Cardiff's cup campaign floundered more emphatically than the final scoreline might suggest. Though they led fleetingly midway through the first-half, they trailed 16-30 going into a protracted injury time of nine minutes when a late converted try by Ross Johnston failed to hide their blushes.
It was one of those afternoons when the Blue & Blacks failed to create any forward platform; a re-run, in fact, of their Premiership match at the same ground last month. Though Aberavon were themselves shaky, to say the least, in the lineouts, they outmuscled their opponents in the scrums and had a far better return from the contact situations.
Best marks for Cardiff were earned by Damian Welch and Johnston in the pack and Roger Davies, yet again, posed the most attacking threat among the backs but, overall, the team came a long way second to the Wizards.
The warning signs were flashing from the first minute when sloppy handling coughed up the ball to Wizards' full-back Richard Carter who charged down the right wing, kicked ahead but fluffed the seemingly inevitable try with a schoolboy's knock-on. But seven minutes later an almost identical scenario, this time on the left flank but again after a Cardiff handling error, produced Aberavon's first try. Winger Steve Davies had more luck regathering the kick ahead for a deserved touchdown.
So far, the Blue & Blacks had been badly off the pace but suddenly they found some shape to their attacks. Yet again it was turnover ball that produced a score, but this time in the opposite direction. The ball was worked out wide to Damian Welch and the lock shook off three tackles in a marvellous run for his fifth try of the season on the day he qualified for a club cap. Though Craig Evans failed to convert he had more success in the 20th minute with a short range penalty goal after a dangerous tackle.
Within six minutes, however, the Wizards were back in front and from the softest of tries. From a lineout on halfway number 8 Richard Morris ran through a huge gap in the set-piece and one pass was enough to send scrum-half Chris Morgans clear for the score. In the 35th minute Gavin Lucas was sin-binned after an incident that also resulted in Jamie Davies stretching the home lead with a penalty goal.
Yet Cardiff, very much against the run of play, levelled the scores with the last move of the half. Aberavon were having as much trouble in their lineouts as Cardiff were in the scrums and another lost throw-in went straight to the influential Welch who peeled away with another defence-splitting run into the midfield from where swift transference was taken on by Richard Jones and Roger Davies squeezed over in the corner.
Thirteen-all at the interval was scarcely believable from a Cardiff viewpoint but the rearguard action was too good to last. Aberavon struck early once again. From a close range scrum they attacked the openside and Chris Davies crossed under the post for Jamie Davies to convert. Cardiff still hung on thanks to an Evans' penalty from 30 metres and when Liam Gadd was yellow carded for a punch there still seemed every chance of a comeback. But then naivete set in. From the resulting penalty Evans was allowed to attempt an ambitious 65-metre goal when the situation was crying out for a touch kick and an attacking lineout. Moments later another kick ahead went dead and the scrum went back to Cardiff territory.
They also failed to take advantage of the uncontested scrums when both Darren Fenton and Gareth Gunter departed injured in the 55th and 60th minutes and only one prop replacement, Geraint George on permit from Llantwit Fardre, was available.
By any yardstick this was a poor period for Cardiff, underlined further when they were penalised at one of their own lineout throw-ins and Davies kicked the goal. Four minutes later, with Gadd back on the field, Davies then added the extras to another Steve Davies try from, yes, another turnover near halfway.
In a madcap period of added time the try-scorer was then binned himself for an early tackle and Johnston flopped on a loose ball that ricocheted off his knee for a try to which Evans added the extras.
But it was all inconsequential stuff. Aberavon had long since retained the bragging rights against Cardiff and no Blue & Blacks' fan was in a position to complain.