ABERYSTWYTH RFC produced a much-improved performance against Newcastle Emlyn, in the first league clash between these two teams in four seasons, but it wasn’t quite enough to beat the former Championship outfit last weekend.
Emlyn had trounced Gorseinon the previous week, whereas Aber had struggled to earn a draw against newly-promoted Pembroke. That the better side won was not in doubt, but the margin and style of the victory will have given the visitors some confidence.
The hosts kicked off, in perfect ground and weather conditions, and from the start the game was evenly contested, both territorially, and in the amount of possession each side gained. Aber had learned a lot from the previous defeat, as they contested more fiercely and made far better use of possession won.
In the scrummages, they were equal to the home side’s eight in every respect, but in the line-outs there seemed to be a misunderstanding between thrower and jumpers as too much Aber ball was either lost or it was delivered very untidily.
Behind the scrum, No 9 Llyr Thomas fed out possession neatly, but Aberystwyth’s distribution along the back line was made difficult by the pressure and physicality of the hosts’ backs. The experience of a few seasons playing at a higher level helped Emlyn vary their game, with skill and better understanding.
Although Aber’s backs lacked their opponents’ fluidity and smooth handling, their tackling and covering made sure the hosts failed to penetrate. In defence, Aber to a man tackled and covered very well, earning a few turnovers in the process.
In the early exchanges, however, Emlyn’s No 4, Daniel Havard, who played for Aber last season, was injured and took no further part in the game.
A penalty kick took Aber to within five metres of the Emlyn line, and from the resulting line-out the forwards interpassed closely for Paul Stubbs to force his way over to open the scoring with a fine try. Llyr Thomas converted for a 7-0 lead.
Emlyn came back hard at Aber and it took some very gutsy tackling and fine relieving kicks to halt their progress. The hosts’ first points came from a poorly organised Aber line-out throw, where possession was stolen for the ball to be fed along the Emlyn backs. The Aber backs kept them out until No 10 Sion Edwards found a gap to cross for their first points. Full-back Shaun Leonard converted to level the scores at 7-7.
Honours remained even until Leonard kicked a 30 metre penalty to move Emlyn 10-7 ahead. As half-time drew closer, the home side stepped up, but a relieving kick took the pressure off the visitors.
At that point an altercation between Aber centre Jack Rees and the hosts’ winger saw Rees yellow-carded. At half-time Aber were only three points down, and were very much in the game.
Even with only 14 men the visitors started the second half well, and they won good ball and attacked vigorously. The pressure told as they were awarded a penalty, which Thomas put over from 35 metres to even matters at 10-10.
Emlyn soon regained the lead with another Leonard penalty from 35 metres after Aber’s scrum was put under pressure. At 13-10 it was still anyone’s game, but it was the hosts who sealed the win with a controversial try.As they attacked down the left flank, full-back Lennard followed up a chip ahead to touch down. The try was awarded, despite the appearance of a knock-on in the grounding. He converted his try to close the scoring at 20-10.
Towards the end of the match, Aber lost skipper Arwel Lloyd with a shoulder injury, and their scrummaging suffered as a result. But although Newcastle Emlyn did all they could to add to their score, some determined defence kept them out.
Aber’s defending, throughout the team, and their powerful scrummaging were encouraging aspects to build on. Improved line-out work and greater penetration in the three-quarters could make this team a much more formidable force.
This weekend, Aberystwyth turn their attentions to the WRU Plate when they take on Milford Haven at Plascrug, whilst Newcastle Emlyn will play hosts to Yr Hendy in their first round encounter.