Former Aberavon and Ospreys wing Jay Baker came back to haunt his old Wizards team-mates for Merthyr in the first round of the WRU National Cup.
Baker created second-half tries for Lewis Williams and Matthew Jarvis to send holders Merthyr into the next round – 15-10 – and keep them on course for a double-double.
Baker made two searing breaks to pave the way for the visitors’ tries in a game that saw his side reduced to 13 men after the break. Aberavon pushed hard for the victory, but didn’t quite have enough to emulate their famous league win over the Ironmen at The Wern earlier in the season.
“It was a good game, both teams came out firing and at half time everyone in the changing room was blowing. I spoke to a few of the Aberavon boys and they said the same because the tempo was high and it was a tough game,” admitted Baker.
“We could see when we came in at half time that Aberavon were getting a bit frustrated and Dale McIntosh told us not to get involved in any scuffles or things like that because we had the upper hand.”
RGC 1404, the 2017 cup winners, gained ample revenge for their league defeat against the Black & Ambers in Colwyn Bay as they put them to the sword at the Arms Park.
The match had been moved because Rodney Parade was required by Newport County for their FA Cup giant-killing act the next day.
— Riley Sports Photo (@RileySports) January 6, 2019
Scrum half Efan Jones gave the visitors a flying start as he took an inside pass from No 8 Tim Grey to score at the posts with only three minutes on the clock. Billy McBryde added the conversion and then kicked a 40 metre penalty to build a 10 point lead
Two tries in as many minutes from left wing Harri Evans then gave the Gogs an even more commanding lead midway through the half. Both scores were created by full back Dion Jones with Evans finishing the second one in style as he raced in from 30 metres.
McBryde converted the latter and was then off target again when centre Tom Hughes crashed over for his side’s fourth try in 28 minutes. Newport finally got on the scoreboard with a try at the posts by centre Geraint O’Driscoll just before the break.
It took less than a minute after the re-start for RGC to work Iolo Evans over in the right corner and then McBryde added a penalty to stretch the lead to 28 points. Newport grabbed consolation tries from No8 Matthew Reed and replacement prop Dan Preece.
There were 18 tries and 116 points for fans to savour as Cardiff beat Tata Steel 73-43 to go through to the second round.
The Premiership side ran in 11 tries, with two each for centre Will Rees-Hole and wing Edd Howley, while there were seven for the home team to savour in an extraordinary afternoon of running rugby.
Cardiff outside half Steffan Jones helped himself to 21 points, with a try and eight conversions, and the game mirrored the pre-season friendly between the two sides at the same venue. On that occasion the scoreboard read 59-22 in favour of the Blue & Blacks and there were 12 tries.
— Merthyr RFC (@RFCMerthyr) January 7, 2019
Emyr Phillips was left ruing missed opportunities by his Carmarthen Quins side that left them kicking themselves for missing out on an extended cup run after working their way into the lead with 10 minutes to go against Ebbw Vale.
But a second defeat, 20-19, of the season to the Steelmen – they lost to them 20-8 in the Premiership in November – means at least the Quins can now concentrate on the league and look to get some of their injured players back on the field.
“Everyone wants a good cup run because it is something fresh and new in a season. Going out at this stage will allow us to focus on the Premiership and gives us a few free weekends to use for recovery for our injured players,” said Phillips.
“It was a tough defeat to take, especially after we took the lead, but it was one of those games that went back and forth and could have gone either way.
“We had our chances to win it, but just as we went up one end of the field and looked like scoring, they would break away and go the length of the field the other way. Then they got that final penalty to go ahead again.”
Ystrad Rhondda skipper Nathan Hughes had every right to feel proud of his side’s effort against Llanelli in the WRU National Cup even though the overriding feeling was one of bitter disappointment at the end of a 32-18 defeat.
Gelligaled Park has been a real fortress for the former Division 1 East Central champions and it looked as though they could cause a major upset when they led 13-8 after 50 minutes and looked very comfortable against the semi-professionals from the league above them.
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— Ystrad Rhondda RFC (@YstradRFC) January 7, 2019
Llanelli head coach Paul Fisher was full of praise for the test his side were given and was shocked at the technical ability and endeavour shown by the home side. While Hughes was frustrated at the end, Fisher was a very relieved man.
“I’m disappointed, but very proud of the boys. I couldn’t have asked for any more from my side,” said Hughes.
“We always play well at home and we wanted to keep it that way and show how much we have developed as a team. We will move on from this and maybe we will be playing them twice next season.
Beddau will be hoping their 104-0 cup defeat at Llandovery doesn’t send their season into a downward spiral.
Struggling with injuries and unavailabilities they shipped 16 tries at Church Bank and also lost flanker Regan Wilson with a dislocated shoulder.
Llandovery assistant coach Simon Davies asked his players to be ruthless and they were that and more. The Wales Under 20 and Scarlets centre Cory Baldwin scored four tries.
“It ended up being a bit more comfortable than we anticipated. Having spoken to some of their players and committee at the end of game, we understood that they were without a lot of first team players,” said Davies.
“But, all credit to them, they played until the end and bought into the spirit of things and tried to play as much as possible.”
Great comments and insight to yesterdays game by our DOR Craig Dummett https://t.co/72hOIrIpun
— Bedlinog RFC (@BedlinogRFC) January 6, 2019
Dafydd Lockyer admitted Pontypridd’s 50-3 victory at brave Bedlinog was much closer than the scoreline suggested. The six-time former winners had to weather an early storm against the Foxes, who went ahead after four minutes thanks to Dan Parry’s 40-metre penalty.
Geraint Clarke and Alex Webber both scored twice for Ponty with Rhys Shellard, Gabriel Davies and Dai Francis also crossing the home line. Diggy Bird kicked six conversions and a penalty.
“It was a tough game despite the final scoreline. The boys did not expect anything different,” said Lockyer.
“Other teams have come here and been turned over and Bedlinog gave us plenty of trouble in the first 40 minutes.”
Lewis Lippiett’s first-half brace helped Bargoed to fight off a strong Newcastle Emlyn side 36-21. Barney Nightingale, Duan Thomas and Jordan Howells also went over in an entertaining encounter which swung back and forth.
Trebanos, who beat Maesteg Quins 34-5, went through along with Swansea, who saw off Narberth respectively. Neath, the inaugural winners back in 1972, were unable to raise a side so therefore handed Pontypool a walkover.
WRU NATIONAL CUP – Round 1
Aberavon 10, Merthyr 15
Bedlinog 3 – 50 Pontypridd
Carmarthen Quins 19 – 20 Ebbw Vale
Llandovery 104 – 0 Beddau
Newcastle Emlyn 21 – 36 Bargoed
Newport 17 – 35 RGC 1404
Pontypool walk /over v Neath
Rhydyfelin 8 – 24 Bedwas
Swansea 27 – 10 Narberth
Tata Steel 43 – 73 Cardiff
Trebanos 34 – 5 Maesteg Quins
Ystrad Rhondda 18 – 32 Llanelli
Byes: Bridgend, Cardiff Met, Cross Keys, Newbridge