Aberystwyth, lying in eighth place in Division One West, came through for a deserved 26-10 win over third-placed Gowerton on a fine, dry afternoon at Plascrug on Saturday.
Cambrian News reported “The visitors had beaten Aber at Gowerton by just two points earlier in the season, but Aber have won five games and lost only twice in 2019, both by 3 points.
Neither side had played for three weeks due to interruption of the Six Nations programme, and it showed in their untidy, disjointed performances early on.
From the visitors’ kick-off, the hosts gradually worked their way upfield with forwards picking up and driving hard.
After five minutes Aberystwyth were awarded a penalty 25 metres out and Steffan Rees’ kick gave them a 3-0 lead.
Possession and territory was shared equally for most of the first half and although both sides tried to spread the ball, the respective defences remained solid.
Aber increased their lead to 6-0 with a second Steffan Rees penalty after the visitors infringed in their 22 metre area.
The game remained tense and tight, but Gowerton let themselves down by expressing their clear dissatisfaction with some of the match official’s decisions.
Aber took full advantage of this and were unlucky not to score when Steff Rees came off his wing to carry to within a metre or so of the Gowerton line. The visitors again infringed at a ruck near their own line, and Steffan Rees put over a simple kick to take Aber 9-0 ahead.
The rugby from both sides continued to lack cohesion. After working hard to gain possession, too often it was lost by dropped passes and generally poor handling as the ball was coughed up for the opposing team to counter-attack.
Although the lineouts had gone with the throw-ins in the first half, it was clear that Aber were gaining the upper hand in the scrums. This was to continue and become even more so after the interval.
Gowerton started strongly in the second half, but a good counter attack by Matthew Hughes, carried on by Carwyn Evans, deserved success, but again poor handling saw the opportunity slip away.
Again the visitors took play deep into the Aber half and full-back Mike Jones had no difficulty opening their account with a simple penalty, after an Aber forward had been caught offside at a ruck.
The first try of the game came after Aber had been awarded a penalty near the half way line. Steffan Rees found touch near the visitors’ 22 metre line and the hosts drove forward from their lineout. They were awarded a penalty just five metres out and they opted to go for a scrum.
This paid off as they pressed on for the line, enabling No 8 Carwyn Thomas to pick up and crash over. The try was converted by Steffan Rees with a superb kick from near the touchline for a 16-3 lead.
From the kick-off Aber again worked their way down field with powerful running and rucking. Scrum half Gruff Jones put in a towering kick deep into the opposition half. Gowerton were caught in possession and Aber won the ruck ball for Llyr Thomas to take a pass on the burst to cross for the hosts’ second try.
Again this was brilliantly converted by Steffan Rees to put Aber 23-3 ahead.
Gowerton, as they had done throughout the match, retaliated strongly and forced play into the hosts’ 22 metre area.
It took a huge effort by Aber’s defence to keep their line intact, and as play became more and more heated, one player from each side was shown a yellow card and the visiting team were awarded a penalty try to close the gap to 23-10.
The last score of the game saw Steffan Rees crown an excellent kicking performance with a penalty kick from 40 metres out to close the scoring at 26-10.
Daniel Havard was the pick of Aber’s hard-working pack and deservedly won the man-of-the-match. Flankers Tom Evans and Bryn Shepherd were always prominent, and the front row was solid.
Behind the scrum, the half backs, Gruff Jones and Steffan Rees worked well, but the opposition’s defence made sure that Aber’s backs in general did not get far.
Now that Aberystwyth have worked the rustiness from the lay-off out of their system, they can once again continue their drive towards finishing the season in the top half of Division One West.
Their next game is on Saturday, 30 March, away against Llanelli Wanderers.
Although the Wanderers are currently two places below Aber, they are always a difficult side to beat down at Stradey” here.