Outscoring the hosts by five tries to two, and playing fast, fluent rugby, they showed what they are capable of with the right approach. It didn’t matter that the opposition was bottom-of-the-table Pembroke, they had to work hard for this win and the hosts had no intention of making things easy for them.
Pembroke had kicked off, taking advantage of a stiff breeze and a slight slope, and within a few minutes their influential outside-half Toby Smith had put them 3-0 ahead with a simple penalty.
Aber’s tactics against Pembroke’s heavier pack was to throw the ball around at every opportunity. This they did with skill and determination, and they were rewarded for their flair when Dan Binks crossed for their first try to gain a 3-5 lead, after skipper Arwel Lloyd had led a well-supported charge upfield.
Aber’s second try came after a good carry by full-back Steff Rees. Pembroke were penalised at the breakdown and outside–half Steffan Rees found a good touch five metres from their line. In a textbook catch and drive, hooker Geraint Evans scored, and Rees converted to extend their lead to 5-12.
Aber clearly had a game plan of fast and disciplined rugby which, apart from some players hanging on to the ball too long, too often, they executed very well. Pembroke were a constant threat, either using their big, fast forwards or their speedy backs, but Aber’s defence was sound and their pressure forced them into errors.
It was entirely with the run of play that winger Adam Carvell came off his wing to make a difficult interception, picking up the ball at his feet, to sprint 40 metres for Aber’s third try. Rees added the conversion.
Pembroke’s first try of the game came after Aber were penalised in mid-field. Smith’s kick gained a line-out five metres out and after a few phases the ball was moved out for their best back Tom Harding-Jones, to score. The try went unconverted to make it 8-19 at the interval.
It was essential that Aber took maximum points from this game, and they scored their bonus-point try after their pack pushed the Pembroke scrum over the line for No 8 Lee Gower to touch down. Another fine conversion from Steffan Rees extended the lead, and he added a penalty to make it 8-29.
A lack of concentration by Aberystwyth then allowed the home team to hit back when a break by their three-quarters resulted in a try for centre Gwilliam. The conversion failed, and Rees then kicked another penalty to open a 13-32 lead.
In worsening light and heavy rain both sides brought on their substitutes. Aber’s injured openside flanker Lewis Ellis-Jones had already been replaced by Steffan Rattray and Aber’s youth skipper made the most of his opportunity to impress - as did all the Aber subs.
One of these, prop forward Oisin Canney, making a welcome return to Aber colours, rounded off the scoring with a try from a ruck after Aber’s pack heaved their opposite numbers backwards. Rees converted.
The foundation for this fine win was laid by Aber’s forwards, most of whom played their best rugby of the season. Bryn Shepherd, skipper Arwel Lloyd, Owain Bonsall, Ellis-Jones and Dan Binks were outstanding, but it was the supporters’ man-of-the-match, Lee Gower’s example that led the way for the rest.
He, along with Shepherd, secured lineout ball and was industrious and creative in the loose. It was no coincidence that four out of the five tries came from forwards.
Behind the scrum, the backs moved the ball more smoothly even if, at times it could have been moved through more pairs of hands.
The back three were busy and Steff Rees at full-back was a threat whenever he came into the line. Steffan Rees kicked well from hand and tee, and the whole backline defended strongly.
This was a fine display by Aber and it should give them the confidence to continue with this approach of fast, open, controlled rugby into their next game on 28 December at home against Newcastle Emlyn. If Aber can play like this consistently, they should win most of their remaining games.