lewis to score in the corner to take their lead to 12-0.
From this discouraging opening period the visitors gradually worked their way back into the game, gaining more possession and territory. After sustained pressure, especially in the scrums, a clever chip kick from scrum half Gruff Jones was followed up by Paul Stubbs, who found outside half Connor Pitt in support to score. The conversion failed, but Aber were on the scoresheet and back in the game.
The visitors drew level as Kidwelly tried to spread the ball in yet another attack. Llyr Thomas gratefully accepted an interception race away for a try that was converted by full back Steff Rees to level the scores at 12-12.
The hosts, well-drilled and skilful, hit back with a try by flanker Lewis Millin from a catch and drive lineout ball to regain the lead at 17-12.
From the restart Aber worked their way upfield and at another powerful scrum earned a penalty, which Rees converted to close the gap at 17-15.
Kidwelly’s fast, determined defence rarely allowed Aber to cross the gain line and this pressure led to errors which the home side capitalised on.
From one such error they stole possession and passed the ball along the line for Robin Davies to score his second try wide out. The conversion failed, but they were 22-15 ahead at half time, with a bonus point secured.
Aberystwyth’s high error count continued as Kidwelly disrupted and stole possession too often. They made good use of this advantage by launching wave after wave of attacks.
Aber’s defence in the centre was solid and one certain try was saved by an excellent tackle by Connor Pitt.
Kidwelly, however, went further ahead as they fielded Aber’s 22m drop out to move the ball to the right for Robin Davies to complete his hat- trick, and extend their lead to 27-15.
The visitors showed great character and determination in responding with a wave of attacks involving backs and forwards. They forced play within 15m of the try line and saw the home side’s No 10 yellow-carded.
In the series of powerful scrums that followed they put huge pressure on the home side’s pack to earn a penalty try and close the gap to 27-22.
Aber continued to make life difficult for themselves with over-complication and wrong options. Too often they kicked possession into the arms of the dangerous Kidwelly backs.
It was from such a kick that the home side launched another attack that saw left wing Shaun Price score wide out. An excellent conversion extended the Kidwelly lead to 34-22.
Aber’s final score came from a clever kick out of defence by scrum half Gruff Jones. His high kick was fumbled by the Kidwelly left wing and from brilliant following up by centres Rhodri Richards and Carwyn Evans, possession was regained for Evans to score near the posts. Steff Rees converted to close their scoring at 34-29.
Aber could have claimed two bonus points had they managed to keep this scoreline; but in the dying seconds of the game Kidwelly again extended the visitors’ cover to allow No 8 Luke Thomas to score an unconverted try wide out and close the score at 39-29.
No other team has scored as many points against the league leaders this season as Aber did on Saturday. It is very much to their credit that they competed so strongly and effectively, despite having key players missing.
They have earned 36 league points and scored 42 tries. All this has been achieved by good teamwork, disciplined effort and efficient coaching.