Aberystwyth finally crowned KO Cup champions

KO Cup - delighted Aber

Pembrokeshire KO Cup Final (Sponsored by Hugh Hughes & Associates):


Aberystwyth 44 - Pembroke 21

Venue: St Davids RFC
Referee: Matthew J Thomas.
Assistants: John Griffiths and Jason Summers.

Gordon Eynon and Robbie ParryAfter four successive final defeats, Aberystwyth were finally crowned KO Cup champions at St Davids RFC as their superior forward power proved too much for a gutsy Pembroke side.

The Division One (West) side were seemingly home and dry at 29-7 early in the second half, and although they wobbled briefly as the Scarlets fought back to 32-21, the physicality that the Division Three West A champions had to endure eventually told in the closing moments.

Fittingly, Aber players and supporters dedicated to win to club captain Lee Evans, who on the previous Saturday, broke his leg in the side's final league game of the season against Llangennech.

Aber make a dynamic start

In weather and pitch conditions both perfect for running rugby, it was no surprise the contest got off to a high-paced start, as Aber full back Matthew Hughes made a searing break but was unable to link with scrum half Llyr Thomas in the Pembroke 22.

Immediately the Scarlets responded through their own full back, 18-year-old Tom Harding-Jones, who himself cut loose on half way but lacked support at the crucial moment.

But then it was Aber who took command as their powerful and direct pack hammered away at the Pembroke defence.

Outside half Steffan Rees pulled a penalty wide but it mattered little as moments later a charge from hooker Owen Bonsall set up a try for skipper and centre Carwyn Evans before Rees converted.

And then when the Aber pack won a penalty after ominously dismantling their opponents at a scrum, it was soon 12-0 as outstanding second row Arwel Lloyd was stopped short of the line and No 9 Thomas picked up and darted over.

Scarlets fight back

Aber tryPembroke were struggling to sustain possession but when they did attack, they looked dangerous, and soon they were back in the game.

Centre Dan Colley was denied by the corner flag, but then Harding-Jones, whose attacking play was a feature of the night, fought his way over and Toby Smith converted brilliantly from out wide.

Another Rees penalty raised Aber's advantage back to eight points but the Scarlets were hanging in there before a crucial score before half time.

It was Bonsall who exchanged passes with No 10 Rees before crashing over for a converted score, and at 22-7, it seemed a long way back for Geraint Lewis and Kyle Davies' team.

Aber score first but Pembroke stage a third-quarter fight-back

2018 KO Cup - Match officialsAnd early in the second half it seemed even further as Aber No 15 Hughes cut over for a try that Rees again goaled.

But just as they did in that thrilling National Bowl final at the Principality Stadium, Pembroke rallied when all seemed lost.

Forwards Cyle Weatherall and Dom Colman both went close but the latter was unable to cling on as he crashed towards the line, before the Scarlets showed a glimpse of the future as three youngsters combined for a superb try.

Again it was Harding-Jones who made inroads from deep, and he linked with centre Fraser James, who in-turn gave an inside ball to scrum half Tom Lewis to dive over. Smith added the extras.

Another Rees three-pointer put Aber 32-14 ahead but Pembroke had the bit between their teeth, and after two close range lineouts, Smith's long pass set up a chance out wide and it was winger Luke Hartland who cut inside to score.

Again Smith converted and suddenly, Pembroke were back within two scores.

Aber regain composure

Aber appeared rattled, and Hughes sliced a clearance into touch on the full, before Smith's chip and chase momentarily caused panic.

But Andrew Barlow's team regained their composure in the final 10 minutes, and it was centre Evans who rounded off a spell of pressure with the try that effectively sealed the trophy, and Rees converted.

Still there was time for one more Aber score as Hughes finished clinically from 30 metres out - and the Mid-Wales team were soon deservedly celebrating the silverware.

Steve Holmes and Carwyn EvansPost-match presentations

Second row Lloyd was judged man of the match, and after Pembrokeshire and District Rugby Union secretary Charles Davies thanked all involved, it was vice-President Steve Holmes who presented the trophy to Evans and his team, the first KO Cup success for Aber for the first time since 1983/84.

It brought the curtain down on the senior rugby season in the county, and a hard-fought final on a perfect night that was terrifically well-organised by St Davids on their first-ever staging, was a fitting way to finish.

Pembroke: Tom Harding-Jones, Luke Hartland, Fraser James, Dan Colley, Elliott Evans, Toby Smith, Tom Lewis, Dom Colman, Seamus Wiseman, Jonathan Palmer, Scott Powell (captain), Cyle Weatherall, Billy Wood, Rhodri Walters, Sam Smith.
Replacements: Jamie Brayford, Lloyd Davies, Jordan Evans, Will Edwards, Alex Thomas, Shaun Dalling, James Davies.

Aberystwyth: Matthew Hughes, Gwern Penri, Carwyn Evans, Steff Rees, Ben Jones, Steffan Rees, Llyr Thomas, Oisin Canney, Owen Bonsall, James Plumbridge, Robbie Parry, Arwel Lloyd, Bryn Sheperd, Tom Evans, Dan Binks.
Replacements: James Nichols, Carwyn Thomas, Sam Heiden, Paul Stubbs, Dorian Jones, Ian Ellis, Ifan Thomas.

KO Cup - RU Pembroke