LLANELLI 41 NEATH 36
Neath left Parc-y-Scarlets a very disappointed team after they slipped to an injury-time defeat in an 11-try spectacular; and they left with only a two-point reward for their highly constructive play which was ultimately diminished by bad individual errors.
Image courtesy of Len Kowalski of www.lensworkphotography.co.uk @neathtog
On a lovely Spring day, the rugby football matched the weather and tries flowed at both ends after home pivot Billy McBryde had nosed Llanelli ahead with a penalty. The Blacks soon hit their straps as they rocked Llanelli with a 3-try blast within eight minutes.
First scrum-half Chris Morgans took an inside pass off full back Ed Howley who had options outside too – Morgans scored at the posts for Howley to convert. Then, with Llanelli defending narrowly, great handling by the Neath midfield backs – Luke Price, Iwan Evans and Keiran Williams – saw Howley blaze away for two tries in three minutes.
The full back’s conversion of the first meant that the Blacks had rattled up an impressive 19-3 lead. But, if Neath’s salvo was Dr.Jekyll, Mr. Hyde then took a role as a loose pass led to home wing Matthew Jenkins nipping in for a try which McBryde converted and he did the same when another pass was picked off and hooker Craig Thomas pounced.
Matters worsened when the returning Jordan Collier (pictured above) was sent to the bin for an early tackle – Neath were not the only perpetrators on the day ! – and slack line-out organisation led to a try by prop Richard Bassett and McBryde’s conversion meant that Neath had squandered their early promise.
However, the Blacks regained their lead and notched the try bonus when from open play Morgans
nipped in for his second try which Howley converted and, at the end of a breathtaking half, it was 26-24 to Neath.
Neath opened the second-half positively and the probing Morgans nearly opened up the home defence twice but, with top referee Mr. Nigel Owens playing a lengthy advantage, their only reward was a dropped goal by outside-half Luke Price.
But Neath’s over-ambition caught them out and a charged down kick on the Llanelli 22 saw winger Ryan Davies speed away for the home team’s bonus, McBryde again converting and the winger then gathered a cross-field kick for his second try.
Neath never gave up the battle and, moving the ball wide via replacement Reuben Morgan-Williams and lock Ryan Bean after a surge by returning hooker Aled Morris, wing Alec Jenkins went over in the corner and Howley converted splendidly from the touchline to level it at five tries each and 36-36.
But, in a grandstand finish, Neath were denied at the death when full back Kallum Evans gleefully crossed for the final try and the Blacks were robbed of a share of the spoils which even many Llanelli supporters felt they deserved.
LLANELLI -K.Evans; R.Davies, B.Atkins (L.Randall), O.Reyland (A.Evans), M.Jenkins; W.McBryde, G.George (M.Flanagan); R.Thomas (R.Fawcett), C.Thomas (C.Jenkins), R.Bassett (B.Leung); E.Rees (J,Davies), B.Morgan; E.Thomas, N.Hart (capt), L.Pike
NEATH – E.Howley; M.Evans, I.Evans, K.Williams (T.Thomas-Wheeler), A.Jenkins; L.Price (L.Scully), C.Morgans (R.Morgan-Williams); N.White (J.Bamsey), S.Crocker (capt) (A.Morris), L.Tobias (G.James); M.Davies, R.Bean; J.Collier (S.Hicks), E.Hopkins, A.Cockwell (C.White) Referee -Mr. N.Owens (Pontyberem)
Neath visit Llanelli in the Premiership on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
After winning 17-7 at Swansea on Saturday last, the Blacks have skipper Jordan Collier back for the first time since he broke his ankle against RGC last September and he will be making his long-awaited 100th appearance.
Among six changes to the starting line-up, centre Keiran Williams and scrum-half Chris Morgans return behind with Neil White, Matthew Davies and Aled Cockwell looking to make a big impression up front.
Another returnee Aled Morris is on the replacements’ bench which also features Tata Steel’s Jon Bamsey and Wales Under-18’s backs Luke Scully and Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler.
Neath v Llanelli (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Iwan Evans, 12 Keiran Williams,11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Luke Price, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Neil White, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Ryan Bean; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Elis Hopkins, 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Jon Bamsey, 17 Aled Morris, 18 Geraint James, 19 Scott Hicks, 20 Ceri White, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 23 Luke Scully