The latest round of matches has seen Llandovery miss the chance to intensify the pressure on reigning champions Cardiff at the top of the table with a pointless, 25-16 home defeat to Aberavon.
That’s the same Aberavon team that had lost their previous three games and fallen out of the top four. They are back now and still have to play three games against play-off rivals before they complete their campaign.
CHECK OUT THE INDIGO PREM TABLE HERE
No wonder, then, that Wizards coach Jason Hyatt remains confident his team can remain in the play-off places and then present a massive challenge to which team they have to travel to play in the semi-finals.
“We’re confident of beating any team at Church Bank, but fair play to Aberavon their defence was fantastic and they battled from the first minute to the last,” explained a disappointed Llandovery coach Euros Evans.
“They held us out for the last 15 minutes of the first half when were looked pretty dominant and it was only a four-point game for most of the second half. Then they picked up an excellent opportunist try, I hope we can stay there, and Merthyr are looking strong.
“Then it is a question of ‘take your pick’ between Aberavon, Ebbw Vale and Newport. It’s going to be a thrilling finish before we even get to the semi-finals.”
The Drovers had the lion’s share of territory and possession but it was the Wizards who took their chances better.The Wizards also had an outstanding No 8 in Ashton Evans and the star of the night in two try scrum half Rhodri Cole.
Llandovery were left to rue missed chances as they were held up on the Aberavon line three times when tries looked inevitable and the line breaks they did make petered out through lack of quick support or rash decision making.
Despite a yellow card for lock Sam Williams, Aberavon led 13-6 at half time through a close range try by Cole and eight points from the boot of fly half Rhys Jones against two home penalties by full back Jack Maynard.
A Maynard penalty made it 13-9 before Cole sped away from a scrum to race clear of the defence for a converted try. The Drovers had their best patch in attack to put in centre Rhodri Jones.
Maynard converted but a yellow card for flanker Lloyd Pike checked momentum and in the last play of the game, replacement scrum half Iwan Temblett chipped to the corner for another replacement, wing Chris Banfield, to get the touchdown.
CHECK OUT THE UPCOMING FIXTURES HERE
RGC are hanging in there hoping for other teams above them to fail and their 42-3 home win over Pontypridd cut the gap between them and the top four to nine points. They also have a WRU Premiership Cup final against Cardiff to look forward to on 25 March.
“We’re in healthy position squad wise with the players competing for starting places – especially with the semi-final coming up next,” said RGC head coach, Ceri Jones.
“To be successful you need more than 15 players and for us having the players competing for us is good.”
As their dress-rehearsal for the game in Merthyr it was almost perfect, with six tries flowing and none conceded. In addition to falling behind to an early Joe Scrivens penalty, the Gogs also saw two try hero Rhys Tudor sent to the sin-bin with Logan McIntosh late in the game after a coming together.
That was the third Ponty player to see yellow after Tom Harper and Niko Matawalu had both been sent to the cooler for dangerous tackles.
Having soaked up the early Scirvens penalty shot, the Gogs gradually got into the stride and had bagged their bonus point before the break. Sam Williams had the honour of scoring the first try after the forwards had gone through the phases and then Tudor ran in his first.
Efan Jones directed operations superbly and great hands from Dion Jones and Danny Cross sent in Afon Bagshaw for the third try. If the home fans thought that was good, Tudor’s second was even more spectacular.
Dion Jones and Harri Evans combined to create space for Sam Earl-Jones to exploit and the full back set-up Tudor to score again and bring up the bonus-point. With Dion Jones converting all four first-half efforts, RGC changed ends with a 28-3 advantage.
In the second half, Earl-Jones added to his growing reputation with the fifth try, once again improved by Dion Jones, before Delwyn Jones added the sixth after he had gathered a neatly placed cross kick. This time Sam Rodgers added the extras to complete a good day at the office.
Reigning champions Cardiff scraped together a bonus-point win over Bridgend as they won 23-18 at the Arms Park to stay eight points clear.
It had been all-square at 15-15 in the second half before a Harrison James penalty and a 78th minute try from wing Amir Saleh, on permit from WRU Championship club Glamorgan Wanderers, ran in the bonus point try.
Hooker Alun Rees got the Blue & Blacks off to a flying start with a try after only two minutes from a driving line-out and they maintained the pressure to add a second some five minutes later from Dan Fish. After such a fast start, it looked like being a tough night at the office for the Ravens, who arrived having won five of their previous six games.
Joe Goodchild then ran in a third Cardiff try just before the break to make it 15-5 at half time. The one score for the visitors came from a familiar figure at the Arms Park, in former Cardiff hooker Evan Yardley.
Things further improved for the Ravens at the start of the second half when another ex-Cardiff player, Kieran Martin, crashed over and Luke Price’s conversion cut the gap to two points. Price then added a penalty and, all of a sudden, the unthinkable seemed possible.
It was close from thereon in, until Saleh’s run for glory outdid a late, late drop goal from Price.