Whitland 32 – Aberystwyth 10
Despite some very poor performances lately, Aber have managed to cling to third spot in Division 1 of National League West. On Saturday they faced bottom of the table, Whitland, and were expected to put in a much improved performance to consolidate their position. That they failed so abysmally to do so suggests that there are problems at all levels that need to be addressed urgently if the club is to sustain its respectable position in the top Division.
Weaknesses, both technical and tactical have crept into the team’s performances since mid-January. Individuals’ skill levels and teamwork have deteriorated drastically compared with the heady days of the first half of the season when Aber played such intelligent, entertaining and winning rugby. On Saturday they seemed to lack a tactical plan to work to, and so each player played his own game with little regard for the good of the team. Too often the visitors ran into opponents’ tackles and died with the ball instead of running into spaces, using support runners and keeping the ball alive.
Aber started promisingly gaining good territory and were soon 0 – 3 up after Llyr Thomas’ second penalty attempt was successful. Whitland hit back with an excellent 40 metre penalty kick by No 10 Nico Setaro after an Aber forward was caught offside at a ruck. From the re-start Whitland gained possession and Setaro, who marshalled his backs brilliantly throughout the game, put in a huge kick deep into Aber territory. The visitors tried to counter-attack but a long, sloppy pass was gratefully intercepted by centre Coles who raced over from 30 metres. Setaro converted to take the home side into a 10 – 3 lead. Honours were fairly even in the lineouts but Whitland were dominant in the scrums and in the loose during the first half. Again they forced Aber to defend as they launched wave after wave of attacks and a clever grubber kick from Edwards allowed centre Howells to score the simplest of tries. A dire half for the visitors closed with the score at 15 – 3.
Regrettably for their travelling supporters, Aber’s second half performance was no better than that in the first forty minutes. A powerful scrummage drive from the home pack, five metres out, put Aber under pressure. When the ball emerged it was fed to Whitland’s right wing to cross in the corner. An excellent touchline conversion by Setaro increased their lead to 22 – 3. He soon followed this up with a simple penalty to take the score to 25 – 3. Substitutes Robbie Parry and Geraint Rowlands came on and added bulk and strength to Aber’s pack, steadied their scrum and improved their lineout possession; but it was all too late in the day to save the visitors.
Aber were now gaining territorially and were camped near the Whitland line for long periods before a consolation try by Lee Evans, converted by Steffan Rees took their score into double figures. However, the overall team performance remained weak. Good breaks by the likes of Hughes and Richards came to nothing as the ball was either not offloaded or because no one was backing up in support. Towards the end of the game Setaro put in another long kick deep into the Aber half. The ball was safely fielded but, instead of putting in a clearance kick, the visitors ran back at the opposition. Whitland easily won a turnover at the resulting ruck and fed the ball out for substitute Davies to race for the line and score near the posts. Setaro converted to close the scoring at 32 – 10.
This result deservedly lifts Whitland from the foot of the table and sees Aber drop to fourth place. Unless urgent attention is now paid to better tactical preparation, improved skill levels, better understanding between players and effective on-field game management, it is difficult to see them halting this slide. Such weaknesses are usually ironed out pre-season or in the first month of the season. That they should be arising at this stage of the campaign should be a cause for concern and urgent action.
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