The head of the valley of the Afon Llwyd created an industrial landscape which inspired Alexander Cordell's literary masterpiece, "The Rape of the Fair Country", and on a glorious early autumn afternoon it was hoped the rugby would match the sunshine, but it was a desperate rearguard action on the lines of Rorke's Drift which gained the Green and Whites a second Division One East away victory of the season, as they finished strongly against opponents with limited attacking intent but loads of possession on their own Recreation Ground fortress
Although welcoming Kurtis Haile and Aled Penn back to the threequarter line, Tillery were still short of four front line forwards as they took on a heavyweight pack who showed their intentions from the off The first scrum retreated towards the Tillery line and lots of tackles were made as the black and white hordes were repelled, although it was almost inevitably a large forward trying to crash through-It was ten minutes before the visitors gained any possession when Haile took off from the 22, but a dropped pass ended that move and it was back to defensive and scrummaging duties where the admirable efforts of Jordan Legge managed two tighthead strikes in the under fire scrum
Another breakout by Lewis Bates and Luke Morgan looked promising and they reached the line before being held up In the 24th came a breakthrough when Liam Crandon kicked a penalty, a feat repeated four minutes later following an offside offence, but on 34 minutes a bad blow as the outside half left the field injured This prompted a reshuffle with Conor Miles moving to scrum half, Luke Pegler to No 10 and Ryan Price entering the fray on the right wing, but still the home marauders powered forward and Tillery were grateful to full back Luke Morgan for a last ditch tackle which prevented a try
Matthew Catlin had a particularly good first half, prominent with ball in hand, covering well and winning a crucial line out on the home throw and this enabled Pegler's team to turn around six-nil ahead
Anthony Isgrove replaced Legge at the changeover, but it made no difference and the scrum continued in reverse gear and on 45 minutes the pressure inevitably told as the Blaenavon No 8 found space on the blind side to crash through at the corner, reducing the arrears to a point, but they blew another good chance moments later, again dropping a scoring pass
Legge temporarily returned to the fray as Isgrove was treated for a blood injury, before Kurtis Haile extended the lead with a forty metres penalty goal; in the 56th Blaenavon pulled back to within a point with another penalty and the clock ticked to the 67th when a burst by the impressive Lewis Prosser caused an early tackle on Haile and a yellow card for the offender; Haile kicked the resulting penalty from in front of the posts, as Matthew Jones replaced Rhys Pendrie causing a pack reshuffle, Jack Summers moving to the second row
Another home penalty saw the score at 11-12, but a tremendous display of footballing skills enabled Lewis Bates to break clear and support from Pegler saw wing Price cross under the posts, Haile's conversion stretching the lead to 8 and putting daylight between the teams for the first time all afternoon
Nevertheless, the home forwards battered away and got a second try when the replacement hooker crossed for another converted try,-eighteen-nineteen! As the moments ticked away and nerves frayed it was again a crucial burst from centre Bates and some slick handling which found the space for Haile to cross wide on the right, and for a few more backs to the wall minutes Tillery were able to hold on to the six point margin and claim a second win on the road
Catlin and Prosser were strong candidates in the forwards, with Haile's 13 points a big factor too, but Man of the Match was Lewis Bates, a strong defender and powerful runner, whose determination set up both tries!
It was a gutsy team performance, for which each and every player can hold up their hands; Well done!
Nantyglo home next Saturday is the next League fixture
Abertillery BG ; Luke Morgan; Conor Miles, Kurtis Haile, Lewis Bates, Aled Penn; Liam Crandon (Ryan Price), Luke Pegler, captain; Andy Rowlands, Jordan Legge (Anthony Isgrove, temp Legge), Scott Hoskins; Rhys Pendrie (Matthew Jones), Matthew Catlin; Jack Summers, Lewis Prosser, Iestyn James
Abertillery Blaenau Gwent RFC