Category: Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 19 LLANDOVERY 5 – (17-11-2017)

NEATH 19 LLANDOVERY 5
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)


MATCH PREVIEW
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)

RGC 31 NEATH 19
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)


MATCH PREVIEW
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

MATCH REPORT: CARMARTHEN QUINS 39 NEATH 17 – (04-11-2017)

CARMARTHEN QUINS 39 NEATH 17
“Inappropriate” has been the buzz word in Westminster this week and and it could be applied to Neath’s encounter at Carmarthen Park where their woes deepened against a superior Carmarthen Quins side who gained ample revenge for their defeat at The Gnoll back in September.

Quins were stronger from the outset and dominated the first-half and, after outside-half Steffan Marshall opened their account with a penalty, Neath’s over-worked defence with Dewi Lake impressing on debut, did well to restrict them to just two tries by prop Javan Sebastien and lock Shaun Jones.

Neath lifted the siege and hit back when lock Jon Barley galloped away from a line-out on a 30 metre run which was halted illegally. The Blacks retained possession from the subsequent penalty award and, after several surges towards the Quins’ line, Barley was rewarded with the touchdown for his first try for the club and Geraint Llewellyn’s conversion brought it back to 7-13.

The visitors enjoyed a good spell of play up until half-time, keeping the ball through good phase play only to have it stripped from their possession deep into injury-time and Quins struck clinically for a try by centre Nick Reynolds which Marshall goaled to make it 20-7 and forcing the coaches into a hasty revision of their team-talk.

Neath started the second-half on the defensive but they weathered the storm and a quick line-out feed from Rhys Jones saw centre Matthew Pearce power right through in midfield and his offload to Richard Smith saw the latter finish strongly for Neath’s second try to make it 12-20.

Neath were in with a fight but they suffered a blow when a somewhat bemused Sion Crocker was yellow-carded for what seemed an orthodox tackle and then it all went most “inappropriate” as almost immediately Richard Smith saw red.

Quins sensed their chance and winger Morgan Griffiths, shown the outside, obliged with their fourth try and flanker Ellis Lloyd added a fifth which Marshall converted to advance the score to 12-32.

Even down to 13 men, Neath never gave up and, after replacements Alec Jenkins and Iwan Evans had gone desperately close, they were rewarded with a third try by prop Ben Uphill -his first for the club.

The conversion was missed and from the kick off Quins’ former Neath wing Dale Ford collected the ball and strolled over for another try which Jack Wilson converted to set seal on their victory.

NEATH – G.Llewellyn; J.Roberts (A.Jenkins), R.Smith, M.Pearce (I.Evans), M.Evans; G.Evans (capt), C.Morgans (S.Gibson); L.Tobias (B.Uphill), S.Crocker (S.Hicks), R.Thomas (G.James); R.Jones (M.Davies), J.Barley; R.Bean (E.Hopkins) L.Ward, D.Lake

CARMARTHEN QUINS – G.Thomas; D.Ford, N.Reynolds, S.Lloyd (J.Price), M.Griffiths; S.Marshall (J.Wilson), A.Hemmings (I.Beynon-Thomas)’ S.Thomas (G.Robinson), R.Clancy (T.Myhill), J.Sebastien (C.Allen); S.Jones, J.Helps (L.Minchin); S.Evans (capt), L.Reynolds, E.Lloyd (L.Millyn)

Referee – Mr. S.Mills (Llanelli)


MATCH PREVIEW
Injury-hit Neath travel to Carmarthen Quins in the Premiership with an early kick off (12.30pm) due to fireworks at Carmarthen Park.

Neath make a raft of changes – in the front row, hooker Sion Crocker will be propped by Liam Tobias and Ryan Thomas while Rhys Jones returns in the second row, and Ryan Bean and Dewi Lake come into the back row.

Behind the scrum, Chris Morgans returns at scrum-half and Richard Smith at centre while Geraint Llewellyn is at full back.
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Our planning went out of the window last week when we lost a player before kick-off and then another three inside the first 25 minutes – the squad have been avoiding walking under ladders this week.

“Injuries aside, we have not been making things easy for ourselves either. We need to carry our disciplines on to the field then our luck will change.
“Silly things have been costing us dear but when we put things together we are playing some good rugby and scoring tries.”

Neath v Carmarthen Quins (Away)
15 Geraint Llewellyn; 14 James Roberts, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Mike Evans; 10 Gavin Evans (captain), 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Liam Tobias, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Ryan Bean, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Dewi Lake
Replacements :- 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Geraint James, 18 Matthew Davies, 19 Scott Hicks, 20 Elis Hopkins, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Alec Jenkins

MATCH REPORT: SWANSEA 24 NEATH 17 – (28-10-2017)

SWANSEA 24 points NEATH 17 points
Neath went down to a defeat at St. Helen’s where Swansea scored 4 tries to 3 to take the honours in an untidy game in which both sides seemed to be labouring a little after the recent break in fixtures. But, if Neath harboured hopes that the two-week BIC lay-off would bring an end to their injury worries, they were very much mistaken as, within 25 minutes, they had lost three players and, with centre Richard Smith crying off before kick-off, their pre-match planning went out of the window.

Neath regained the kick-off to establish and early attacking position but Swansea countered and when Ed Howley attempted to run out of defence, Swansea on the back of three penalty awards, went ahead when wing Andrew Claypole latched on to a neat grubber-kick by Phil Jones to score at the posts and Owen Howe converted. Neath’s powerful scrum gave early evidence of a marked superiority in this area and, after a thrilling run by young winger James Roberts, the Blacks’ scrum took over to provide a penalty try which levelled the scores at 7-7.

In a lack-lustre first-half, punctuated by injuries, other stoppages and slow line-out set-ups, a couple of lengthy clearances by replacement full back Geraint Llewellyn earned applause from the crowd but the only other action of significance was Swansea’s second try which came from a line-out when flanker Jay Williams was driven over for a try ansd Swansea led at half-time 12-7.

Neath failed to cope with the re-start and Swansea soon extended their lead to 19-7 when centre Jed Evans raced over for a try and Howe converted. Neath threatened briefly with centre Matthew Pearce making good ground but a penalty at goal was missed, so too another to touch, and Swansea broke out to score a fourth, bonus-point, try when lock Adam Thresher went over from a line-out.

Neath were looking down and out but suddenly they started to play. A finely-judged cross-kick by replacement fly half Iwan Evans almost resulted in a try for winger Alec Jenkins, but the ball was spilled over the line. Then, opting for a scrum instead of a kick at goal, Neath’s set-piece power showed again and, moving the ball wide, the eager Jenkins got in near the corner for their second try.

The limping James Roberts then accelerated through midfield to threaten again but his wide pass to opposite winger Jenkins flew into touch with a try beckoning. With acting captain Sion Crocker driving them on, Neath kept up the pressure with replacements prop Liam Tobias and back-rower Elis Hopkins impressing with their effort and a line-out drive had Swansea back-pedalling – had one or two forwards not stood off in the modern mode instead of joining the surge, they would surely have scored.

Eventually, Neath picked off a Swansea line-out and great work by replacement scrum half Chris Morgans and centre Matthew Pearce set up the attack and, from a scrum, the eager Jenkins, back to his best, flashed over for his second try which was how it stayed although there was late drama when a Swansea attack nearly ended in Llewellyn intercepting.

NEATH – E.Howley (G.Llewellyn); J.Roberts, M.Evans, M.Pearce, A.Jenkins; G.Evans (capt) (I.Evans), S.Gibson (C.Morgans); B.Uphill (L.Tobias), S.Crocker (D.Lake), G.James (R.Thomas); R.Bean, J.Barley; J.Cole (E.Hopkins), L.Ward, C.Davies (M.Davies)

SWANSEA – G.Walters; A.Claypole, J.Evans (J.Davies), J.R.Williams (capt), O.Howe; P.Jones, J.Guy; J.Powell (L.Bullock), P.John (T.Ball), F.Holder (C.Thomas); A.Thresher (J.Vaughan). M.Dodd; J.Williams, M.Morris, E.Williams (J.Fox)
Referee – Mr. S.Rees (Ebbw Vale)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath resume Premiership action after a two-week break with a visit to Swansea (kick off 2.30pm).

Wing three-quarter Mike Evans returns as the only change behind the scrum with captain Gavin Evans continuing to lead the side in the absence of Jordan Collier who is making good progress in his recovery from a broken leg.

Up front, Ryan Bean is fit to resume in the second row alongside the returning Jon Barley while Josh Cole makes his first start for over a year. Nantyffyllon youngster Dewi Lake is named among the replacements alongside props Liam Tobias and Ryan Thomas.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “It will be nice to get back into action after the break and we need to get back on track without delay. We suffered a few injuries in the first block and it is good to have players returning.”

Neath v Swansea (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Mike Evans; 10 Gavin Evans (captain), 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Ryan Bean, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Josh Cole, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Charlie Davies
Replacements :- 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Dewi Lake, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Matthew Davies, 20 Elis Hopkins, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Alec Jenkins

MATCH REPORT: ABERAVON 41 NEATH 20 – (07-10-2017)

ABERAVON 41 NEATH 20
Elementary errors blighted Neath’s game again at windy Aberavon where the home side ran out deserved winners on a 6-3 try score-line.

More than most clubs, the All Blacks will appreciate the two-week BIC-imposed break in fixtures as their injury-ravaged squad is down to the bare bones with team manager Martyn Morris assessing the number of absentees next week at 20 from 33 possibles.

Neath do not highlight injury concerns ahead of games as it is self-defeating but there is no doubt that the extensive casualty list is taking its toll and afterwards Morris was quick to praise players like prop Ben Uphill and No.8 Scott Hicks who are carrying injuries but are still pulling on the jersey.

Neath had first use of the strong wind but Aberavon regained possession from the kick-off and retained it long enough for Joseph Tomalin-Reeves to get the opening try. The Blacks gradually got into the game and cut the arrears with an Ed Howley penalty before going in front when hooker Sion Crocker seized upon an Aberavon tap to touch down.

It was just 8-5 at the break and that was never going to be sufficient and sure enough Aberavon, with the wind in their favour, steamed away to lead 17-8 through tries by centre Will Price and lock Ben Jones, James Garland converting the first.

Then Neath’s rudimentary errors kicked in. Despite having scrum-half Scott Gibson sin-binned, they took play close to the Aberavon try-line, possession was secured but nobody stepped into the No.9 slot and the ball was picked up by Tomalin-Reeves. He fed full back Liam Popham who just evaded Howley’s back-tracking tackle and raced to the other end to touch down and convert what was in reality a 14-point score.

Garland then dropped a snap goal but Neath hit back and young flanker Charlie Davies, making his first showing of the season after an ankle injury, was up in support to score after wing James Roberts’ inside pass rebounded off an Aberavon man.

With ten minutes remaining, any hopes of a Neath revival were flattened when they gifted Aberavon another try. Again, Neath were on the attack but in a 4 to 1 situation, they somehow contrived to pass the ball to the one Avon defender ! Gambian winger Michael Wilson was the lucky recipient and he is nothing if not fast. Result another try at the other end and another simple conversion for Garland – another 14-pointer ?

Neath came again through a defence-splitting run by Howley which was splendidly finished by centre Richard Smith, the most incisive three-quarter on display, and Howley’s conversion made it 20-34 but Aberavon had the last word when David Pritchard touched down on the final whistle for Garland to convert.

It was another disjointed performance by Neath who must use the next fortnight to address their fitness concerns and see the treatment room queue shrink. It was good to see young flankers Charlie Davies and Josh Cole back in action at last and replacement prop Liam Tobias showed up well too but Aberavon were sharper and Neath cannot gloss over their deficiencies – it is not only re-starts that demand attention.

By the time hostilities re-commence on October 28, Neath should have several players back but basic errors must be eradicated because Neath cannot go on making mistakes and expect to win at this level.

NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts, R.Smith, M.Pearce, A.Jenkins (G.Llewellyn); G.Evans (capt) (I.Evans), S.Gibson (C.Morgans); B.Uphill (L.Tobias), S.Crocker (I.Phillips), G.James ; M.Davies, R.Bean (J.Cole); S.Hicks, L.Ward, C.Davies (C.White)

ABERAVON – L.Popham; M.Wilson, W.Price, R.James (S.Williams), S.Pearce; J.Garland (capt), J.Flynn (D.Pritchard); J.Walters (M.Burgess), L.Davies (I.Davies), J.Thomas (R.Forse); B.Jones, B.Davies (B.Thomas); R.Dudley-Jones, L.Joseph, J.Tomalin-Reeves (C.Price)

Referee – Mr. E.Morris-Roberts (Ystradgynlais)


MATCH PREVIEW
After two wins and four defeats, Neath travel to Aberavon (kick off 2.30pm) still hurting from last week’s defeat at Bridgend.

Top try-scorer Keiran Williams (5 tries in 5 games) is not available so Richard Smith switches to centre alongside Matthew Pearce, acting captain Gavin Evans moves in one and Scott Gibson returns at scrum-half. James Roberts and Alec Jenkins are on the wings and up front Leon Ward returns from work-duties to play at No.8, Charlie Davies returns at flanker and Ryan Bean is restored to the second row.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “The team knows we let ourselves and the supporters down last week and we are looking for a big and rapid improvement. Like The Gnoll, the Talbot Athletic Ground is as good an all-grass pitch as there is in the Premiership and will suit our fast game. We are looking forward to getting out on the park.”

Neath v Aberavon (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts,13 Richard Smith, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Gavin Evans (captain), 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Ryan Bean; 6 Scott Hicks, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Charlie Davies
Replacements :- 16 Neil White, 17 Ifan Phillips, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Josh Cole, 20 Ceri White, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Geraint Llewellyn

MATCH REPORT: BRIDGEND 28 NEATH 20 – (30-09-2017)

BRIDGEND 28 NEATH 20

The alarm bells are ringing at The Gnoll after this miserable defeat by misfiring Neath who were unable to overcome 14-man Bridgend in the second-half at the Brewery Field.

On the back of a poor display against Llanell, the huge worry for Neath is that there was no improvement this time out. The Blacks lacked drive and urgency against a hungrier-looking home side who were allowed to make light of their numerical deficiency after prop Rhodri Apsee was sent off for punching.

FORTUNATE SCORES
Both teams were greatly disappointed by the opening scores. Neath’s second-minute try by centre Keiran Williams, one of few to enhance his reputation, came as a result of a wayward Bridgend pass and full back Ed Howley’s conversion, followed by his splendidly-struck 45 metre penalty, saw the Blacks into a 10-nil lead. But fortune then favoured the home side as lock Keiran Martin went over for a try courtesy of a forward pass and Cai Evans’ conversion brought Bridgend back to 10-7.

Somehow, all three officials missed the errant pass and referee Robert Price soon left the field with a leg injury to be replaced by assistant Chris Oliver (Haverfordwest) by which time the home side had taken advantage of more abject Neath tackling which paved the way for a second try by wing Aaron Grabham and Evans’ second conversion put Bridgend 14-10 up.

NEATH BACK IN FRONT
Neath went ahead again when full back Howley and right winger Richard Smith combined to take play to the brink of the try-line and left winger Mike Evans was on hand to score from the resulting ruck.

Having already lost captain Zak O’Driscoll to a yellow-card, Bridgend were further depleted when Apsee was red carded but Neath failed to profit from an attacking line-out and they went in with a slender one-point advantage.

OPPORTUNITY SPURNED
In the second-half, Neath spurned a penalty opportunity directly in front of the posts only to then attempt another immediately from wider out. That mysterious moment of grievous indecision brought its inevitable punishment when Bridgend moved upfield and Evans slotted a goal.

He soon added another and then a third within the space of 12 minutes to make it 23-15 and Neath were looking a ragged outfit indeed. Their line-out never functioned and the scrum was not as dominant as it should have been. Forwards Sion Crocker and Geraint James did most to take on their opponents and, while there was some pretty back-play, it all came to nothing against an admirably determined Bridgend defence.

BRIDGEND’S JOY
Bridgend’s joy was complete when Evans – who formed a highly promising pairing with fellow 18 year old Harri Morgan – directed a cross-kick into the welcoming arms of unmarked former Neath wing Grabham who dabbed down for his second try. The Blacks, enlivened by a couple of replacements, did manage a late rally and, after Alec Jenkins was denied in the left corner, replacement scrum-half Scott Gibson’s energy brought Neath a third try but the conversion attempt – which would have earned an ill-merited bonus point – never threatened the posts.

Neath’s fall from grace in the last two games is a great vexation to supporters and the Blacks must quickly shake themselves out of this trough – maybe the visit to Aberavon next Saturday will be just the stage to provide the motivation.

NEATH – E.Howley (A.Jenkins); R.Smith, K.Williams, G.Evans (capt) (M.Pearce), M.Evans; I.Evans, C.Morgans (S.Gibson); B.Uphill (N.White), S.Crocker (I.Phillips), G.James (L.Tobias) R.Jones, M.Davies (C.White); E.Hopkins (D.Griggs), S.Hicks, R.Bean

BRIDGEND – T.Williams; A.Grabham, J.Gatt, O.Watkin, D.Moss; C.Evans, H.Morgan (W.Baird); R.Apsee (O.Evans), I.Merriman (O.Thomas), (G.Daniel); J.Pope, K.Martin; O.Lloyd, A.Evans (A.O’Driscoll), Z. O’Driscoll (capt) (C.John)

Referee – Mr. R.Price (Andover)/ Mr. C.Oliver (Haverfordwest)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath’s popular lock Rhys Jones makes his 100th appearance against Bridgend in the Premiership West on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

Rhys has been a mainstay of the Neath pack over the last four seasons and he keeps his place in a side showing several changes after last week’s defeat by Llanelli.

Acting captain Gavin Evans moves to centre with Iwan Evans coming in at outside-half partnered by Chris Morgans. Ben Uphill and Sion Crocker are restored to the front row and Elis Hopkins, a try-scoring replacement against Llanelli, steps into the back row.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “There is no hiding the fact we were well below par last week and we are looking for an altogether more purposeful effort at Bridgend. We showed a bit of what we can do in the second-half but it was far too late and we need to fire from the start at Bridgend.”

Neath v Bridgend
15 Ed Howley; 14 Richard Smith, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Mike Evans; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Matthew Davies; 6 Elis Hopkins , 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Ryan Bean
Replacements :- 16 Neil White, 17 Ifan Phillips, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 David Griggs, 20 Ceri White, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 Alec Jenkins

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 17 LLANELLI 40 – (23-09-2017)

NEATH 17 pts LLANELLI 40 pts

In their most disappointing showing of the season, Neath were well-beaten by a far livelier Llanelli side who ran out well deserved winners, outscoring the home side by 5 tries to 3.

In the first-half especially, Neath were a shadow of themselves and by the end of it Llanelli were more or less out of sight. A missed tackle and an interception try spelled gift scores for the visitors and provided simple conversions for visiting centre Billy McBryde who also kicked three penalties as the visitors sped into a 23-7 half-time lead.

ALARMING NATURE
Outside-half Ioan Hughes eased through for the first try and winger Ioan Nicholas enjoyed a merry 70 metre stroll for the second. The alarming nature of Neath’s first-half lack of inspiration after their promising start to the season prompted one supporter to suggest that, had this been an IPL cricket fixture, there would have been calls for an investigation into match-fixing !

At nil-13 down, Neath offered briefly when the ever-dangerous Richard Smith broke through but could not find his support. They continued to press only to give away that penalty try before the strong-running Smith provided a ray of hope when he finished off a sweeping move for his fifth try of the season which Ed Howley converted.

OVER AS A CONTEST
The game was over as a contest almost as soon as the second-half started as Llanelli reclaimed tapped Neath line-out ball to set up a third score for left wing Ryan Conbeer and the fourth was not long in coming as centre Oli Reyland exploited some poor tackling to levy the bonus-point try, McBryde converting.

To their credit, Neath then staged a mini-revival as they at last began to take the game to the opposition with some determined carrying. Sustained attacking brought its reward when centre Keiran Williams was worked over for his fourth League try this term and Llanelli were lucky to escape a yellow card as they tried to prevent it.

REPLACEMENTS’ IMPACT
Neath were beginning to play like they can – and like they need to ! Most of the replacements made their mark with a couple of neat touches from Iwan Evans and eventually Neath found a hole in the Llanelli defence which replacement flanker Elis Hopkins was delighted to exploit for a third try – his first in the Premiership after scoring at Narberth.

A bonus point try was a possibility but there was an air of inevitability about it when Neath failed to find touch from a penalty and a speculative kick downfield by Llanelli was not dealt with and Nicholas went in for his second try, Llanelli’s fifth.

FEW COMPLAINTS
Really, the Blacks could have few complaints as they paid the penalty for that lack-lustre first-half. Scott Gibson and later Chris Morgans tried hard to create behind a beaten pack in which Ifan Phillips, Ryan Bean and Leon Ward were most prominent while Rhys Jones, as ever, kept going until the end and flankers Hopkins and David Griggs injected some life from the bench.

Llanelli were much the better side though, their set-piece strong and their defence solid with Tom Phillips, Jack Condy and Dan Davis a very impressive, balanced back-row in their team’s best display of the season. It contrasted with Neath’s poorest so the Blacks must now lick their wounds and re-discover their fire before Saturday’s visit to Bridgend.

NEATH – E.Howley (G.Llewellyn); R.Smith, K.Williams, M.Pearce, M.Evans; G.Evans (capt) (I.Evans), S.Gibson (C.Morgans); N.White (B.Uphill), I.Phillips (E.Hopkins), G.James (L.Tobias); R.Jones, M.Davies (S.Crocker); L.Ward, S.Hicks (D.Griggs), R.Bean
LLANELLI – A.Evans; I.Nicholas (J.Newman), O.Reyland (M.Jenkins), W.McBryde, R.Conbeer; I.Hughes, D.Smith (G.George); T.Kaijaks (R.Thomas), T.Davies (C.Thomas), S.Gardiner (B.Leung); C.Long (R.Bullough), T.Price; T.Phillips (capt), J.Condy, D.Davis (L.Pike)

Referee – Mr. A.Evans (Cardiff)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath play old rivals Llanelli in the Premiership West at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

After winning their first two games against Swansea and Carmarthen Quins, the Welsh All Blacks have lost their last two to RGC and unbeaten Llandovery and, with skipper Jordan Collier a long-term casualty due to a broken leg, Gavin Evans continues to lead the side.

Neath make two changes with Mike Evans and Matthew Pearce returning to the three-quarter line. Back row forward Leon Ward will make his 150th appearance while prop Ben Uphill is poised for his 50th off the bench which also features former Narberth prop Liam Tobias and Tata flanker David Griggs.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Although playing well for the most part, we have not done quite enough to win the last two games and we will need to do that little bit extra and take our chances against Llanelli who are bringing a strong team.”

Neath v Llanelli
15 Ed Howley; 14 Richard Smith, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Mike Evans; 10 Gavin Evans (captain), 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Neil White, 2 Ifan Phillips, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Matthew Davies; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Ryan Bean
Replacements :- 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Elis Hopkins, 20 David Griggs, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Geraint Llewellyn

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 18 RGC 31 – (09-09-2017)

NEATH 18 points RGC 31 points

A sickening injury midway through the first-half to Neath captain Jordan Collier who suffered a broken leg overshadowed this bristling affair as Neath slid to their first defeat of the season.

LEADING
Neath were leading 13-7 when the young flanker leapt to catch a re-start but he landed awkwardly and the game was held up for 12 minutes before he was stretchered off the field.

Although Elis Hopkins deputised splendidly, Neath were not quite the same without Collier and RGC nicked the lead before half-time then, aided by a stream of penalties awarded their way and a spate of home injuries, steadily made the game safe in the second-half.

STARTED WELL
It had all started so well for Neath who went in front via an Ed Howley penalty after five minutes. RGC hit back with an excellent try by Tian Loots which Jacob Botica converted but Neath regained the lead when they blasted the visitors’ scrum and clever combined work saw big lock Matthew Davies cross for his first try for Neath.

And things got even better for the Blacks when they mauled their way towards the line and excellent preparatory work by scrum-half Chris Morgans and his back row saw centre Keiran Williams reach over the line for their second try.

DISASTER
But then disaster struck with the injury to Collier and RGC sneaked ahead just before half-time through a driving line-out try by hooker Geurge Roberts converted by Botica. Howley had a chance to re-establish Neath’s lead when the home team’s scrum again destroyed the visitors’ pack but his long-range shot did not threaten the posts.

Neath needed to get back on track but the referee perplexed the home crowd by awarding a penalty to the visitors whose tight-head clearly dropped a scrum in front of the stand.

BACKS TO THE WALL
That was something of a pivotal moment for Neath whose scrum was altogether too strong for the visitors. It allowed RGC to take the initiative and thereafter it was very much backs against the wall as further injuries forced Neath to use all their forward replacements at an early stage with prop Neil White an unlikely lock. But Neath showed tremendous spirit before finally cracking midway through the second-half and then only after back-rower Leon Ward had been yellow-carded.

The driving line-out is one of the least appealing aspects of the modern game and is difficult to stop – legally – and it proved a potent force for RGC as they went over for their second such score by Tim Gray, Botica converting and then adding a penalty to make the game virtually safe.

WOULD NOT LIE DOWN
It was certainly secured when they sustained possession well for Henri Williams to cross for their bonus-point try, Botica converting but brave Neath would not lie down and, as visiting lock Williams found his way to the bin, quick work by replacement hooker Ifan Phillips (shades of his father Kevin) took a short penalty and Neath worked the overlap for replacement wing James Roberts to touch down for Neath’s third try.

Dismayed at losing their skipper, Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn praised his team’s effort and endeavour. He also extolled the team’s scrum which functioned strongly despite all the disruptions but pinpointed too many penalties conceded as a concern.

NEATH – E.Howley; R.Smith, K.Williams (J.Roberts), M.Pearce (I.Evans), A.Jenkins; G.Evans, C.Morgans (S.Gibson); B.Uphill (, S.Crocker (I.Phillips), R.Thomas (G.James); R.Jones, M.Davies (N.White); L.Ward, S.Hicks, J.Collier (capt) (E.Hopkins)

RGC – D.Jones; I.Pari (I.Evans), T.Hughes, T.Loots, H.Evans; J.Botica, C.Davies (A.Schwarz); J.Simpson (J.Scott), G.Roberts R.Williams), S.Wainwright (C.Reynolds); M.Francis (capt) (R.Williams), H.Williams; A.Williams, T.Gray, W.Bryan (D.Owen)

Referee–Mr. S. Rees (Ebbw Vale)


MATCH PREVIEW
Buoyed by winning their opening two Premiership games, Neath are aiming to make it a hat-trick when they take on Wales’ ‘fifth region’ RGC at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm).

Following three warm-up friendly wins and beating Swansea (39-16), Neath edged an exciting 18-15 victory over Carmarthen Quins last week and they make only three changes.

Into the starting line-up come wing Alec Jenkins with Chris Morgans taking over at scrum-half while Ryan Thomas comes in at prop.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Again, we have not made too many changes as we are building momentum and integrating team patterns. We look at it as a 23-man game anyway but all squad members know what is expected of them and will get their chances.

“RGC, with all the backing of the WRU, showed their capabilities last year. They lost at Llandovery on day one but beat Llanelli last week and, at this stage of our development, we are looking to add another scalp.

“We are setting higher standards, the supporters are enjoying the style of rugby and coming back but we know we need to keep playing and improving.”

Neath v RGC
15 Ed Howley; 14 Richard Smith, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Gavin Evans, 9 Chris Morgans ; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Matthew Davies; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Jordan Collier (captain),
Replacements :- 16 Neil White, 17 Ifan Phillips, 18 Geraint James, 19 Jon Barley, 20 Elis Hopkins, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 James Roberts

** COMING UP NEXT AT THE GNOLL ! – September 23 fixture against Llanelli – Season Tickets are still available and cover all home Premiership matches – details on website.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 18 CARMARTHEN QUINS 15 – (02-09-2017)

NEATH 18pts CARMARTHEN QUINS 15pts
Things are stirring at The Gnoll where Quins’ near daylight robbery was averted via a late try by Neath full back Ed Howley who restored his team’s lead which had been momentarily lost two minutes before and gave the Welsh All Blacks their second League win.

VENUE SWITCHED
This match was switched to the Neath citadel at short notice because Carmarthen Park is unfit and the visitors took the lead when Scarlets fly half Dan Jones landed a simple penalty.

TRY RULED OUT
The All Blacks were unlucky not to go ahead when quick-silver scrum-half Scott Gibson took a quick penalty, linked with hooker Sion Crocker who passed to Kieran Williams who ‘scored’ under the posts but was recalled. Neath, playing with great confidence, spurned kickable penalties and they took the lead when good work by centre Matthew Pearce and a series of close range surges by the forwards ended with a try by prop Geraint James.

NEATH DOMINATE
Full back Ed Howley landed the conversion and Neath continued to dominate – Quins were penalised five times for offside in midfield and were fortunate to escape a yellow-card for repeat-offences before Neath went further ahead when Howley landed a goal. Mike Evans threatened but Neath were penalised on the Carmarthen line and, in a rare attack, Quins hit back with a neat try in the left corner by wing Morgan Griffiths.

SECOND HALF CONTEST
Neath’s 10-8 interval lead did not reflect their dominance during the first moiety but good work by lock Rhys Jones to collect the kick-off and a dart up the blind-side by the smart Gavin Evans led to a penalty which Howley goaled. Quins tried hard to get back into it, skipper Haydn Pugh – an ex-Neath man – setting a super example at the lineouts but Neath’s defence held firm and they executed a breakout through Williams. When wing Geraint Llewellyn threatened on the left, Quins had scrum-half Beynon-Thomas yellow carded just when Neath looked set to score.

ANOTHER TRY RULED OUT
Replacement Chris Morgans spurred Neath on with his trademark runs – with Reuben Morgan-Williams yet to appear, Neath have a wealth of talent at scrum-half – but the All Blacks had another touchdown denied them, this time for blocking although Neath have had many such scores awarded against them ! Restored to 15 men, the Quins girded themselves for one last effort and the game opened out through some loose kicking. With two minutes remaining on the clock, high drama unfolded as, from one of altogether too penalties given the Quins, Beynon-Thomas took a quick tap and raced past a sleeping Neath defence to score under the posts.

SMASHING FINISH
Jones’ conversion looked to have stolen a win but this Neath team is made of stern stuff and, retaining the ball through several phases and many hands – backs and forwards included – the ball reached Ed Howley who nudged the ball past the two remaining Quins defenders and beat them to it for a splendid match-winning try.

COACH’S VIEW
Coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We had the win in our grasp but I thought they had pinched it with their late try. It speaks volumes for our character really that we still had it in us to grab it back again. It was the kind of game that the crowds relish and this team deserves big support next week when RGC visit. Full marks to a very organised Quins team too.”

NEATH – E.Howley; M.Evans (I.Evans), K.Williams, M.Pearce (G.Llewellyn), R.Smith; G.Evans, S.Gibson (C.Morgans); B.Uphill (N.White), S.Crocker (J.Davies), G.James (R.Thomas); R.Jones, M.Davies; L.Ward (E.Hopkins), S.Hicks, J.Collier (capt)

CARM.QUINS – A.Thomas; D.Morgans, N.Reynolds, J.Batcup, M.Griffiths; D.Jones, I.Beynon-Thomas (A.Hemmings); N.Williams (G.Robinson), T.Myhill, S.Thomas (J.Sebastian); S.Jones, H.Pugh (capt); R.Clancy, L.Taylor, L.Millin

Referee– Mr. J.Morris (Aberdare)


 

MATCH PREVIEW
Neath entertain Carmarthen Quins at THE GNOLL
for their first Premiership tie of the season on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

Following three warm-up wins, Neath made it four out of four when they eased past Swansea (39-16) in their first League outing last week and they make only three changes.

Keiran Williams returns at centre with Richard Smith switching to the wing while Matthew Davies and Leon Ward come in up front.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We have not made too many changes as we want to build momentum and give team patterns a chance to settle. But the other squad members know what is expected of them and will get their chances.

“Carmarthen Quins are always a hard nut to crack and they will have been disappointed to lose their opening game at Llanelli last week especially as their forwards went so well.

“We were pleased to get off to a winning start against Swansea but it is early days yet and Quins will be a different proposition.

“We expect Quins to have a few Scarlets behind the scrum and we know what they are capable of up front. We set a standard last week and we need to up our game from that.”

Neath v Carmarthen Quins
15 Ed Howley; 14 Richard Smith, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Mike Evans; 10 Gavin Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Matthew Davies; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Jordan Collier (captain),
Replacements :- 16 Neil White, 17 Ifan Phillips, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Jon Barley, 20 Elis Hopkins, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Geraint Llewellyn

** COMING UP NEXT AT THE GNOLL ! – September fixtures against RGC (9th) and Llanelli (23rd) – Season Tickets are still available and cover all home Premiership matches – details on website.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 39 SWANSEA 16 – (26-08-2017)

NEATH 39 pts SWANSEA 16 pts

Slick Neath got the new Premiership season off to a promising high-speed, all-action start with a 5-try victory over Swansea, sewing up a bonus point in the process.

FOUR FIGURE CROWD
Neath had won all three warm-up games and a four-figure crowd greeted the teams in perfect conditions. Neath started brightly but Swansea took an early lead when centre Owen Howe placed a penalty. Neath were looking dangerous every time they had the ball and it was no surprise when centre Richard Smith put them in front with a try which full back Ed Howley converted.

Swansea struck back from the restart when Neath spilled then played the ball from an off-side position giving Howe the chance to land his second kick but this was soon wiped out by a Howley penalty.

INVENTIVE FOOTBALL
Inventive Neath continued to re-cycle possession at pace and a Howley break led to the second try, winger Mike Evans powering over on the right to make it 15-6. But Neath’s kick-off receipt again got them into trouble when they conceded another penalty, Swansea kicked to the corner and a line-out drive ended in hooker Paul John crossing for a try which Howe converted.

That made it an unlikely 15-13 with Neath playing much the brighter rugby. The Blacks lost lock Ryan Bean who had made an impressive start but, with scrum-half Scott Gibson eagerly bringing his back-line into play, they looked much the better side and before the interval the forwards took over with a series of strong drives to the posts which saw skipper Jordan Collier go close before co-flanker Aled Morris drove across for the third try which Howley converted to make it 22-13 at half-time.

ENERGETIC FORWARDS
Howe got Swansea’s second-half off to a good start with his third penalty as the match entered an even phase but Neath’s impressive free-flowing style was always evident. An energetic forward effort paved the way, the front-row solid and locks Rhys Jones, Matthew Davies and No.8 Scott Hicks repeatedly making inroads into the Swansea ranks.

Wales Under-20’s captain Keiran Williams emerged from a strong bench for his first action since damaging his shoulder at the end of last season. He made an almost immediate impact as he struck for Neath’s fourth try, stepping in from the right and arrowing in to score at the posts at the Union end. Neath’s bonus point was safe and Howley converted before landing a penalty to make it a comfortable 32-13.

DEFENCE TESTED
Swansea tested the Neath defence and nearly squeezed in at the left corner and Neath might have scored when Mike Evans blazed away at the other end but could not find his support. It mattered not as Swansea messed up a scrum on their own try-line and Neath struck when Hicks fed replacement back-rower Leon Ward who scored the fifth try, Howley converting.

Coach Gareth Llewellyn was quietly satisfied with the first outing saying, “We played a lot of good stuff out there and should have added to the score. We still have a lot of work to do but it was vital to get that first win and now we can prepare for tougher tasks that lie ahead starting at Carmarthen on Saturday. I was pleased with our fitness and energy-levels which gave us an edge in a convincing win which is what we set ourselves to do.”

NEATH – E.Howley; M.Evans, R.Smith, M.Pearce, G.Llewellyn (K.Williams); G.Evans (I.Evans), S.Gibson (C.Morgans); B.Uphill (D.Edwards), S.Crocker (J.Davies), G.James (R.Thomas); R.Jones, R.Bean (M.Davies); J.Collier (capt), S.Hicks, A.Morris (L.Ward)
SWANSEA – R.Williams (P.Jones); A.Claypole, O.Howe, J.Evans, J.Randall (D.Callaghan); J.G.Davies, R.Wells; T.Sloane (J.Powell), P.John (T.Ball), R.Murphy (C.Thomas); J.Williams (A.Thresher), T.Hughes; R.Gallagher (E.Williams), J.Fox (capt), B.Davies
Referee – Mr. W. Davies (Llanon)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath open their Premiership season against Swansea slightly later than most on Saturday with an evening kick off (7.30pm) due to cricket on the adjacent field.

Three wins out of three against Ystalyfera (38-17), Moseley (14-12) and Narberth (38-7) spelled a decent warm-up programme for the Welsh All Blacks as they look to improve again on last season’s showing when they fought through to the Tier 2 play-offs.

There is a familiar look about the Neath starting side which features four newcomers in winger Mike Evans, centre Richard Smith, scrum-half Scott Gibson and lock Ryan Bean.

Two players will be marking significant milestones with hooker Sion Crocker making his 100th appearance and outside-half Iwan Evans his 50th while Wales Under-20’s star Keiran Williams will begin his comeback from the replacements’ bench.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Swansea at home is a big start because it is always a keen encounter. We are looking forward to it, as are the supporters, and there is always a special atmosphere about these warm Saturday evening games at The Gnoll with a good crowd expected.

“Swansea have a few newcomers too so our preparations have focussed on getting our own game right. Swansea will have been saddened to lose to Redruth but they held Irish champions Lansdowne to 10-19 last Friday and are always a challenge.

“We were pleased with our three warm-up wins but the really serious stuff starts now. We are just looking to continue driving up our standards and performing consistently.”

Neath v Swansea
15 Ed Howley; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Gavin Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Ryan Bean; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Aled Morris
Replacements :- 16 David Edwards, 17 Joe Davies, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Matthew Davies, 20 Leon Ward, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Keiran Williams

** COMING UP NEXT ! – September fixtures against RGC (9th) and Llanelli (23rd) – Season Tickets are still available and cover all home Premiership matches