NEATH 8 BRIDGEND 15
Neath went down to their tenth defeat of the season when they lost to Bridgend in a match which did little to warm the spirits of the crowd on a cold evening at The Gnoll.
In a mistake-ridden affair, there was little to choose between the sides but scoring was at a premium due to the high error count.
There was plenty of effort from both sides as they struggled to get on top. Neath made the better start when winger Geraint Llewellyn latched on to a loose ball and was halted only by a collar-high tackle which forced him off – nowadays, such things are meant to be penalised but, such is Neath’s luck at the moment, that it was not punished and play soon switched to the other end.
Bridgend enjoyed a good period of pressure near the Neath line but it was thwarted by a rock solid home defence and, with Mike Evans providing plenty of thrust in midfield, Neath then enjoyed a good spell, acting-captain Sion Crocker, Ryan Thomas and Elis Hopkins showing up well in a hard-working pack.
Somehow the officials missed a punch landed on flanker Rhys Jones and it was 3-3 at half-time after Neath full back Ed Howley and Bridgend outside-half traded penalties.
In the second half Bridgend took the lead. Neath prop Liam Tobias was yellow carded after a series of scrums on the Neath line – possibly a little harsh as Neath had enjoyed the better of the scrums, before and after – and the visitors pounced on Neath’s numerical disadvantage for a try awarded to flanker Adam O’Driscoll, their best player, who formed an effective back row with brother Zac and Ashton Evans.
Neath looked shocked by the score and Bridgend struck again for a splendid try by wing Mike Powell and Evans converted to make it 13-3 before Neath reduced the arrears when replacement flanker David Griggs sped away for his first try for the club.
At 8-13, Neath were back in it and, with replacement scrum-half Jake Cole probing for openings, they threw everything at Bridgend but the Brewery Field men held out after Neath strayed in front of the ball at an attacking line-out and that was it.
NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts, M.Evans, M.Pearce, G.Llewellyn (L.Caines); D.Guarneri (B.Atkins), S.Gibson (J.Cole); L.Tobias (J.Bamsey), S.Crocker (capt) R.Thomas (G.James); R.Bean (C.White), J.Barley; R.Jones, S.Hicks (D.Griggs), E.Hopkins
BRIDGEND – E.Doe; A.Grabham (J.Phillips), J.Gatt, N.Edwards, M.Powell; R.Evans, C.Tantum (W.Baird); R.Apsee (O.Jordan), I.Merriman (G.Harvey), C.Lewis (G.Daniel); C.John, K.Martin; A.O’Driscoll, A.Evans, Z.O’Driscoll (capt)
Referee – Mr. T.Spurrier (Barry)
Neath play Bridgend at The Gnoll on Friday evening (kick off 7.30pm) and make several changes to the starting line-up with local lads Jake Cole (Neath Athletic), Ben Atkins (Seven Sisters) and Luc Caines (Ystalyfera) poised for action from the replacements bench.
Coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We gave away far too many silly penalties at Llanelli last week and still learning the hard way at the moment. But last time out at home we had a good win over Llandovery and the supporters will be looking for a similar effort against Bridgend.”
Neath v Bridgend (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Dan Guarneri, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Liam Tobias, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Ryan Bean, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Rhys Jones, 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Elis Hopkins
Replacements: (16-23) – Jon Bamsey, Jordan Hawkins, Geraint James, David Griggs, Ceri White, Jake Cole, Ben Atkins, Luc Caines