MATCH REPORT: (30/01/2016) CARDIFF 40 NEATH 10

Cardiff outplayed Neath in most departments to register a 5 converted tries to one victory at the Arms Park.

Cardiff had five former Neath men in their ranks including international prop Craig Mitchell. They rarely field a settled side but an indication of how this Neath squad has evolved came in the selection of the visitors’ starting line-up in which only Josh Jones, Geraint James and Jon Barley started the corresponding home game in September.

Playing with a strong wind advantage, the Blue and Blacks made most of the early running and they took the lead through a try by lock Ben Thomas which outside-half James Thomas converted.

Neath rarely threatened during the first half but a golden opportunity was missed when wing Alec Jenkins failed to gather a kick out of defence as Cardiff enjoyed most of the play.

The pressure mounted and, when Neath lost hooker Aled Morris to the sin-bin, Cardiff struck for a penalty try and they went further ahead when another former Neath man Richard Smith crossed at the posts for a third try, Thomas converting.

On Morris’ return, Neath promptly had  prop Ben Uphill sin-binned but the Blacks opened their account with a penalty by outside-half Luke Price and, trailing 24-2 at halftime, Neath had it all to do.

The visitors started the second-half purposefully and prop Geraint James had the crowd on their feet with a barn-storming run off a quickly-taken penalty but he was halted five metres out.

Prompted by acting-captain Rhodri Cole, Neath looked as if they had a score or two in them but all their good approach work came to nothing. When play switched to the other end, Cardiff pounced for a penalty-lineout-drive try by Johnathon Edwards and then scrum-half Tom Slater split the defence for their fifth try, Thomas converting both.

Neath never gave up and they at least had the satisfaction of registering the last – and best – of the game’s tries. Running the ball out of defence, Price freed centre Iwan Evans who sped to the try-line for Price to convert.

Overall though, it was a day to forget for the Blacks who will need to recover quickly before next Saturday’s big Welsh Cup clash against Cardiff Met at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm).