ABERYSTWYTH produced an outstanding performance before going down 26-27 against a strong Kidwelly side, who clinched the Division One West title.
The home side led for much of the game and their performance brought out the best in a well-drilled Kidwelly team. The result was a very close, hard fought and entertaining game, which was played in good conditions and bright sunshine.
The visitors made their attacking intentions clear from the start as they took play down to the Aber 22m area.
Full back Dafydd Lewis came into the line wide out and burst through to touch down near the posts. Winger Gareth Rees converted and Kidwelly were 0-7 up within a few minutes of the start.
This spurred Aber into action and a chip and chase by Matthew Hughes nearly brought an early breakthrough. The home side were now competing very strongly in every phase of the game and their tackling was very strong as they kept out the Kidwelly backs.
Up front, the visitors were a stronger unit than they had been when Aber played them earlier in the season, but the home pack contained them and finally dominated them, particularly in the scrums and driving mauls.
It was from a powerful scrummage 15 metres from the visitors’ line that Aber scored their first try. They held the Kidwelly shove to enable Ifan Thomas to feed outside half Hughes who jinked over to score an excellent try. Connor Pitt added the conversion and Aberystwyth were on level terms.
With their tails up, the hosts attacked again and from a maul 15 metres out Arwel Lloyd and James Plumridge made ground before Hughes was fed from a ruck to score a well-worked try. Pitt again converted and Aberystwyth were 14-7 up.
Pitt was stretchered off the field, following a collision, replaced by Gwern Penry.
Kidwelly were awarded a penalty in front of the posts and Rees closed the gap.
From the Aber kick-off Dan Binks and Dean Coleman put pressure on the Kidwelly catchers and forced a series of errors, and when one of their backs dropped a pass Paul Stubbs was on hand to scoop up the ball and score under the posts.
Carwyn Evans converted for 21-10 lead at half-time.
Kidwelly hit back strongly from the restart and took play down deep into Aber territory, before winger Shaun Pearce scored near the posts and Rees converted to close the gap to 21-17.
Then, following a lineout 30m from the visitors’ line, Aber won a series of rucks, before the ball was fed out to Hughes. He saw an opportunity out wide and floated a very accurate kick ahead for Sion Cowdy to pluck the ball out of the air to touch down for Aberystwyth’s fourth and bonus point try. It was not converted but the home side were now again two scores ahead at 26-17.
The match continued to be highly competitive and Kidwelly were forced into committing fouls to keep the home side under control and it was no surprise that one of their back row forwards was yellow carded for stamping.
This did not subdue them, however, and they continued to launch a series of attacks. Winger Gareth Rees crossed from such an attack but missed the conversion.
Aberystwyth were now 26-22 ahead as the game entered its closing stages.
Kidwelly delivered a killer blow when their No 8 Richard Pearce scored their final try. Although the conversion attempt failed, they were one point ahead at 26-27.
Aber attacked relentlessly in the final minutes and were firmly camped in the visitors’ 22m area winning a series of second phases.
A drop goal attempt from Hughes was deflected in flight and the home side was denied a last minute victory.
Man-of-the-match Matthew Hughes played one of his finest games of the season for Aber and showed that No 10 is by far his best position. But this was a team performance by a strong, determined home squad; one to which Paul Stubbs, Dan Binks, Lee Evans and Arwel Lloyd contributed hugely.
Aber have achieved their objective of surviving their first season in Division One, and with one game remaining have scored 67 tries at an average of 3.2 tries a match.