Aberavon 31-24 Bedwas
Principality Premiership play-off semi-final, Sunday May 14, Port Talbot
A 72nd minute try sent Aberavon through to the Principality Premiership final at the expense of Bedwas in a thrilling semi-final encounter at the Talbot Athletic Ground on Sunday May 14.
Wizards second-row Ben Davies sealed his side’s victory late on, but Bedwas – who subsequently announced that head coach Steve Law would be moving on at the end of the season – pushed the hosts all the way in a repeat of the same fixture last week.
On a sun-soaked afternoon, Bedwas were on the front-foot from the start, and opened the scoring after just four minutes. Richard Powell got the scoreboard moving from the tee after Aberavon were penalised for not rolling away.
The home side hit back with the crucial first try of the day, when outside-half James Garland burst through midfield and gave the ball to the right for winger Matthew Jenkins to cross out wide. Garland added the extras.
As in the previous league meeting between the pair, Aberavon scored a second quick try, but this time Bedwas dug in to stay within touching distance.
Prop Rowan Jenkins galloped through a gap in the defence after receiving the ball from a lineout, and Garland’s conversion was successful.
Bedwas were back within a point shortly after, as Powell struck a penalty and conversion either side of a fine Nicky Griffiths score.
The visitors turned up the heat, and took the lead just before the break, as Powell notched his third penalty of the half after the Wizards pack were penalised at the scrum.
Matthew John edged Bedwas further ahead after the interval with a powerful finish, before indiscipline saw Matthew Pettit sent to the sin-bin for foul play with Aberavon knocking on the visitors’ line.
The home side exploited their one man advantage when prop Alex Jefferies broke through down the right hand side, and Garland levelled the scores at 21-21 with the conversion.
The kickers exchanged penalties with ten minutes remaining, but the hosts grabbed the decisive try minutes later, as lock Davies crashed over from close range, despite a TMO review.
Bedwas fought hard to salvage something from the match in the dying moments, but Aberavon held out to set up a final spot against Merthyr.
• Match report and photography by Ian Lovell of Bedwas RFC.
Following Sunday’s match, Bedwas announced that their head coach and stalwart, Steve Law, would be leaving to take up the vacant head coach role at Cardiff RFC.
Law, the longest serving Premiership coach, has been at Bedwas for 16 years and replaces Duane Goodfield in the capital.
Described as a favourite, well-liked, and respected, Bedwas has become an established Premiership side under Law’s stewardship, finishing this season in a record-high third place and winning the Fosters Challenge Cup.
At Cardiff, he will combine his head coach duties with working closely with the Blues regional team, in a clear recognition of his talent and achievements. Backs coach Llyr Lane will also switch from the Bridgefield to the Arms Park.
Mark Lewis, Bedwas’ Director of Rugby, said: “Steve has been a great servant of Bedwas RFC and most people will realise the huge input he has made in Bedwas’ rise to the top. He has been a talented and inspiring coach and has worked tirelessly at all hours of the day and night to build and coach a squad of players which is the envy of many of the more glamorous clubs with budgets far in excess of ours.
“Steve is a great personal friend of mine and I know the esteem with which he is held by my fellow directors. We are all naturally sorry to be losing him and appreciate his decision was a difficult one over which he mulled long and hard. It’s a rare opportunity at a crucial time for him which we all appreciate.
“Sorry to lose him as we are, we stand by his decision. We are enormously grateful for his service over the years and give him our very warm wishes as he embarks on this exciting new challenge in his career as one of Wales’ very best rugby coaches.”
Steve Law added: ““I would first like to thank everyone at Bedwas RFC for an incredible 16-year journey. It is a great club to have been involved in and I am happy that I have left my local club in a better state then when I first arrived.
“Having said that there was only one club that would have tempted me away and that is Cardiff RFC. A club with such history but a club that still has huge potential having been disappointing in the Premiership for a few years.
“This is a huge challenge and I have been given the opportunity to put my own stamp on the Blue and Blacks.”