CARMARTHEN QUINS 18 NEATH 14
Neath signed off their miserable campaign with another valiant defeat at Carmarthen Quins where the Blacks competed well and, as so often the case this season, might have come away with the spoils.
The contrast between the two sides’ fortunes this season could not have been more stark. Last September Neath edged an 18-16 success over the Quins when the game was switched to The Gnoll at short notice. Since then of course Neath suffered their catastrophic injury blight which de-railed their campaign as injury after injury and defeat after defeat followed. Quins, on the other hand, have been able to field a largely settled side rarely stepping outside their established squad.
And a jolly good squad it is too – good enough, in fact, to comprehensively topple champions Merthyr on their own patch a couple of weeks ago and good enough too to be in with a chance of the title until last midweek. Again, Neath had cause to rue some refereeing decisions which went against them – but as Ron Waldron used to say, “We need to be 10 points better than teams to take referees out of it.”
Quins started strongly and bossed the early exchanges as Aled Thomas banged over a penalty and then former Neath wing Dale Ford dashed over for a try. But the Blacks gradually got their game going and hit back before half-time with a neat try by full back Ed Howley who converted it himself to make it just 8-7 at half-time.
As Quins struggled, Neath knew they were in with a chance; Howley has been in top form over the past two months and it was he who saw Neath take the lead in the second-half when he capitalised on a quickly-taken penalty to cross for a second try which he goaled.
Quins responded with a try by winger Dylan Morgans which Thomas converted to restore their one-point lead and the home side pressed strongly but Neath defended stoutly with the hard-working back-row of Jordan Collier, replacement Ceri White and Elis Hopkins and centres Dan Guarneri and Keiran Williams performing heroics.
Howley narrowly a 40-metre goal attempt before a penalty by Thomas gave Quins a bit of breathing space but they could never shake off a resolute Neath side whose enterprising and pacy back division always had a try in them and were a constant threat. Quins’ set-piece was the key to their victory but the result was always in the balance.
With Lyn Jones back in Namibia ahead of pre-season, Paul Williams has kept this side playing and battling to the end. Now the season is done and 2018/19 cannot come soon enough. A lot more youngsters have been blooded and picked up more experience than expected this year, new signings have been announced with more on the horizon – and worse luck on the injury-front is surely an impossibility !
CARM. QUINS – A.Thomas; D.Morgans, N.Reynolds, J.Batcup, D.Ford (M.Griffiths); J.Wilson (S.Marshall), I.B.Thomas (A.Hemmings); N.Williams (S.Phillips), R.Clancy, J.Sabastian (S.L.Thomas); J.Helps. H.Pugh (capt); S.Jones, L.Taylor (R.Bloomfield), G.S.Davies (E.Lloyd)
NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts, D.Guarneri, K.Williams, S.Gibson (R.Pugh); L.Price (L.Scully), C.Morgans (R.Morgan-Williams); L.Tobias (B.Uphill, N.White), A.Morris (S.Crocker), G.James; R.Jones, J.Barley; J.Collier (capt), L.Ward (C.White, G.Lloyd), E.Hopkins
Referee – Mr. A.Parry (Pontypool)
Neath wind up their Premiership season at Carmarthen Park against Carmarthen Quins on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
The Blacks’ campaign which started promisingly enough faltered on the back of a succession of serious injuries but performances have improved of late although luck has continued to elude them.
Last Friday’s game against Aberavon was another case in point when Neath were edged out 17-18 and lost winger Mike Evans, centre Matthew Pearce and prop Ryan Thomas in the process.
Still, captain Jordan Collier will have his team charged for a final flourish at the Quins. Scott Gibson helps out on the wing, Keiran Williams comes in at centre alongside Dan Guarneri with Luke Price and Chris Morgans pairing up at half-back. Forwards Aled Morris, Geraint James and Rhys Jones all make the starting line-up too.
Neath v Carmarthen Quins (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Dan Guarneri, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Scott Gibson; 10 Luke Price, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Liam Tobias, 2 Aled Morris, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Leon Ward, 7 Elis Hopkins
Replacements – 16 Neil White, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Ben Uphill, 19 Garin Lloyd, 20 Ceri White, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Luke Scully, 23 Ryan Pugh