Category: Match Reports


NEATH 10 points BEDWAS 40 points

An impressive Bedwas tore Neath apart in the first half to stack up a 5-try 35-3 interval lead before the All Blacks showed some improvement to at least make a fight of it in the second-half.

Following Gareth Llewellyn’s eve-of-match departure, Neath looked shaken at the start of this game. Just as the effects of the earthquake centred on Cwmllynfell were being felt across South Wales, they conceded a penalty try within four minutes of kick off and had winger Alec Jenkins of all people yellow-carded for trying to stop an unstoppable driving maul travelling at speed.

Four minutes later, Bedwas repeated the trick to set up a try for scrum-half Tom Rowlands, Steffan Jones converting. In the 13th minute the craziness of rugby’s law-interpretations was amply illustrated when Ed Howley got Neath on the board with a penalty. Centre Matthew Pearce was high-tackled, necessitating his replacement by debut-making Ryan Pugh (Aberavon Quins).

Some home supporters were calling for a yellow card which would have been harsh but rugby’s laws cannot be right when foul play – albeit not particularly nasty except for the unlucky Pearce who faces a lengthy lay-off – sees a team remain at full complement while a technical infringement with no injury sees a man binned ?

Bedwas were soon back on the attack though and, after as blatant a piece of obstruction on James Roberts as the officials could possibly ignore (and they missed a lot), flanker James Richards crossed on the other side. Then Rowlands added his second, Jones converting both, and the visitors had the bonus point – to say nothing of the match- neatly parcelled up within 21 minutes.

Neath managed to stem the assault with No.8 Elis Hopkins setting a good example but just before half-time Rowlands completed his hat-trick and Jones converted to make it 35-3.

In the second-half, Neath improved somewhat as the replacements flowed on both sides and it took Bedwas until the 58th minute before they scored next and then only from a pass which was signalled forward by the assistant but over-ruled by the poor referee.

Adam Williams was the fortunate beneficiary but thereafter Neath started keeping the ball and they deservedly got a score back when outside-half Iwan Evans crossed wide out and Howley goaled via the right upright from wide out.

Of the Neath forwards, both hookers Sion Crocker and his debutant replacement young Garin Lloyd (Banwen and Neath College), replacement Ryan Thomas and No.8 Elis Hopkins were good; behind, the two scrum-halves Scott Gibson and another teenager Dalton Brown were clever and Ryan Pugh had a promising first game too.

It was actually 7-5 to Neath in the second-half but small consolation as well-drilled Bedwas had it all sewn up in the first-half and there was never any realistic hope of toppling it.

Lyn Jones commences his duties on Monday and evidently there is a lot to do with a trip to Cardiff (kick off 11.30am) next Saturday.

Neath entertain Bedwas in the Welsh Premiership on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

Alec Jenkins, Gavin Evans and Scott Gibson return behind the scrum with Geraint James, Matthew Davies and Aled Morris coming into the pack. Chris Morgans returns to the bench where he is joined by Neath College prospect Garin Lloyd and Aberavon Quins outside-half Ryan Pugh.

Neath v Bedwas (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Matthew Pearce, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), Alec Jenkins; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Rhys Jones, 8 Elis Hopkins, 7 Aled Morris
Replacements – 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Garin Lloyd, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Ryan Bean, 20 Ceri White, 21 Dalton Brown, 22 Ryan Pugh, 23 Chris Morgans

MATCH REPORT: RGC 66 NEATH 3 – (10-02-2018)

RGC 66 points NEATH 3 points

It was very bad – if not quite as bad throughout – as it looks as a patched up Neath side gave of their best and, despite the sending-off of prop Ryan Thomas, held the rampant North Wales side for fully 65 minutes before they collapsed as spectacularly as a row of deckchairs in a Blackpool wind.

Even with 14 men, Neath’s stitched together side battled hard and managed to out-scrummage the home side but were under the cosh in other phases. It was just nil-3 when Thomas received his marching orders in an incident not instigated by him and for which his assailant received only a yellow – which was a bit odd.

There were 38 minutes on the clock before RGC got their first try by Dan Owen and on half-time they added another by Tim Grey, Danny Cross converting both to go with his earlier penalty.

In the second half, Howley banged over a penalty to reach 100 points for the season before Andrew Williams got RGC’s third converted by Botica – a very handy replacement – and the home side got their bonus point through a second try by Owens, Botica converting, with 13 minutes to go.

But Neath were visibly tiring – the loss of their entire back row and numerical deficiency saw RGC move the ball almost at will and, in a grandstand finish, they more than doubled their score with five tries by Deiniol Jones (2), Tom Hughes, Harold Evans and Afan Bagshaw, all converted by Botica. RGC were very clear winners – humiliating but not total ignominy.

RGC – D.Jones; A.Bagshaw, T.Loots, H.Evans, R.Williams (T.Hughes); D.Cross (J.Botica), E.Jones (A.Schwarz); J.Simpson (C.Reynolds), E.Yardley (G.Roberts), J.Scott (C.Connolly); R.Williams (C.Donnelly), M.Edwards (capt); A.Williams, W.Bryan, T.Grey (D.Owens)

NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts (S.Stone), S.Griffiths, M.Pearce, G.Llewellyn (C.Griffiths); I.Evans, D.Brown (J.Robbins); B.Uphill (L.Tobias), S.Crocker (capt), R.Thomas; R.Jones (M.Davies), J.Barley; Josh Cole (C.White), A.Cockwell (A.Morris), E.Hopkins (G.James)
Referee – Mr. B.Brakespear (Abercynon)

Neath make their second journey of the season on an international weekend to RGC for a Welsh Premiership fixture which kicks off at 2.00pm at Parc Eirias.

The Blacks are looking to improve on their previous visit back in November when they battled hard but went down 19-31.

Iwan Evans takes over at outside-half from the injured Gavin Evans while Dalton Brown starts at scrum half and Maesteg’s Sam Griffiths plays at centre. Sion Crocker takes over the captaincy and the Blacks are boosted by the return of back rower Josh Cole.

Neath’s team selection has been compromised by the heavy injury-list and by players having difficulty getting off work so there could be debuts off the bench for scrum-half Jak Robbins and centre Conor Griffiths while winger Steffan Stone re-appears.

Neath v RGC (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Sam Griffiths, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Dalton Brown; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker (captain), 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Josh Cole, 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Aled Morris, 18 Geraint James, 19 Matthew Davies, 20 Ceri White, 21 Jak Robbins, 22 Conor Griffiths, 23 Steffan Stone

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 15 CROSS KEYS 41 – (01-02-2018)

NEATH 15 points CROSS KEYS 41 points

Neath showed all the effects of their long month’s lay-off with a sub-standard display on a cold night at The Gnoll.

The Blacks made the early running and opened the scoring with a try by lively scrum half Scott Gibson but lax play by Neath allowed Keys in for tries by prop Scott Evans and centre Leon Andrews, full back Josh Prosser converting both.

Winger Geraint Llewellyn brought Neath back into the game, touching down on the end of an accurate kick by outside-half Gavin Evans and Ed Howley converted superbly but Neath’s concentration lapsed again as they let in keys hooker Darren Hughes and it was 12-19 at half-time.

Howley’s penalty cut the arrears as Neath started the second-half promisingly but Keys centre Phil Williams crossed for their fourth try converted by Proosser who then kicked a penalty.

It was all over for Neath who had introduced a host of young replacements from their injury-hit bench and Keys kept it tight for lineout-drive tries by flanker Scott Matthews and Hughes, Prosser converting one.

NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts (J.Condon), M.Evans, M.Pearce, G.Llewellyn; G.Evans (capt) (C.Bricknell), S.Gibson (D.Brown); B.Uphill (N.White), S.Crocker (J.Lewis), R.Thomas (G.James); R.Jones (M.Davies), J.Barley; E.Hopkins, L.Ward (R.Bean), A.Cockwell

CROSS KEYS – J.Prosser; M.Powell, L.Andrews, P.Williams, N.Trowbridge; C.Shepherd, J.Leadbetter (R.Pritchard); G.Carpenter (C.Hewlett), D.Hughes (capt), S.Evans (R.Cornock); T.Lampard, L.Dyckhoff; J.Skinner, A.Powell, S.Matthews
Referee – Mr. B.Whitehouse (Gower)

Neath return to Premiership action for the first time in five weeks and welcome back half a dozen players for their home game at The Gnoll against Cross Keys on Thursday evening (kick off 7.30pm).

Returning to the fold are wing Geraint Llewellyn, centre Matthew Pearce, prop Ryan Thomas, hooker Sion Crocker, lock Rhys Jones and back rower Elis Hopkins.

Tondu hooker Jake Lewis, Neath Athletic scrum-half Dalton Brown, Tata outside-half Callum Bricknell and Aberavon Quins winger Jordan Condon figure on the bench,

But captain Jordan Collier has suffered another blow in his comeback plans as, having recovered from the broken leg suffered against RGC back in September, the unfortunate back-rower has now broken his thumb in training. Also added to the injury-list is outside-half Iwan Evans.

Team manager Martyn Morris said, “It is nice to pick from something like a squad again as the last three months have been a numbers game. Now we must start putting together the performances which The Gnoll crowd deserve.”

Neath v Cross Keys (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Gavin Evans (captain), 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Neil White, 17 Jake Lewis, 18 Geraint James, 19 Matthew Davies, 20 Ryan Bean, 21 Dalton Brown, 22 Callum Bricknell, 22 Jordan Condon

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 13 CARDIFF 15 (06-01-2018)


With 16 of their 32 registered players out of action and their 6-man Academy allocation again unavailable, injury-ravaged Neath did well to fulfil this fixture let alone push Cardiff to the limit, losing the game to the final kick.

Neath made most of the early running but squandered early chances as Ed Howley burst through twice then an attacking line-out was wasted but after 20 minutes they took the lead when Howley landed a penalty. Keeping up the pressure, Neath went further ahead when scrum-half Scott Gibson nipped up the narrow side to claim his sixth try of the season and Howley’s conversion gave Neath a deserved 10-point lead.

Cardiff were struggling to to make an impression as their passing was untidy but on the half hour they pulled back a try when hooker Ian Jenkins gleefully finished a front of the line-out move although many in the home crowd wrongly felt that he had put a foot in touch; it mattered not, he should have been tackled anyway – and it was 10-5 at half-time.

In the second-half, Cardiff hit the woodwork with a penalty but they took the lead when the referee, who had problems at the scrummage all day, deemed a yellow card necessary for Ben Uphill who had just moved to tight-head – it seemed rough on the Blacks as they were no more guilty at the scrums than Cardiff who got away with wheeling many a Neath scrum and Uphill went across to stop it … such is Neath’s ”luck” this year !

With young centre Sion O’Brien rightly binned too, Cardiff took full advantage of Neath’s numerical inferiority when they were awarded a penalty try so Neath trailed for the first time at 10-12 but the Blacks kept battling and survived until even numbers were restored.

As the game entered the final quarter there was everything to play for. Neath though had only one regular player (Dan Guarneri was nursing a hip injury) on their multi-permit bench whereas Cardiff had the luxury of bringing on fresh legs. The ever-lively Gibson nearly engineered a try with a kick and chase which Cardiff just saved in the nick of time; then outside-half Iwan Evans broke through and really should have scored himself. The home pressure told though when Howley made it 13-12 with a penalty.

Only 10 minutes remained and the finish was frantic period of play and counter-play. Thompson hit the woodwork again and it seemed as if Neath might pull through but with the last play Cardiff centre Rees-Hole collided with Netah prop Uphill on a dummy run and the referee gave Thompson one last chance with a penalty which crept ove rthe cross bar and the final whistle was blown.

It was desperately cruel for Neath who, despite their troubles, matched Cardiff on the day. To a man, the pack worked hard and were far livelier than of late with Ryan Bean and Aled Cockwell imposing in the loose and the backs certainly carved out more chances than Cardiff.

With other players returning imminently, Neath have a base to build upon and must use the next fortnight to adopt the Dr. Who approach and regenerate themselves.

NEATH – E.Howley; M.Evans, S.O’Brien, G.Evans (capt), J.Roberts; I.Evans, S.Gibson; B.Uphill, A.Morris, L.Tobias (N.White); R.Bean, J.Barley; L.Ward, S.Hicks, A.Cockwell
CARDIFF – L.Ap Myrddin; P.Lewis, H.Griffiths, W.Rees-Hole, O.Smyth; G.Thompson, G.Watkin (R.Cole); P.Lloyd (J.Greenfield), I.Jenkins (R.Spriggs), K.Brown (A.Court); J.Murphy, C.Bradbury; C.Tucker, L.Crocker, T.Daley Referee – Dr. R.Thomas (Cardiff)

Neath, in the throes of a catastrophic injury crisis with 21 players out of contention, kick-off their 2017/18 WRU Cup campaign with a home tie against Cardiff at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

Injured captain Jordan Collier hopes to be back in action by the end of the month and is not the only one targeting an end-of-month return by which time Neath’s injury-roll could be nearly halved as Alec Jenkins, Matthew Pearce, Chris Morgans, Ryan Thomas, Sion Crocker, Ifan Phillips, Rhys Jones, Elis Hopkins and Josh Cole should realistically be back too.

For Saturday’s Cup game, it is “all hands on deck” and players who should be resting are setting aside their injuries to help out as the Blacks strive to re-ignite their fire.

Team manager Martyn Morris said, “Despite the absences, there is more than enough talent on the field. We have nothing to lose and, if we play with the passion and fury expected of a Neath team, we can still pull it off. We are grateful to the Nantyffyllon, Neath Athletic and Tata Steel clubs for permitting players this week.”

Neath v Cardiff (Home)
15 Ed Howley, 14 Mike Evans, 13 Sion O’Brien, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 James Roberts; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Aled Morris, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Ryan Bean, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Neil White, 17 Rhys Davies, 18 Lyndon Davies, 19 A.N.Other, 20 Ceri White, 21 Jake Cole, 22 Conor Griffiths, 22 Dan Guarneri

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 17 BARGOED 40 – (30-12-2017)


Neath’s 2017 of few highs and far too many lows ended on a depressingly sad note when they were well beaten at home by Bargoed.

From the time Neath gifted visiting No.8 Ieuan Jones a try under the posts, there was only one winner as the Blacks turned in a very poor display, the likes of which they will not wish to repeat.

A couple of penalties by outside-half Matthew Lewis who converted the try put Bargoed firmly in control although Neath had their chances but lacked the set-piece control to take advantage of good positions.

They hit back with a penalty of their own by Ed Howley but generally the Neath forwards lacked the collective ambition and drive needed to succeed.

In fact, they were a pale image of the opposing eight and Bargoed extended their lead through a try on the stroke of half-time by flanker Jonathan Armitage.

After the interval, prop Keegan Bale put the visitors further ahead with a try which Lewis converted before Neath at last started to win some possession which allowed the backs a chance to show a glimpse of their capabilities.

A good ten minutes saw the Blacks add tries by replacement Chris Morgans off a sparkling break by acting-captain Gavin Evans who was making his 50th appearance and by debut-making 18 year old centre Sion O’Brien who was one of few to emerge with much credit.

Howley converted both to make it 17-25 and Neath briefly threatened a bonus point as they attacked again on the Bargoed line but it all came to nothing as Bargoed broke out and scored at the other end through full back Julian Mogg.

With the game a long time lost, Neath conceded two late tries to Ashley Norton and Mogg in as flat a performance as many supporters could remember.

Players and coaches must somehow raise themselves for a tilt at Cardiff next Saturday at The Gnoll because supporters’ patience, even allowing for all the injuries, is evidently wearing thin.

Fortunately, the Cup provides just the “one-off” opportunity to restore some battered pride; an injection of the old Neath fire is an absolute must.

Things need to change – and change quickly – in 2018 when all will be demanding an early upturn in fortunes and a re-assertion of traditional Neath values.

Neath kick-off the second phase of the re-united Premiership against Bargoed at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

The Blacks have ground to make up following an injury-ravaged first half of the season. Hookers Sion Crocker and Aled Morris joined the casualty-list in the excellent local derby against Aberavon on Boxing Day so prop Geraint James moves across, Ryan Thomas and Ceri White coming in. Behind the scrum, Dan Guarneri and Jake Cole come in.

Neath v Bargoed (Home)
15 Dan Guarneri; 14 Ed Howley, 13 Gavin Evans (captain), 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts ; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Jake Cole; 1 Neil White, 2 Geraint James, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Rhys Jones, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Ceri White

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 14 ABERAVON 22 – (26-12-2017)

Aberavon took the honours in a keenly-fought Boxing Day derby played in teeming rain and deteriorating conditions in front of an appreciative 2,500 crowd at The Gnoll.

Although the wind was not especially strong, it was a classic game of two halves, Neath dominating the Welsh-style “El Clasico” up to the break to establish an interval lead of 11-nil before Aberavon enjoyed the better of the second half.

Referee Gareth John deserves praise for controlling a fine derby match in which no quarter was asked for and none given – and, despite the elements, the match apparently compared most favourably with the televised fare on offer.

Neath made light of their injury problems to produce a first-half display of effective wet-weather rugby, dominating territorially and sending Aberavon into a spin with two penalties by full back Ed Howley before the Blacks registered the first try of the game by lock Matthew Davies from close-range.

Centre Matthew Pearce was always a force in midfield while young halves Iwan Evans and Scott Gibson kept the pot boiling for a pack in which hooker Sion Crocker, prop Geraint James and No.8 Leon Ward continually took the game to the opposition.

The Blacks might have added to their score, the ambitious long-passing game of Evans and Howley freeing wing James Roberts who was halted only by a magnificent last-ditch tackle by Aberavon’s Chris Banfield.

11-nil was a reasonable lead in the conditions but Aberavon were a different team after the break after a couple of astute introductions from the bench whence Ospreys’ prop Rowan Jenkins and livewire hooker Luke Davies made a big impression.

Seven minutes into the second-half, Aberavon opened their account when Neath were penalised and the visitors muscled their way to the line where replacement back rower Jacob Blackmore got the touchdown for outside-half Steff Williams to convert.

Neath hit back almost straightaway when Howley landed his third goal to make it 14-7 but then Neath imploded as a midfield move – over-intricate for the conditions – saw the ball spilled and Aberavon overcame stout Neath resistance for Blackmore’s second try which Williams goaled.

Howley missed a penalty but Aberavon now had the prize in sight and were every bit as on top as Neath had been in the first half. Mistakes proliferated and when Williams launched another bomb, Howley for once spilled it and the Resolven-based outside-half nipped in to seize upon the ball for the try.

His conversion attempt grazed the upright but Neath did not have enough on the bench to reverse the trend and minutes before the end when Williams put over a penalty to put Aberavon eight points ahead – and, hard as the Blacks tried to pull back a score, that was how it remained.
NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts, M.Pearce, G.Evans (capt), M.Evans; I.Evans, S.Gibson (Jake Cole); N.White (L.Tobias), S.Crocker (C.White), G.James (R.Thomas); M.Davies, J.Barley; R.Jones, L.Ward (D.Griggs), A.Morris (A.Cockwell)
ABERAVON – L.Popham (M.Wilson); S.Andrews, Joe Thomas, W.Price (capt), C.Banfield; Steff Williams, J.Flynn (I.Temblett); R.Forse (R.Jenkins), I.Davies (L.Davies), Jon Thomas; B.Thomas (Sam Williams), B.Jones; C.Price, L.Joseph, R.Dudley-Jones (J.Blackmore)
Referee – Mr. G.John (Chepstow)

A great rugby tradition continues when Neath play Aberavon at The Gnoll on Boxing Day (kick off 2.30pm).

15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Matthew Pearce, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Mike Evans; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Neil White, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Rhys Jones, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Aled Morris

Replacements :- 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Ryan Thomas, 18 Aled Cockwell, 19 David Griggs, 20 Ceri White, 21 Jake Cole, 22 Chris Morgans, 23 Dan Guarneri

Supporters are advised to present themselves at the turnstiles at the Town End of the ground early to avoid congestion – gates open 1.30pm.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 8 BRIDGEND 15 – (01-12-2017)


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

MATCH REPORT: LLANELLI 15 NEATH 13 – (24-11-2017)


Neath’s indiscipline – in a technical sense not a dirty one – cost them this game as they went down to a narrow defeat at Parc-y-Scarlets.

The tone was set early on as Neath conceded two early penalties which outside-half Billy McBryde gratefully kicked to put the home side 6-nil up.

Neath nearly carved out an opportunity running from deep but lively winger Geraint Llewellyn was recalled for a forward pass – seen by the touch-judge but by few others in the ground.

Neath gradually hauled themselves into the game as their forwards got on top, scrummaging strongly once again and full back Ed Howley pulled back a penalty for Neath.

Scrum-half Scott Gibson made a smart blind-side dash and pursuit of his own kick but Llanelli just managed to cover it. Then flanker Rhys Jones nearly scored from a charge-down.

Nearing the half-hour, Neath went in front when No.8 Leon Ward crossed from a pushover try and Howley’s conversion made it 10-6 to the Blacks but the full back missed with a long-range penalty attempt on the stroke of half-time.

Llanelli had rarely threatened the Neath line and the half-time message from the coaches must have been to cut out the penalties to win the game.

Unfortunately the message fell on deaf years because within eight minutes of the interval Llanelli were back in front at 12-10 after McBryde kicked two more penalties.

With Sion Crocker, Ryan Thomas and Matthew Davies making the yards, Neath nosed ahead again on the hour when Howley landed his second penalty of the evening only for McBryde to strike again with 15 minutes remaining.

And that was how it stayed : the Blacks looked the more likely to score but they were unable to sustain possession for long enough and Llanelli held on to win.

LLANELLI – K.Evans (J.Newman); M.Jenkins, K.Griffiths (R.Davies), O.Reyland, T.Rogers; W.McBryde, G.George (M.Flanagan); D.Phillips (C.Jenkins), C.Thomas (D.Jones), B.Leung (T.Kaijaks); C.Long (capt), B.Morgan (J.Simm); J.Davies (A.Hyndman), N.Hart, D.Davis

NEATH – E.Howley; M.Evans (J.Roberts), R.Smith, G.Evans (capt) (M.Pearce) G.Llewellyn; I.Evans, S.Gibson (C.Morgans); N.White (L.Tobias),S.Crocker, G.James (R.Thomas); M.Davies , J.Barley; R.Jones, L.Ward, R.Bean (C.White)
Referee – Mr. J.Bessant (Bridgend)

Neath travel to play Llanelli at Parc-y-Scarlets on Friday (kick off 7.15pm) seeking to build on last week’s overdue success against Llandovery.

For the first time in months, Neath did not add any fresh injury problems to their roster and consequently there is only one change in the starting line-up where Scott Gibson takes over from Chris Morgans at scrum-half while David Griggs and James Roberts return on the replacements’ bench.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We were pleased to get the win against Llandovery last week when we showed the tougher edge we have been seeking.

“Our attacking play has been good – we have runners who threaten from anywhere and are averaging three tries per game exactly the same as RGC and Carmarthen Quins who occupy the top two places.

“We are asking largely the same group of players to show they can do it again because consistent achievement is what it is about.

“Llanelli had a good win themselves against Bridgend and we know it will take an even bigger effort this week as wins at Parc-y-Scarlets are earned the hard way.”

Neath v Llanelli (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Neil White, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Rhys Jones, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Ryan Bean
Replacements :- 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Jordan Hawkins, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 David Griggs, 20 Ceri White, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 James Roberts


Sharpness in attack and total commitment in defence ensured that Neath put an end to their depressing run with a well-merited victory under The Gnoll floodlights on Friday.

Both sides were under-strength – Neath due to their injury-list and Llandovery due to Scarlets’ calls – but the sides served up entertaining, action-packed rugby football which warmed the crowd on a cold, still November night.

Neath showed their determination from the start. Quickly out of the blocks – a rarity this season – after only four minutes, they took a lead they would never lose. Immediately onto the attack, No.8 Leon Ward took a quick tap and big lock Matthew Davies celebrated his inclusion in the preliminary Wales Under-20’s squad by bundling over for the opening try and the young forward went on to enjoy a fine game, frequently making the hard yards and inroads into the Llandovery ranks.

Neath were playing some good rugby with halves Chris Morgans and Iwan Evans probing and kicking well and the three-quarters looked strong and full of running. Up front, Neath had the edge at the scrums, the line-out work was sound and prop Geraint James, hooker Sion Crocker and flanker Ryan Bean showed up well in the loose.

The Blacks went further ahead after good sustained play saw them retain possession through the phases and the hard-working Leon Ward took an inside pass from scrum-half Morgans to cross and full back Ed Howley converted to make it 12-nil. It was fast and furious stuff and Neath were a little unfortunate not to add to their advantage, Mike Evans and Morgans going desperately close.

Leading 12-nil at half-time, Neath were determined not to let the opportunity escape them. Llandovery started the second-half on the attack but two good relieving kicks by Morgans kept them at bay and the Blacks soon levied their third try.

The forwards, hunting as eight, marched on impressively from a line-out on the 22 and Crocker put back-rower Rhys Jones through a gap to ploug over at the posts and Howley’s conversion made it 19-nil. Llandovery came back at Neath and forced a series of close-range positions but their efforts came to nothing as the home defence was resolute and replacement Dan Guarneri ran enterprisingly out of defence.

At the other end, Neath pressed but were thwarted by the Llandovery defence which bordered dangerously on the off-side line. Llandovery kept coming and, after Crocker had been yellow-carded, their efforts brought about a try for replacement Jamie Hughes.

Llandovery threw everything into attack at the end in a vain attempt to rescue a bonus-point and the Neath replacements worked as hard as anyone in defence as Neath kept them out and deservedly took the spoils.

Of course, the win came against a side every bit as disrupted as Neath but the Blacks will happily take it in the knowledge that Llanelli away next Friday will require an even bigger effort. For the 8th time this season, Neath hit 3 tries and, with 33 from 11 games, they are level with leaders RGC and second-placed Carmarthen Quins; this time the defence was tight and limited Llandovery to just one score … and that was the difference : a hungry Neath team on a mission. Now it must be sustained !

NEATH – E.Howley (D.Guarneri); M.Evans, R.Smith, G.Evans (capt) (M.Pearce) G.Llewellyn; I.Evans, C.Morgans (S.Gibson); N.White (L.Tobias),S.Crocker (J.Hawkins), G.James (R.Thomas); M.Davies (C.White), J.Barley; R.Jones, L.Ward, R.Bean

LLANDOVERY – L.Williams; O.Davies (D.Pritchard), R.Evans, K.Charles, R.Wall; K.Jones (N.Setaro), A.Davies (S.Maynard); B.Watkins (J.Hughes), M.Moore (R.Guest), G.Cunniffe (L.Green); B.Griffiths, M.Jones (L.Ellis-Jones); E.Price, R.Brooks (capt), D.Eager (S.Miles)
Referee – Mr. G.Morris (Cardiff)

It has been 8 long weeks since Neath last played a home game but on Friday the Welsh All Blacks host Llandovery at The Gnoll (kick off 7.30pm).

Neath’s injury problems mounted last week when they lost wing Alec Jenkins (quad) and prop Ben Uphill (ribs) at RGC but they battled away in the second-half before losing 19-31.

The Blacks make four changes with Neil White and Geraint James returning at prop and Ryan Bean in the back row. Only behind the scrum change sees Geraint Llewellyn take over from Alec Jenkins.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “It will be nice to play at home again after such a long break. We still have a lot of injuries and Llandovery, probably the best footballing side in the Premiership, will obviously be another big challenge for us.

“If our forwards impose themselves like they did in the second-half last week and we stop killing ourselves with silly errors, we can play and boost our 30 tries tally which is up there with Llandovery’s best which is 35.”

Dan Guarneri and Ceri White return to the replacements’ bench which also features hooker Jordan Hawkins.

Neath v Llandovery (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Neil White, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Rhys Jones, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Ryan Bean
Replacements :- 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Jordan Hawkins, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Scott Hicks, 20 Ceri White, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 Dan Guarneri

MATCH REPORT: RGC 31 NEATH 19 – (11-11-2017)

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