WRU League Two West
UNDERHILL PARK overlooking Mumbles Bay was the venue on Saturday for Aberystwyth’s last league match of the 2015-16 season.
The performance at Pontyberem the previous Tuesday had very properly resulted in the Aber selectors naming an unchanged starting line-up and anticipation was high for the match in which a victory would give them the League 2 West championship title.
There was some disappointment before the start when the home side announced that they had suffered several injuries during two games in the previous week, and were unable to field a front row, meaning that scrums would be uncontested from the start.
Aber’s mighty pack has been a major part of their success this season and losing the chance to exercise their skills one last time weakened their armoury. But there was still a job to be done and they set about it in a professional fashion.
The first score came in the seventh minute of play; Mumbles were penalised inside the Aber 22 and a good touch finder gave the visitors a lineout way upfield. Number eight Lee Gower took the lineout ball and initiated a classic one-two with Gower touching down for the opening try near the left corner.
The middle period of the first half was a nervous affair, frequent blasting of the referee’s whistle breaking the flow of the game.
There was an exchange of penalties during this period, scrum half Andrew Evans landing a 35 metre kick for the home side, Aber skipper Jason Rees duly retaliating with a 45 metre effort to make the score 3-8 in the visitors’ favour.
A yellow card reduced Aber to 14 men on the half hour, and similarly Mumbles were down to 14 just before the break. The score had been the same for the whole of the second quarter in a tight, well-contested match.
Four minutes into the second half a promising Aberystwyth attack ended with a knock-on; the Mumbles clearance was however charged down, wing Carwyn Evans gathering and tearing towards the line when the skipper himself was in support to score the second try, putting Aber into a 3-13 lead.
With Aber getting on top, an upfield streak from Adam Carvell in the 47th minute led to the winger looking around for support, finding the ever-present Paul Stubbs who suffered a muscular injury going for the line, but managed to demonstrate some acrobatic skills in reaching over the line for the try. It was unfortunately the end of Stubbs’s afternoon but he had scored yet another try and left the field a happy man as his captain’s conversion had just put them 3-20 ahead.
Aberystwyth only needed a win to claim the title but a fourth try in the 58th minute added icing to the cake and a bonus point to boot. A very spirited attack led to a score for lock Lee Evans which Rees again converted making it 3-27.
They made that five tries in the 70th minute when centre Rhodri Richards flew out a long overhead pass to replacement centre Myles Hamilton, the Kiwi skilfully taking the ball and finishing off.
Full back Llŷr Thomas added the conversion to make it 10-34 to the visitors and initiating the preparations for the WRU presentation proceedings. Mumbles did not give up however and were rewarded with a consolation try for centre Stuart Fletcher just before the end, converted by full back Matt Hughes.
The final whistle finally came and the Aberystwyth contingent burst into congratulatory mode, the playing and coaching squads clearly euphoric in their achievement. WRU District Director Phil Thomas presented the Trophy Bowl to Aber skipper Jason Rees, and the champagne spray started!
Aberystwyth started their National League career in the then eighth division (the lowest possible) in the inaugural season.
Their rise has been steady, never once having suffered relegation. Promotion to the first division is therefore an achievement to be proud of; to go along with that they have this year notched up 114 League tries, believed to be a League record surpassing the 113 scored by Tonmawr some four years ago.
There is a lot of rugby yet to be played in Wales this season – there are still some 18 games left in Aberystwyth’s own division – so Aber have done very well to have completed their full league programme already.
They can therefore enjoy the next few weeks whilst other teams battle out, invariably for relegation places, but Aberystwyth and Penclawdd can then look forward to the First Division where the Ceredigion side will re-encounter many of their opponents of the last few years. Things are looking up at Plascrug.