Neath claimed a vital Christmas win in the big Boxing Day derby at Aberavon.
Terrible weather conditions set the tone and kept the crowd down for this eagerly-awaited fixture but, despite the low score, both sides contrived to serve up an entertaining holiday dish.
Neath had first use of the elements, a cold wind driving rain into Aberavon faces. After an early exchange of Christmas presents, the game settled down with Aberavon superior in the scrums but Neath looking sharper in other areas.
Home flanker James Bija was carded early on for a dangerous late charge and Neath made it count as outside-half James Thomas nosed them in front with the first of three penalties.
Play was largely confined to the forwards and half backs and most of the play was played between the two 22’s. On the half hour, Neath, by now leading 6-nil after Thomas doubled his tally, pressed strongly and after a succession of forward drives it seemed they would register the afternoon’sfirst try.
However, Bija intervened with a deliberate knock-on from an off-side position and he received his second yellow card which saw him condemned to sit out the rest of the game.
Many thought a penalty try might have been awarded. This would have given the Blacks a comforatble lead but they had to content themselves with Thomas’ third penalty which gave them a 9-nil advantage with the wind to face.
Neath realised they were up against it but they started the second-half with a passion and a succession of fast-moving drives took them to the Aberavon line. It was difficult to keep control of the ball in worsening conditions though and Avon held firm.
When they dug their way out, outside-half Nic Damjanovic missed two penalties which, although from longish range, should have been converted into points with the wind behind him. Neath lost key forwards Lee Beach and Marc Jones to the sin-bin thus levelling the numbers for 20 minutes but probably the pivotal point of the game came when Aberavon transgressed at an attacking scrum and handed Neath a relieving free-kick.
The Blacks cleared their lines but, in a stirring finish, Avon pulled back three points via a penalty by replacement Aaron Jones. Neath resumed by taking play into the home 22 only for Aberavon to force their way upfield but no score was forthcoming and the game ended try-less but with Neath more than happy to take the spoils.
It would be invidious to single out individuals in such conditions but coach Patrick Horgan was pleased with his side’s defensive resolve after recent indiscretions – in fact, he couldn’t have asked or got more from his charges who now move on to another key game against Bedwas on January 3rd.
|26th December 2014||2:30 pm||Principality Premiership||2014/15|
|Talbot Athletic Ground|