Gala 17 Aberavon 31

Gala began their British & Irish Cup campaign with defeat against their Welsh visitors at Netherdale tonight.

Aberavon, that bit more streetwise, had the better of the forward exchanges and in full-back Sam Davies, had a reliable points harvester with 16 coming from his boot.

The match, played at a decent tempo, had five yellow cards, Ieuan Davies, Richard Thomas, Chris John and Ashley Evans, departing for the Welsh, Ewan McQuillin having a truncated outing for Gala.

Gala did mount a reasonable fightback from a 3-23 deficit early in the second-half and it was no co-incidence that the Graham brothers, George and Gary, were introduced at the same time.

First of the yellows

With a reasonable crowd in the stand, the game got underway and an early bout of fisticuffs in the aftermath of a scrum saw the referee yellow card Gala's prop McQuillin and the Aberavon hooker Davies.

The opening quarter ended with the scores tied at three all, Sam Davies landing the opening points for the visitors and Ewan Scott (pictured) levelling for Gala after some lively interplay from the Gala back-row and loose-head prop Rory Sutherland.

Aberavon had begun to dominate up front and two lineout penalties to touch with the subsequent Gala lineout mis-firing did not help the home cause.

By the break, Aberavon had put some daylight between themselves and the hosts through a try by Aisea Natoga, converted by Davies, who also landed a scrum penalty.

Half-time: Gala 3 Aberavon 13

Within ten minutes of the restart, Davies' third penalty and conversion of Natoga's second try stretched Aberavon's lead to 3-23.

Gala freshened up their side at this juncture and a snipe from George Graham and some cracking passing out of contact saw Tom Weir send in his back-row pal Steve Cairns. Gregor Mein converted.

Thomas and John saw yellow for Aberavon for a high tackle and breakdown interference respectively and Gala benefited at once with Craig Robertson working his way over off an intricate scrum move.

At 17-23, Gala didn't have a final flourish as Paul Smithson, the Aberavon stand-off, capitalised on indecision under a high ball for the visitors' third try and a fourth penalty from Davies wrapped up the game for Aberavon.

Gala: Graham Speirs; Grant Somerville, Chris Auld, Ewan Scott, Craig Robertson; Gregor Mein, Grayson Hart; Rory Sutherland, Callum Mackintosh, Ewan McQuillin, Chris Weir captain, Craig Borthwick, Richie Tod, Stevie Cairns and Tom Weir.

Subs used: James Hilterbrand, Lewis Bertram, Kris Mein, Gary Graham, George Graham, Alan Emond and Gavin Young

Aberavon: Sam Davies; Ashley Evans, Richard Thomas, Aaron Jones, Aisea Notoga; Paul Smithson, Chris Morgans; Rowan Jenkins, Ieuan Davies, Chris John, Rhodri Hughes, Sam Williams, Ben Thomas, Nathan Brown and Dan Baker.

Referee: David Proctor (RFU)

Elsewhere in the B&I Cup, Edinburgh Accies suffered a heavy home defeat to Pontypridd and there were losses on the road for Ayr (at Jersey) and Stirling County (at Munster A). London Scottish did post an away victory in the battle of the Exiles against London Welsh.

In the RBS Premiership, Melrose continued their defence of the Bill McLaren Shield and remained at the top of the table with a convincing victory over Aberdeen Grammar Rugby; Heriot's made it seven wins on the trot with success against Glasgow Hawks; and Hawick saw off Currie at Mansfield Park.