Category: Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: LLANELLI 41 NEATH 36 – SATURDAY, APRIL 14th, 2018

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)


MATCH PREVIEW

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

MATCH REPORT: SWANSEA 7 NEATH 17 – SATURDAY, APRIL 7th, 2018

SWANSEA 7 NEATH 17
A virtuoso try by full back Ed Howley who also kicked two conversions and a penalty to go with an early try by scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams spelled victory at last for the Blacks.

St.Helen’s was not looking its best but, after early-morning scares, it was eminently playable and Neath got off to the best of starts when their scrum put Swansea under severe pressure and the resultant penalty was goaled by Ed Howley. Keeping up the pace, the Blacks went further ahead when good work involving centres Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler and Iwan Evans created the opening for scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams to steal through for the game’s opening try.

Howley’s conversion made it 10-nil to Neath who were keen to open up despite the heavy pitch. But when Alec Jenkins attempted to keep a cross-field kick live, the ball fell into the hands of home outside-half Rhys Williams who set off for the corner only to be thwarted by a fine cover tackle by outside-half Luke Price.

Swansea cut the arrears when they were awarded a penalty try after a succession of scrums on the Neath five metre line. Neath supporters were unconvinced as to the precise offence but 7 points it was – such is their luck with officialdom this year !
Neath continued to put together some good rugby and, with penalties missed at either end, there was no further score before half-time which was reached with Neath still leading 10-7.

The Blacks, scenting victory, came out strongly after half-time and threatened the Swansea line with forwards Liam Tobias, Ryan Bean and Jon Barley rising to the challenge in a pack which was well led by hooker Sion Crocker.

Behind them Howley, Mike Evans and Thomas-Wheeler were full of running and the Blacks looked more likely to carve out a score but Swansea were not out of it and tried to mount a rally through their forwards whose efforts foundered on the defensive resolution of the Neath back row Elis Hopkins, Leon Ward and Ceri White who had his best game yet.

Midway through the half, Evans blasted through the middle scattering defenders like nine-pins, a neat grubber kick by Price nearly brought a score and a Bean charge had the Whites scrambling. Victory was all but assured when Swansea attempted to clear their hard-pressed lines but the kick landed in the hands of Howley who breezed past six defenders to score wide out and convert.

Victory on the road was overdue reward for Neath and the supporters who have stayed true. It was not the mightiest of victories and Neath’s reputation has not been anything like reprieved yet – a few more victories are required for that !

But, at the end of a week when the Club announced new recruits for next season, there is at last an air of optimism beginning to sweep through the old club again.

SWANSEA – O.Howe (L.Griffiths); A.Claypole, B.Cambriani, J.Randall (D.Manley), D.Howells; J.Rhys Williams, J.Guy (R.Wells); T.Sloane capt (J.Powell), P.John (S.Jones), R.Murphy (T.Harper); S.Kiley, M.Dodd; J.Clark (E.Williams), S.Jones, B.Davies
NEATH –E.Howley; M.Evans, I.Evans, T.Thomas-Wheeler (M.Pearce), A.Jenkins (S.Gibson); L.Price, R.Morgan-Williams; L.Tobias, S.Crocker (capt) (G.Lloyd), G.James (N.White); R.Bean (M.Davies), J.Barley; E.Hopkins, L.Ward, C.White Referee – Mr. S.Mills (Llanelli)


MATCH PREVIEW

Neath visit Swansea in the Premiership on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

Hooker Sion Crocker leads the Blacks who freshen up their side after losing narrowly 15-21 at Bridgend on Tuesday evening.

Luke Price and Reuben Morgan-Williams team up for the second time at half back with Iwan Evans moving to centre and Mike Evans to wing, Alec Jenkins also returning. Up front, prop Geraint James and Ryan Bean reinforce the front five.

Neath v Swansea (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Iwan Evans, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Luke Price, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams; 1 Liam Tobias, 2 Sion Crocker (captain), 3 Geraint James; 4 Ryan Bean, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Neil White, 17 Garin Lloyd, 18 Huw Wilkes, 19 Matthew Davies, 20 Scott Hicks, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 Scott Gibson

MATCH REPORT: BRIDGEND 21 NEATH 15 – TUESDAY, APRIL 3rd, 2018

BRIDGEND 21 NEATH 15
Another one that got away ! – Neath slipped to a narrow midweek defeat at Bridgend where, it must be said, they did not get much joy from the referee’s whistle.

Things went wrong almost from the start. Neath surged onto the attack, great handling by Iwan Evans and Tiaan Thomas-Williams sending Mike Evans careering towards the try-line. The ball was re-cycled only for a Bridgend hand to intervene and knock it down.

Penalty try ? Well, many a top referee would have considered it so – and so for that matter did the assistant referee who had a better view. But no, Neath were awarded a scrum and subsequently penalised. Such has been their ill-luck this season on all too many occasions !

Instead, Neath found themselves reduced to 14 men when debut-making winger Jordan Condon was binned for an over-enthusiastic aerial challenge which, unlike the opening salvo, did not affect the scoreboard and the Blacks took the lead when full back Ed Howley hammered over a penalty from 40 metres.

But, not for the first time this season, Neath handed back possession from the kick-off and Bridgend edged ahead when prop Cai Lewis crossed for his first try ever and outside-half James Murphy added the conversion points.

When Leon Ward was illegally neck-rolled out of a defensive ruck and subjected to a flurry of punches, he and his aggressor Adam O’Driscoll were shown red-cards after the intervention of a touch-judge.

With Neath’s defence unsettled, the initiative was firmly with Bridgend when centre Nathan Edwards went over for a second. It was 12-7 at half-time and the restart saw the meanest bit of play of the night – a nasty tackle on Iwan Evans – by Bridgend’s Zac O’Driscoll but he was luckier than his brother as he was shown only a yellow card.

Neath kept their discipline and made Bridgend pay with quick-fire tries by Ed Howley, which he converted himself, and a second by Scott Gibson on the wing following good work by Elis Hopkins and a deft chip by replacement Chris Morgans.

Having worked themselves into the lead at 15-12, that was it as far as Neath were concerned because, in a depressing finish which had Gibson binned for what was also deemed an unfair challenge, the home side were awarded penalty after penalty and James Murphy took full advantage to land three and overturn Neath’s lead.

Late on, Neath introduced their replacements with centre Matthew Pearce returning from injury to make his 50th appearance while outside-half Luke Scully became the first “new millenial” to appear for the Blacks – Neath did have a last-ditch attack in them but it ended, almost inevitably, in yet another penalty.

BRIDGEND – J.Phillips; A.Grabham (D.Moss), S.Ellis, N.Edwards, M.Powell; J.Murphy, C.Williams (C.Tantum); O.Jordan (O.Evans), G.Harvey (D.Lake), C.Lewis (R.Apsee); C.John, J.Pope (A.Evans); A.O’Driscoll, D.Davies, Z.O’Driscoll (capt)
NEATH – E.Howley (M.Pearce); J.Roberts (L.Scully), M,Evans, T.Thomas-Wheeler, J,Condon (C.Morgans); I.Evans, S.Gibson; B.Uphill (H.Wilkes), S.Crocker c (G.Lloyd), L.Tobias (G.James); M.Davies, J.Barley; E.Hopkins (S.Hicks), L.Ward, A.Cockwell (C.White) Referee – Mr. J.Bessant (Bridgend)


MATCH PREVIEW

Neath visit Bridgend in the Premiership on Tuesday (kick off 7.30pm).

The starting line-up shows five changes from that which fought so valiantly against league leaders Merthyr on Good Friday.

Iwan Evans returns at outside-half after missing the Merthyr game due to work commitments while Aberavon Quins winger Jordan Condon makes his first start and Scott Gibson takes over at scrum-half. Neath also introduce two Neath College backs who have been capped by Wales Under-18’s this year – centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler comes in at centre and outside-half Luke Scully is on the replacements’ bench. The only change up front sees Sion Crocker resume at hooker in place of young Garin Lloyd who has impressed in the last four starts.

Neath v Bridgend (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 11 Jordan Condon; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward (captain), 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Huw Wilkes, 17 Garin Lloyd, 18 Geraint James, 19 Ryan Bean, 20 Ceri White, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Luke Scully, 23 Matthew Pearce

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 10 MERTHYR 26 – GOOD FRIDAY, MARCH 30th, 2018

NEATH 10 MERTHYR 26

Neath’s improvement continued in another valiant effort against Premiership leaders Merthyr who turned on the pressure in the second-half to clinch a well-deserved win at The Gnoll.

Attacking the Town end, the Blacks’ steady progress of late was borne out within three minutes when, following a quick tap penalty by scrum-half Chris Morgans, good combined play advanced Neath from the half-way line and full back Ed Howley skipped over for a try which he converted.

Scrummaging solidly, Neath continued to bubble and a defence-splitting break by Luke Price had supporting centre Keiran Williams tackled off the ball but the offence went unseen and another Neath attack saw them lose the ball on the line in the left corner.

But after 20 minutes play switched to the Union end for the first time and Merthyr’s first bit of sustained play brought them a try through former Neath captain Lee Evans to make it 7-5.

The Blacks responded with some strong play by their centres, backed up by a lively forward effort and, approaching half-time, Howley fired over a penalty from close on 40 metres.

Neath’s 10-5 lead lasted barely a minute though as they failed to secure the re-start and Merthyr, showing the confidence that comes with their lofty position, went ahead through a try by full back Josh Martin who collected an inside pass and outside-half Richard Powell’s conversion made it 12-10 to the visitors.

Most onlookers in a good Bank Holiday crowd would have agreed that Neath were a little unlucky to be behind at the interval after having the edge in the first-half. But similarly few would contend that Merthyr were much the better side after the break.

The Blacks had an early chance to go back in front but replacement scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams was thwarted. And gradually Merthyr turned the screw as Neath’s tenacious effort tired. With 10 minutes remaining, Neath were penalised at a scrum on half-way, Merthyr opted to kick for a line-out and, controlling possession, skipper Nick White eventually powered over for a try which Powell easily goaled.

Merthyr were well on top now and only stout Neath defence kept them at bay but, with five minutes of normal time remaining, Merthyr’s bulkier forward power settled it when lock Craig Locke, summoned from the bench for the second-half, was driven over and Martin’s conversion made it 26-10. Brave as Neath were to the end, the better side won.

NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts, K.Williams, M.Evans, A.Jenkins (S.Gibson); L.Price (D.Guarneri), C.Morgans (R.Morgan-Williams); B.Uphill (H.Wilkes), G.Lloyd (S.Crocker), L.Tobias (G.James); M.Davies, J.Barley; E.Hopkins (D.McLachlan), L.Ward (capt), A.Cockwell (C.White)

MERTHYR – J.Martin; R.Carter, T.Riley, G.Dacey, A.Howman; R.Powell (G.Davies), A.Hoskins; R.James (L.Jones), M.Dwyer (R.Wilkes), S.Pocskai (B.Warren); B.Sier (C.Locke), B.Murphy; L.Evans, N.White (capt), E.Siggery

Referee – Mr. R.Jones (Pencoed)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath break with tradition and host an important Premiership game on Good Friday against league leaders Merthyr at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm).

The Blacks need to be geared up for a big effort against the reigning champions and the starting line-up shows three changes from the that which scored 6 tries in losing 36-48 at Newport last week.

Behind the scrum, James Roberts and Chris Morgans return while Elis Hopkins comes into the back row alongside Leon Ward who continues as captain.

Neath v Merthyr (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 11 Alec Jenkins, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Mike Evans; 10 Luke Price, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Ben Uphill/Huw Wilkes, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward (captain), 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Huw Wilkes/Dan Morgan, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Geraint James, 19 Ryan Bean, 20 Ceri White, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 Dan Guarneri, 23 Scott Gibson

MATCH REPORT: NEWPORT 48 NEATH 36 – SUNDAY, MARCH 25th, 2018

NEWPORT 48 NEATH 36
In days of old this 13-try spectacular would have been dubbed an “end of season romp” – but there were league points at stake and Newport deservedly took them if only because their defence was marginally more lock-sure than Neath’s.

On a warm first day of summertime, both sides were guilty of a lack of fortitude in the tackle with too many holes appearing for either coaching team to be satisfied. Mistakes abounded but, with referee Gwyn Morris (Cardiff) at his best, there was plenty of running and handling and what the game lacked in grim resolution was more than made up for by the entertainment it provided.

The pace was set from the opening minute when Newport centre Alex Sabri was properly sin-binned for a deliberate knock-on and Neath scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams, making his belated first appearance of the season, spotted a gap in the Newport ranks and crossed for the game’s first try and Ed Howley converted.

Newport soon levelled with a try by flanker Morgan Burgess which Matt O’Brien converted before Neath bombed two chances as wing Geraint Llewellyn and centre Keiran Williams went close. Instead, it was Newport who went in front when wing Elliot Frewen expertly stood up full back Howley to score and O’Brien converted.

Neath’s response was immediate as good handling by Howley, Aled Cockwell and Llewellyn sent Morgan-Williams over for his second but Newport pulled further ahead with tries by centre Alex Sabri and wing Johnny Morris, O’Brien converting the former. Neath countered briefly with a try by flanker Ryan Bean but Newport ended a breath-taking first-half with their fifth try when scrum-half Owen Davies exploited weak tackling to score and O’Brien’s conversion made it a remarkable 33-17.

Neath started the second-half on the attack and Bean nearly got his second try before Howley crossed for their bonus-point try and converted himself. From the re-start, O’Brien banged over a penalty and Newport pulled clear again when prop Garin Harris crossed and it seemed curtains for Neath when Williams was yellow-carded and home No.8 Alex Everett scored Newport’s seventh try which O’Brien goaled.

But somehow Neath galvanised themselves for an extra effort and dominated the last quarter. The summoning of replacements from the fully-employed bench brought a couple of positional switches which saw Neath finish strongly with much better shape.

Newport lost another man to the bin as they defended desperately and Mike Evans snatched back a try which Howley converted but Evans then threw a scoring pass into the stand. Undaunted, Neath kept up the tempo : Keiran Williams was held up on the line, Iwan Evans and Morgans went close too in opposite corners and Neath signed off with their sixth try when replacement wing Scott Gibson squeezed in at the corner.

That brought to an end what was in many ways a crazy, hazy game of summer and Neath’s last stand saw them take the second-half 19-15. But the damage had been done in a soft first-half when far too many tackles were missed and, it must be said, team-mates were let down.

Neath’s next engagement is against Premiership leaders Merthyr at The Gnoll on Good Friday (kick off 2.30pm) and the Blacks will need to marry up their newly-restored scoring form with greater defensive discipline.

NEWPORT – H.Simons; J.Morris, A.Sabri, C.Smith, E.Frewen (H.Lang); M.O’Brien (capt) (G.O’Driscoll), O.Davies (R.Bates); N.Boyce (J.Lavender), H.Palmer (W.Evans), T.Piper (G.Harris); A.Mann (J.Little), J.Bartlett; M.Burgess, A.Everett, J.Reid

NEATH – E.Howley; A.Jenkins (S.Gibson), M.Evans, K.Williams, G.Llewellyn (I.Evans); L.Price, R.Morgan-Williams (C.Morgans); B.Uphill (N.White, H.Wilkes), G.Lloyd (S.Crocker), L.Tobias; M.Davies (C.White), J.Barley; R.Bean, L.Ward (capt) (J.Parry), A.Cockwell

Referee – Mr. G.Morris (Cardiff)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath visit high-riding Newport at Rodney Parade in the Welsh Premiership on Sunday (kick off 2.30pm).

The starting line-up shows only four changes from the that which did so well before going down a little unluckily 30-34 to Pontypridd last week.

Winger Geraint Llewellyn returns while half-backs Luke Price and Reuben Morgan-Williams come in for their first appearances of the season. Up front, the only change sees Matthew Davies return at lock with Ryan Bean taking over from the injured Elis Hopkins in the back row alongside Leon Ward who continues as captain.

Neath v Newport (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Alec Jenkins, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Luke Price, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Ryan Bean, 8 Leon Ward (captain), 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Huw Wilkes, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Neil White, 19 James Parry, 20 Ceri White, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Scott Gibson

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 30 PONTYPRIDD 34 – FRIDAY, MARCH 16th, 2018

NEATH 30 PONTYPRIDD 34
Although these two teams are at opposite ends of the table, they served up a classic 8-try thriller which was a credit to the Welsh Premiership and which was settled in favour of the visitors with but five minutes remaining.

The Gnoll was in perfect condition for this eve-of-international tie and the heightened atmosphere created by a good crowd was enhanced by biennial visitors from Clermont-Ferrand (France) and St. James Bay (Canada).

Pontypridd finished stronger to earn their success and they scored 5 tries to 3 but Neath’s inexperienced, still injury-hit, side emerged with huge honour from a rip-roaring affair as for a long time they proved themselves the match of the visitors.

Indeed, in a first-half of almost perpetual motion, Neath were the masters. Playing with rhythm and continuity, the Blacks worked to win plenty of possession and, although the first scrum was not set until the 21st minute, the Blacks stole a head and managed to pinch a couple of opposition line-outs too and it was particularly encouraging to see the younger forwards – Garin Lloyd, Liam Tobias, Ryan Bean, Elis Hopkins and Aled Cockwell – earning their spurs against top opposition in a side well led by Leon Ward.

Neath’s reward came with three tries scored by lock Jon Barley under the posts after great work by a fired-up pack, dazzling centre Keiran Williams and the hard-working flanker Aled Cockwell. With Ed Howley converting and landing two first-half penalties for Ponty ball-killing in the red zone, the visitors were visibly panicked.

Ponty scored a fine try of their own by winger Lewis Williams which was converted by Diggy Bird who also kicked a penalty when Neath lost scrum-half Scott Gibson to a yellow card before the break – the offence merited it but the award was harsh considering Ponty’s defensive indiscretions had seen them penalised but with no cards.

Neath looked to add to their 27-10 lead early in the second-half but the first of two Iwan Evans dropped goal attempts just went wide and, before Gibson returned, Ponty hit back with a try by Huw Dowden, converted by Bird. Ponty’s Daf Lockyer was binned as full back Ed Howley kicked a penalty for Neath to hit the 30-mark but the Blacks lost impressive teenage hooker Lloyd and visiting flanker Morgan Sienawski pounced for a try. Then, as the benches emptied, Ponty pulled back to within three points – uncontested scrums did Neath no favours and scrum-half Joel Raikes strolled over unimpeded.

A visibly tiring Neath side, reduced to 14 men following another card, battled hard to stay in front and did so until but five minutes of normal time remained when centre Lloyd Rowlands went over and Bird converted. Try as they might, Neath could not force a response and the spoils went to Ponty at the end of a game played in the best tradition of the two clubs who have been playing each other for 130 years. Another loss was a disappointment for Neath but there is evidently improvement for all to see – next, it’s on to Rodney Parade for a Sunday engagement (kick off 2.30 pm).

NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts (D.Guarneri), M.Evans, K.Williams (R.Pugh), A.Jenkins (C.Morgans); I.Evans, S.Gibson; B.Uphill (H.Wilkes), G.Lloyd (E.Whitson), L.Tobias (C.Jones); R.Bean (M.Davies), J.Barley; E.Hopkins (C.White), L.Ward (capt), A.Cockwell
PONTYPRIDD – D.Stuckey; L.Williams (A.Knott), L.Rowlands, D.Lockyer (capt), A.Webber; D.Bird, J.Raikes (J.Hill); H.Owen (I.George), H.Dowden (J.Page), K.Assirati (W.Davies-King); J.Hawkins (H.Barnes), C.Dicomidis; S.Moore (R.Barnes) J.Thomas, M.Sienawski Referee Mr. I.Davies(P’cawl)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath host Pontypridd at The Gnoll in the Welsh Premiership on Friday (kick off 7.30pm).

The starting line-up shows several changes from that which lost 6-22 at Ebbw Vale last week. An already speedy back division is boosted by the return of Keiran Williams and Scott Gibson. Up front, Ben Uphill, Garin Lloyd and Liam Tobias form a fresh front row while Ryan Bean and Aled Cockwell are back in action and Leon Ward continues as captain.

Neath v Pontypridd (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Ryan Bean, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward (captain), 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Huw Wilkes, 17 Evan Whitson, 18 Callum Jones, 19 Matthew Davies, 20 Ceri White, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Dan Guarneri, 23 Ryan Pugh

MATCH REPORT: EBBW VALE 22 NEATH 6 – SATURDAY, MARCH 10th, 2018

EBBW VALE 22 NEATH 6

Neath’s long wait for victory continued as Ebbw Vale made the most of their first half opportunities and, rather cruelly, added a last-minute try to take the honours at Eugene Cross Park.

The Ebbw Vale ground-staff had made a splendid effort to get the pitch playable and they were rewarded by a strong start from the home team but Neath showed great resilience and, although they were nil-14 down at half-time, the Blacks were still in it with slope advantage to come.

Vale’s settled unit were quicker into their stride and deservedly led but Neath could point to a couple of crucial decisions which went against them in the lead up to each of the home team’s tries.

For the first Neath were recalled for a forward pass when “advantage over” had not been called following a Vale spillage and Vale pounced for a score by scrum-half Dai Jones; and the second came after Vale could easily have been penalised for obstruction yet Jon Barley was sin-binned and this time skipper Ronnie Kynes was credited with the score after more good combined work by the home forwards.

Former Neath outside-half David Langdon converted both but Neath had their moments and, were it not for the capricious bounce of the ball, Alec Jenkins’ charge-down of his erstwhile colleague’s relieving kick might have produced a Neath score.

If Neath needed reminding that Lady Luck was not with them, a superb long kick to the Vale 22 by full back Ed Howley skidded over the dead-ball line – which it had no right to do on a glue-pot surface.

Still, Neath rolled up their sleeves for the second-half and for a long time achieved set-piece parity as lively hooker Evan Whitson on debut struck up a fine understanding at the line-outs with young lock Matthew Davies and the scrum improved too.

Two penalties by Howley brought Neath right back into contention as Vale struggled to hold some strong-running by the Neath midfield where Iwan Evans, youth player Sion O’Brien and Mike Evans operated well.

But Vale were not done and Langdon nudged over a penalty of his own and they seemed set to score again when the referee awarded Neath a scrum penalty.

With tyro flanker Elis Hopkins again prominent, Neath kept battling away but their fate was sealed when Uphill was carded for allegedly collapsing a scrum – common-sense would suggest that when a scrum goes down as sharply as that one did it would not have been pulled down deliberately !

Neath were therefore reduced to 14 men again and in the last play Vale’s numerical advantage counted as wing Toby Fricker squeezed in on the overlap.

The Blacks therefore move on to Friday’s home game against Pontypridd (kick off 7.30pm) and will be cheered by the fact that they competed for long periods of this game. Moreover, the Blacks emerged relatively unscathed from this game with the physiotherapist having an easy shift – and that has not happened often this season !

EBBW VALE – D.Haymond; S.Thomas, J.Lewis (T.Hoppe), D.Franchi, T.Fricker; D.Langdon, D.Jones (S.Ireland); J.Harries (J.Rogers), R.Francis (J.Franchi), R.Sevenoaks; K.Parker, L.Randall (J.Jacas); R.Clarke (J.Davies), L.Young, R.Kynes (capt)

NEATH – E.Howley;J.Roberts (G.Llewellyn), M.Evans, S.O’Brien (D.Guarneri), A.Jenkins; I.Evans, C.Morgans (S.Gibson); N.White (B.Uphill, C.Jones), E.Whitson, G.James (L.Tobias); M.Davies, J.Barley; E.Hopkins, L.Ward (capt), C.White (J.Williams)
Referee- Mr. M.English (Caldicot)


MATCH PREVIEW

Neath travel to Ebbw Vale in the Welsh Premiership on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

The starting side shows four changes with Sion O’Brien coming in at centre, Matthew Davies at lock and Ceri White in the back-row with Evan Whitson, son of former Neath lock Mike, coming in at hooker on permit from Newport.

Neath v Ebbw Vale (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Sion O’Brien, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Neil White, 2 Evan Whitson, 3 Geraint James; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Ceri White
Replacements – To Be Confirmed

MATCH REPORT: CARDIFF 31 NEATH 19 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 24th, 2018

CARDIFF 31 NEATH 19
Neath gave a much-improved performance but ultimately lost out to a powerful Cardiff side who had to summon all their extra experience to take the try count 4-3.

There was an unreal air to the Cardiff Arms Park for this international morning fixture which attracted only a meagre crowd. The frozen onlookers were treated to a game of compelling movement even if cold hands did not always make for accurate rugby football.

Neath attacked from the start and centre Gavin Evans twice went close to scoring before the Blacks’ acting captain left the field with a knee injury to be replaced by Ryan Pugh. Cardiff used their big pack to good effect and dominated the next quarter but Neath, tackling like demons, kept them at bay.

It took Cardiff fully 20 minutes to break the deadlock through a try by No.8 Rory Pitman who has returned to Welsh club rugby from Jersey and Gareth Thompson’s conversion made it 7-nil.

Neath kept battling but lost flanker Aled Cockwell whose replacement Owain Morgan emerged to play equally as effectively in a fine back row with Elis Hopkins and Leon Ward.

Centre Mike Evans made several strong thrusts and Neath drew level before half-time when scrum half Chris Morgans stole along the touchline and scampered behind the posts for full back Ed Howley to convert.

It was all-square at 7-7 at the interval but Cardiff went in front when good work by Blues scrum-half Lewis Jones saw his regional team-mate full back Dan Fish cross wide out and Thompson again converted.

Neath though wasted no time in drawing level again as the forwards launched a productive line-out drive and winger James Roberts nipped in at the corner, Howley converting magnificently from the touchline.

The Blacks were certainly giving Cardiff a battle but the home side edged in front when Thompson landed a long range penalty to make it 17-14. Neath were still very much in it but Cardiff benefited from a series of penalty awards and Pitman crossed for a second try converted by Thompson who completed the home side’s scoring with a converted try of his own.
But Neath had the final say as another line-out drive saw them batter their way to the Cardiff line where Leon Ward crossed for their third try. There was still time on the clock for Neath to get closer but when the final whistle went there was no further score.

It was not the result Lyn Jones would have wanted on his return but it was a distinct uplift on recent showings and provided hope for the Neath supporters who braved the cold and the early start.

CARDIFF – D.Fish; J.Beal (L.Ap Myrddin), A.Jones, W.Rees-Hole (H.Griffiths), C.Howells; G.Thompson, L.Jones (R.Cole); F.Young (K.Brown), I.Jenkins (N.Huish), P.Lloyd (A.Court); J.Murphy (B.White), C.Bradbury; R.Pitman, L.Crocker (capt) (J.Miles)

NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts, M.Evans (J.Condon), G.Evans (capt) (R.Pugh), A.Jenkins; I.Evans, C.Morgans (D.Brown); B.Uphill (L.Tobias), G.Lloyd (N.White), G.James (R.Thomas); R.Jones (R.Bean), J.Barley; E.Hopkins, L.Ward, A.Cockwell (O.Morgan)
Referee – Mr. S. Allsop (Caldicot)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath travel to Cardiff in the Welsh Premiership on Saturday (kick off 11.30am).

The side shows only three personnel changes with Mike Evans coming in at centre, Leon Ward and Aled Cockwell in the back-row with Rhys Jones reverting to lock.

Looking forward to Saturday, it would be nice to see as many Neath supporters as are able join the team for the early kick-off at Cardiff where the team really would appreciate as much backing as possible.

Neath v Cardiff (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), Alec Jenkins; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Chris Morgans;
1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Aled Cockwell

Replacements – 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Garin Lloyd, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Ryan Bean, 20 Owain Morgan, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 Ryan Pugh, 23 Jordan Condon
24 Neil White, 25 Dalton Brown

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 10 BEDWAS 40 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17th, 2018

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.


MATCH PREVIEW
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)


MATCH PREVIEW
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