2005/2006 Principality Premiership
Aberavon 42 v 20 Cardiff
10 September 2005 - Talbot Athletic Ground, Port Talbot

Match Report

Aberavon 42 Cardiff 20

For the Blue & Blacks at the moment it could be said that it never rains but it pours. That was certainly the case - literally - at the Talbot Athletic Ground this afternoon. As the heavens opened in the second half and referee Nigel Whitehouse whistled away to the point at one stage where the post-interval penalty count was 10-1 in Aberavon's favour, the final straw was the succession of injuries that struck down Cardiff's props.

Young Rhodri Hanmer had battled on gamely to the brink of half-time despite picking up a rib injury in the early stages. Cardiff's problems were compounded by the fact that replacement Geraint Morris had suffered a leg strain in the warm-up. Eventually, with Hanmer seriously incapacitated, Morris' services had to be utilised. He lasted 17 minutes either side of half-time before he, too, was forced off injured.

Into the breech at tight-head stepped Ryan Price with Khalid Jama now on as hooker. The saga didn't end there. When loose-head prop Rhys Gill had to be metaphorically dragged off the field in the 73rd minute with back spasms to be replaced by Michael Leaman the side was left to play out time with a front row of three hookers. The resulting uncontested scrums could have meant Cardiff would have been left without vital league points even if they had won the game.

That regulation was by then merely academic. The Wizards already led 42-13, including a penalty try from a 5-metre scrum, so the game was already won and lost. Yet to Cardiff's great credit they mounted several attacks in the final five minutes. From one of them Bradley Davies galloped through midfield to give a scoring pass to Elgan Jones. From another Francesco Brillante was called back for a marginal offside as he chased a kick ahead with the line at his mercy.

The finish was reminiscent of first-half flamboyance that had culminated in a spectacular sweeping attack through a dozen pairs of hands and three phases that had ended in a glorious try for Chris Stamatakis. With Chris Anderson converting and kicking two penalty goals the Blue & Blacks could feel well-satisfied to be level at 13-all at the break.

The second half was a different story. Kicking machine Jamie Davies finished with a personal tally of 17 points. His conversion of Richard Carter's opening try after a  classic threequarter movement in the 25th minute was followed by three more after the interval to go with his three penalty goals.

James Malpas was yellow carded in the 55th minute for a professional foul - more professional, arguably, than the amateurish antics as a touch judge sent the flanker back to the dug out three times as he tried to return to the action when his 10 minutes in the sin-bin had, in his mind at least, elapsed. Eventually he did to play his part in the strong finish to another disappointing afternoon.

The sense of Stygian gloom had been accentuated by the pouring rain and the floodlights being switched on at 3 o'clock in early September. Still, there were rays of hope. Richard Jones led a midfield shoring up of defence that did much to assuage the horrors of last week at Ebbw Vale. Malpas and Stamatakis led their fellow forwards in great style to cross the gain line as ball-carriers. And 18-year-old  Rhys Gill is already sizing up as a prop of real promise. Ironic, really, on a day when the front row seemed cursed by the demons of ill-luck.  Soon, the Blue & Blacks will hope to see the light again and kick-start their faltering beginnings to the season.

Official : Nigel Whitehouse (Wales)

Aberavon Cardiff