In the annals of South Wales rugby at this level, clubs can sometimes be on a season-to-season merry-go-round; their fortunes reflecting the better players a new coach brings with him, or the generosity of a new benefactor.
Aberystwyth 5 Llanelli Wanderers 36, Admiral National League 1 West
So it is that Llanelli Wanderers have improved from their lowly position of last season to current leaders of Division 1 West, unbeaten after four games this season. Their performance at Plascrug on Saturday reflected their new found strength.
Rain before and during the match made handling difficult but the more experienced visitors, although guilty of handling errors of their own, coped better with the conditions than the less experienced home team. They were on the scoreboard after a minute or so of the start with a simple penalty in front of the posts. Their domination of the opening twenty minutes was so complete that they added a try and a converted try soon after to take a 0 – 15 lead.
Aber’s plight was made worse by some poor kicking from hand a few wrong decisions which added self-inflicted pressure. Having two players yellow carded restricted the hosts’ opportunities further but they settled down and, although rarely allowed out of their own half of the field, they restricted the visitors to just one more converted try in the first half to close at 0 - 22 at the interval.
In the second half the home side continued to give away too many penalties and handling errors added to their problems. Wanderers on the other hand, spread the ball wide and won as high a percentage of possession in the second half of the match as they had in the first. After fifteen minutes of the second half the visitors added to their score with another converted try to increase their score to 0 – 29.
Aber disrupted the visitors’ attempted clearance at the restart and worked their way down the right hand touchline. Close inter-passing and good rucking resulted in Owain Bonsall crashing over to open Aber’s scoring. The conversion was missed and the game was out of reach but at least now the hosts were on the scoresheet at 5 – 29. However, Wanderers continued to dominate possession and territory and sealed their win with a converted try with five minutes to go.
The final score of 5 – 36 reflects the visitors superiority, but it says nothing about the tenacity and determination of the hard work in defence by every player in Aber’s young squad. Without the home side’s commitment in their tackling and covering Wanderers’ score would have been much higher. With some regular first team members missing Aber were never going to turn the tables on the well-drilled Div 1 leaders but the hosts’ courage and perseverance was evident throughout the game.
The visitors dominated the scrummages and pushed the home eight off their own ball too often for clean possession to be won. In the lineouts the hosts won some possession thanks to good work by jumpers Robotham and Jones, but old heads in the opposition pack made sure that it was often scrappy possession. Aber’s back row were very prominent throughout and were tireless from start to finish in defence and in attack and the front three held their own on a difficult afternoon.
This season will be a difficult and, at times, uncomfortable learning experience for Aber’s youthful squad; but on the evidence of this performance they will make opponents fight hard for a win and will be a much stronger and better side by next April. Next week Aber are away at Penclawdd, another club without a win so far this season. So both will target the match as a possible duck-breaker.
Saturday’s match was sponsored by Peter and Llywela Bourne. In 1950 ex-club captain, Peter, played his first game for Aberystwyth RFC at prop against Llanelli Wanderers.