RGC 31 NEATH 19
A golden spell in the second quarter settled this game firmly in League leaders RGC’s favour before Neath showed a little pride to battle back to take the second-half honours on their first visit to Parc Eirias.
Several players are carrying injuries in Neath’s battered squad, and, after an evenly contested first quarter, their woes continued as wing Alec Jenkins (leg muscle) then prop Ben Uphill (ribs) departed the fray. League leaders RGC – well-drilled, well-disciplined and well-structured – then struck clinically to all but seal the win as they hit Neath with a 24-point blast in as many minutes. A simple penalty by the metronomic Jacob Botica gave them the lead and, when Neath put the re-start dead, scrum-half Cam Davies blazed through to put full back Afon Bagshaw in for the opening try which Botica converted.
Neath were forced onto the defensive and lost prop Ryan Thomas, yellow-carded for an illegal entry, and it was not long before centre Tiaan Loots went in for a try which Botica converted. Even with 7 men, Neath’s scrum – excellent throughout – stole a strike against the head in the RGC 22 but it came to nothing and at the other end RGC showed how it should be done as winger Harold Evans got their third try which Botica goaled.
Neath were staring down the barrel and RGC came out strongly after half-time. But Neath weathered the storm and, after lock Jon Barley nicked an RGC line-out, the Blacks got their first points of the afternoon when replacement James Roberts chased down his own kick and showed frightening pace to out-strip the home defence for a try.
Suddenly, Neath came to life and the forwards started to take the game to RGC. A series of driving mauls took play to the RGC line which, although well defended, was eventually crossed when a neat pass by replacement Scott Gibson sent outside-half Iwan Evans in for Neath’s second try under the posts and he added the conversion points. At 12-24, Neath were in with an outside chance but they messed up two attacking positions and RGC scored a long-distance try by centre Tom Hughes which Dion Jones converted.
Neath were not done though and, with four minutes remaining, they pounced for a brilliant third try when a searing break up the narrow side by Gibson left the RGC defence for dead and Iwan Evans’ splendid conversion from wide out made it 19-31. Another try would have brought Neath two points so they tried to run the re-start but they were penalised and RGC gratefully put the ball off the pitch for the last time.
It left Neath with thoughts of what might have been. Yet again, they were architects of their own downfall as the tries they conceded were pretty soft, isolated errors which spoiled a lot of good defensive work which had gone on around them – but they are happening with depressing regularity and must be eradicated !
Attack is not such a problem. Statistics can be misleading but Neath have now scored 3 tries in no fewer than 8 of their 10 League games and their 30 tries makes them the Division’s fourth best. But they have conceded 39 tries which is the worst although the try difference of just 9 is better than two others – food for thought indeed … !
NEATH – E.Howley (G.Llewellyn); A.Jenkins (J.Roberts), R.Smith, G.Evans (capt) (M.Pearce), M.Evans; I.Evans, C.Morgans (S.Gibson); B.Uphill (L.Tobias), S.Crocker (N.White), R.Thomas (G.James); M.Davies (D.Jones), J.Barley; R.Jones, L.Ward, E.Hopkins
RGC – A.Bagshaw; H.Evans (I.Evans), T.Hughes, T.Loots, A.Evans; J.Botica (D.Jones), C.Davies (A.Schwarz); C.Reynolds (J.Simpson), R.Williams (E.Yardley), S.Wainwright (J.Scott); M.Francis (capt)(G.Roberts), A.Williams; W.Bryan (R.Williams), T.Gray , D.Owen
Referee – Mr. E.Williams (Cardiff)
Neath travel to take on leaders RGC in the Premiership West with an early kick off (2.00pm) due to the international at Cardiff.
Neath make several changes from the side which lost at Carmarthen Quins with prop Ben Uphill, lock Matthew Davies and Elis Hopkins starting. Behind the scrum, Iwan Evans takes over at outside-half with Gavin Evans moving to centre while wing Alec Jenkins and full back Ed Howley come in.
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “RGC will obviously be a big challenge for us and our forwards need to impose themselves on the game. If we play with the same commitment as last week and cut out the silly mistakes, we will make an impression.”
** Neath supporters travelling are invited to the RGC Fanzone which is located in between the south stand and Gate C car park will be open from 12:30pm.
Neath v RGC (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Alec Jenkins, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Mike Evans; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Ryan Bean, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Elis Hopkins
Replacements :- 16 Neil White 17 Liam Tobias, 18 Geraint James, 19 Rhys Jones, 20 A.N. Other, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 James Roberts, 23 Geraint Llewellyn