RGC 37 points NEATH 19 points
Neath’s Premiership season got off to a losing start when they went down to a 5 tries to 3 defeat at Ruthin against RGC. It was the first game nobody else wanted; a long journey to meet the high-riding region and it was the home side who had the better of things either side of Neath starting and finishing strongly.
Neath exploded into the new season scoring the first try after just five minutes when centre Aaron Bramwell touched down and Ed Howley converted. Almost immediately, the Blacks nearly extended their lead but were denied a score by the touch-judge; instead RGC grew into the game and were rewarded with a penalty by outside-half Billy McBryde who has been a thorn in Neath’s side with Llanelli over the years.
Neath lost centre Mike Evans with a facial injury before RGC went in front on the half hour when prop Sam Wainwright barrelled over. His fellow prop Joe Simpson and Neath’s fine hooker recruit Darren Hughes were then yellow-carded and another McBryde penalty made it 11-7 and, upping the tempo, the home side went further ahead when flanker Mei Parry scored their second try after a quick line-out, McBryde converting.
But before the interval, Neath hit back with their own second try when wing Alec Jenkins marked his 150th appearance for the Club by crossing in the corner, making it 18-12 at the end of an intriguing first half.
The Gogs drew first blood after the interval when scrum-half Efan Jones got their third try and, with the home back row looking ever more influential, wing Iolo Evans got their fourth, McBryde converting both, to put the North Walians firmly in command. As the replacements flowed forth, Billy Rae claimed a fifth try for the home side.
But Neath, not lacking effort or fitness and scrummaging strongly to the end, had the last word with a penalty try which was a real feather in the cap of the pack and, in particular, of the replacement front row which shows that the Blacks have two highly-accomplished front rank units.
The result was disappointing for the Blacks but they won’t be the only team to come a cropper at RGC this season. It was much improved upon last season but the coaching team will be keen to stress that more is expected of this Neath team and will be seeking a far livelier effort – and wins !
Still, it was a tough one to start and the Blacks can start afresh against Bridgend at home in front of their own supporters next Saturday.
Neath open the new Premiership rugby season with a visit to Ruthin RFC to play RGC on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
The Welsh All Blacks have strengthened their hand this season with Ian Ellis, a try-scoring hero last week, and Aaron Bramwell returning while winger Alec Jenkins makes his 150th appearance for Neath. Luke Garrett, Darren Hughes and Liam Tobias form a new front row. Scott Andrews, one of four recruits to a reinforced pack, will lead the team from the second row alongside Jon Barley with Ieuan Jones flanked in the back row by Elis Hopkins and Jordan Collier.
Neath coach Simon King said, “We’ve had two good, tough warm-ups and we have another test at RGC who have some new players and a new venue in Ruthin. Everyone is raring to go and, despite missing a couple of players through work commitments, we travel in good heart after beating Pontypool last week.”
Neath v RGC (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Ian Ellis, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Aaron Bramwell, 11 Alec Jenkins;
10 Iwan Evans, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Luke Garrett, 2 Darren Hughes, 3 Liam Tobias;
4 Jon Barley, 5 Scott Andrews (captain); 6 Elis Hopkins, 7 Jordan Collier, 8 Ieuan Jones
Replacements – 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Tyla Murvai, 19 Ryan Bean, 20 Aled Cockwell, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 Dan Guarneri, 23 Gavin Evans
Referee – Mr. Dewi Phillips (Aberystwyth)
PLEASE NOTE – Admission £5 all parts, Under-16’s FREE