It's a big play-off weekend for Ospreylia, with Aberavon facing Llanelli at Parc Y Scarlets in the first round of the Principality Premiership Play-Offs on Saturday - (5.15pm KO) with the winner heading to Sardis Road to take on Pontypridd in the Principality Premiership Grand Final the following Friday.
Last season Llanelli were crowned Principality Premiership Champions after beating Pontypridd 24 - 18 in the final at Sardis Road. Llanelli finished third in the league, nine points behind second placed Neath, and won 46 - 5 at the Gnoll in first round of the Playoffs. This set them up for their final at Ponty, who finished the league campaign sixteen points ahead of the West Walians.
This season just three league points separate the top three sides. Pontypridd have finished top again on 91 points with Llanelli finishing second on 89 points.
Aberavon, who finished third on 88 points, ended the season with the best playing record of the Premiership having lost fewer games than any other team (Both Pontypridd and Llanelli lost seven each, whilst the Wizards lost six and drew one). In the pre-bonus-point and pre-play-off days the Wizards would now be crowned Principality Premiership Champions. Irrespective of what happens in the play-offs, the Wizards have done superbly well to finish third in the most competitive Principality Premiership season to date. This is remarkable when you consider that it has been achieved by a small and frequently overstretched squad.
This fact is not lost on Aberavon head coach, Simon King, who said:
"I feel we thoroughly deserve to be where we are after a long, hard season, probably the most competitive one there's been. It's justice for all the hard work, effort and commitment the boys have put in.
"With one or two results we could have topped the league, but whatever happens we will be able to reflect on an outstanding season. We have beaten Neath twice and Pontypridd twice. We have a tight, committed squad, who have worked hard.
"We've enjoyed a good end to the season with seven wins on the bounce. We've gone to some tough places and won which is a good indication of where we are. We keep setting targets and reaching them. We were fourth last year and finished third this year so there's definitely progress.
“We always have good battles with Llanelli. Parc y Scarlets certainly isn't a bad place to go, it's 15 against 15 and we have one of the best referees in the world in charge in Nigel Owens. We certainly have no complaints and whatever happens we will shake hands and move on."
During their league campaign this season, Llanelli won half of their opening ten league games before going on to win their next six games in a row. Two losses from four games followed before they ended their campaign with six straight wins. As for Aberavon, they won nine of their opening ten games before winning four and drawing one of their next ten. Like Llanelli, they ended their campaign with six straight wins.
When the sides met at the Talbot Athletic Ground on November 5th, the Wizards ran out 48 - 29 winners, whilst a month later Llanelli won 20 - 11 at Parc Y Scarlets.
During the course of the season, Llanelli, in "attack", scored 29.4 points on average per game (ranked 1st) and 3.5 tries (ranked 1st). In "defence" they conceded 21.5 points on average per game (ranked 6th) and 2.4 tries (ranked 6th). Aberavon scored 26.3 points per game (ranked 3rd) and 2.9 tries (ranked 6th), and conceded 17.2 points (ranked 3rd) and 1.8 tries (ranked 4th).
Away from the Talbot Athletic Ground this season the Wizards won eight and drew one of their thirteen games. Llanelli have lost just one of their thirteen games at Parc Y Scarlets, with the defeat coming at the hands of Cross Keys when the Gwent side won 13 - 12 in late February.
Top points scorer for Llanelli is Jordan Williams with 218 league points. Top try scorer is Bowdy Davies with 11 tries, followed by Justin James with 9, then Jordan Williams and Nic Reynolds with 7 apiece. For the Wizards top points scorer is Jamie Davies with 307 points - the Principality Premiership's top scorer for the season, and the only player to break the 300 point barrier. Top try scorer for Aberavon is Richard Carter with 13 tries, followed by David Pritchard with 10.
Head-to-head, Aberavon and Llanelli have met each other twenty-six times in the Welsh National League with the West Walians leading the series by seventeen wins to seven, with two games drawn. In Llanelli, the Wizards have won just once in the league - winning 31 - 25 at Stradey Park in 2003-04.
Everybody at the Ospreys wishes Aberavon the very best of luck in their play-off campaign.
Aberavon Starting XV: Howard Thomas; Richard Carter, Richard Thomas, Craig Evans, Ricky Thomas; Jamie Davies, David Pritchard; Rowan Jenkins, Marc Breeze, Andrew Clatworthy, Ian Moore (capt), Sam Williams, Morgan Allen, Nathan Strong, Darryl Thomas.
Replacements:Dan Davies, Liam Gadd, Gareth Harvey, Chris Davies, Gavin Ronan, Neil White, Richard Morris.