Neath take on near-neighbours Swansea at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
With speculation rife about the Club’s ownership, Neath supporters have been rallying behind the team which this week features just four changes from last week’s starting line-up.
Behind the scrum, centre Jarrad Rees comes in for Gavin Evans. Up front Lee Evans returns to the second row with Aled Cockwell and Alun Jones in the back row.
Neath v Swansea (Home)
15 Jordan Rees; 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 11 Alec Jenkins, 10 Callum Hall, 9 Nicky Griffiths, 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Lee Evans, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Craig Hill, 8 Aled Cockwell, 7 Alun Jones
Replacements from – Connah Vaughan, Gareth Wyn Lloyd, Lewis Price, Keiran Griffiths, Ioan Jones, Leon Ward, Dyfan Ceredig, Nathan Griffiths, Jon Lumb, Gavin Evans
NEATH 17 CROSS KEYS 34
Another brave performance by battling Neath was not quite enough to hold Cross Keys who, after trailing until the stroke of half-time, went on to take the spoils in the second-half.
Scrum-half Nicky Griffiths and No.8 Gareth Jones came in for first starts for Neath with Jordan Rees, Gareth Howells, Ioan Jones and Craig Hill making home debuts as were all of the replacements bench – but the permit-count was down to 11 after the Christmas highs. In contrast, Keys had the services of 2 senior Dragons and 4 Academy lads.
Neath’s raw side suffered a pre-match blow when newly-signed lock Scott Davies pulled a hamstring in the warm-up. Keys started on the attack but on 12 minutes Neath weathered the storm and a brilliant jinking run by full back Jordan Rees sent Craig Hill away and the flanker showed outstanding pace to blaze away and score at the posts for Callum Hall to convert.
The Neath scrum had Keys under the cosh all afternoon and midway through the half when Keys conceded another scrum penalty up stepped Hall to make it 10-nil.
Keys hit back when a disorganised Neath chase allowed the visitors to run the ball back and flanker Joe Thomas scored at the posts for Dragons’ outside-half Jacob Botica to convert. But Neath bounced back on the half hour when new signing scrum-half Nicky Griffiths capped a marvellous debut by shooting up the blind-side from a rock-solid scrum to score in the corner and Hall converted splendidly from the touchline.
Keys then took advantage of poor midfield defence to score again when Leon Andrews sent Academy No.8 Garin Price over for Botica to convert and the ex-RGC record-holder levelled the scores at 17-17 when he kicked a penalty on the stroke of halftime.
15 minutes into the second-half Keys took the lead for the first time when winger Wesley Cunliffe shrugged off a tackle to send Botica in for a try which he converted himself.
Neath continued to hammer away at Keys and after gaining two scrum penalties near the Keys line the referee chose to penalise Neath on the third; play swept to the other end via another missed tackle and the ubiquitous Leon Andrews dabbed down.
Botica converted and kicked an unambitious late penalty to give the Dragons’ man a haul of 19 points and the scoreline a slightly flattering look – it was a lot closer.
Again, the newcomers can be proud of their efforts in a team which never gave up and, with players to return, Neath will be looking for a big effort against in-form Swansea next week.
NEATH – Jordan Rees (Laurence Howley); James Roberts, Aaron Bramwell (captain), Gavin Evans, Alec Jenkins (Geraint Roberts); Callum Hall, Nicky Griffiths; Ben Uphill (Lewis Price), Sion Crocker (Connah Vaughan), Tyla Murvai (Kieran Griffiths); Rhys Morgan, Gareth Howells; Ioan Jones (Greg Callow), Gareth Jones (Dyfan Ceredig), Craig Hill
CROSS KEYS – C.Perry; L.Ap Myrddin, L.Andrews, Adam Jones (R.Budina), W.Cunliffe (S.Majkic); J.Botica, O.Leonard (D.Fidler); Z.Hewlett (W.Griffiths), E.Shipp (T.Hansen), R.Cornock (G.Carpenter); S.Andrews (C.Johnsey), T.Lampard; D.Welsh (captain), G.Price, J.Thomas (J.Carlin)
Referee – Mr. J.Bessant (Heol-y-Cyw)
Neath play their first game of 2019, hoping that the New Year will be better than the Old, when they entertain Cross Keys at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm).
A brave performance at Aberavon on Boxing Day brought their re-shaped side many plaudits which were well deserved; it also delivered the try of the week by skipper Aaron Bramwell which many neutrals rated the try of the season. But it will take a big effort against Keys who have experience on their side.
With speculation increasing over the Club’s ownership, Neath supporters are totally behind the lads on the field. New recruit from Cardiff Nicky Griffiths follows in the footsteps of his father Jonathan Griffiths (Bridgend Sports) by debuting at scrum-half and another newcomer is No.8 Gareth Jones who hails from Porth.
Home debuts will be made by Jordan Rees, Craig Hill, Ioan Jones as well as replacements Connah Vaughan and Dyfan Ceredig who made their bows over Christmas.
Neath v Cross Keys (Home)
15 Jordan Rees; 14 James Roberts, 13 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Alec Jenkins, 10 Callum Hall, 9 Nicky Griffiths, 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Scott Davies; 6 Craig Hill, 8 Gareth Jones 7 Ioan Jones
Replacements – 16 Lewis Price, 17 Connah Vaughan, 18 Keiran Griffiths, 19 Gareth Howells, 20 Dyfan Ceredig, 21 A.N.Other, 22 Geraint Roberts, 23 Laurence Howley
ABERAVON 36 NEATH 17
Once again, the Neath Loyalists worked wonders and, after late withdrawals, fielded :-
15 Callum Hall; 14 James Roberts, 13 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Alec Jenkins, 10 Lewis Humphreys, 9 Nathan Griffiths, 1 Jonny Gethin, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Scott Hoskins; 4 Aled Cockwell, 5 Scott Davies; 6 Craig Hill, 8 Thomas Jevons, 7 Alun Jones
Replacements : Connah Vaughan, Roy Jones, Gareth Wyn Lloyd, Ioan Jones, Ceri White, Dyfan Ceredig, Morgan Evans, Jon Bayliss
That selection embodied 17 permit players from 15 clubs but they were 23 absolute heroes – tackling themselves into the ground in a never say die performance.
In fact, the Blacks had the satisfaction of conjuring up the best try of the game by skipper Bramwell converted by Callum Hall – and there were other scores from replacement Ioan Jones which brought a broad smile to father Paul’s face and from speedy winger James Roberts who got in at the corner after Neath might have been awarded a penalty try.
Over very many years, Neath supporters have been lucky enough to have seen some wonderful Neath RFC performances including against the biggest and the best in the world – and the true Neath fighting spirit demonstrated by ALL was up there with the best.
Neath started well and might have taken the lead only for Roberts to be recalled for a foot in touch but Aberavon deserved their win through tries by Ieuan Davies (2), Francis Jones, Andrew Waite, Iwan Temlett and Jacob Blackmore with Christopher Banfield converting three.
What energy Neath displayed ! Thanks to everyone who helped and to the tremendous support from both touchlines.
Let sanity prevail in the New Year 2019 – CASTELL NEDD AM BYTH !
Neath have again pulled out all the stops to take the field at Aberavon on Boxing Day (kick off 2.30pm).
Neath rugby secretary Mike Price said, “The majority of our remaining players are now injured so it looks as if 17 of our 24 man squad will be on permit. In fact, we are thinking of asking them to wear club socks to aid identification like the Barbarians !
“Seriously though, it is an intolerable situation for the club to find itself subjected to after 147 years – 154 years for the purists – of rugby achievement. It cannot continue for much longer before the relevant authorities take action.
“Hats off to captain Aaron Bramwell and Pat Horgan for again bringing the side together and, if there is a silver lining to our current predicament, it is that it has thrown up one or two gems for the future of Neath RFC when we come through it.
“Our supporters, while totally behind the lads who are on the park, are heart-broken and understandably very, very angry. I just hope that followers of both clubs are appreciative of everyone’s efforts in what is a unique situation which no club should endure and we must hope that common sense prevails in 2019.”
Pending one permit the team will be :-
Neath v Aberavon (Away)
15 Callum Hall; 14 James Roberts, 13 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Alec Jenkins, 10 Lewis Humphreys, 9 Morgan Evans; 1 Jonny Gethin, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ben Uphill; 4 Scott Davies, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Craig Hill, 8 Thomas Jevons, 7 Alun Jones
Replacements : Connah Vaughan, Kieran Griffiths, Scott Hoskins, Ioan Jones, Ceri White, Dyfan Ceredig, Nathan Griffiths, Jon Bayliss
BRIDGEND 78 NEATH 5
Humiliating defeat at Bridgend was the outcome of the Neath Loyalists’ heroic efforts to field a team in the midst of their well-documented ownership problems.
Over 147 years – 154 for the purists – Neath’s fortunes have never been so low and the question must be asked how much more heart-break and punishment must the team and its supporters take.
The weak winter sun which greeted the teams was as pallid as Neath’s hopes against an organised Bridgend side that beat Aberavon – just – last time out.
Other than a neatly taken try by winger James Roberts – to huge cheers from the Neath support who travelled in good numbers – it was virtually one-way traffic.
For the record, Osprey Cai Evans gathered 33 points via 2 tries, 10 conversions and a penalty and other scores came from ex-Neath pair Aaron Grabham (2) and Jordan Collier, Ospreys’ duo Jack Pope and Connor Tantum (2), Nathan Edwards, Ben Jones and Iestyn Merriman.
But it all felt pretty hollow and the abiding memory will not be of the football played but of the repeated chants of “We Want Cuddy Out” from disgruntled Neath supporters who made their feelings plain.
Few Neath supporters questioned the commitment of the men in black, 17 of the 23 being on permit from 12 different clubs. Indeed, several did enough to suggest that they deserve further opportunities.
Recruiting around 75% of the squad from outside is a clear measure of how hard Neath’s beleaguered team of Loyalists worked to fulfil the fixture – but was it worth the trouble ? It really must not go on !
Neath have pulled out all the stops to field a team at Bridgend on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
Into the starting line-up come three Aberdare lads Garyn Payne and brothers Jordan and Jarrad Rees who have all played for Pontypridd while newly-transferred Glynneath lock Ioan Jones comes into the second row with former Bedwas man Craig Hill in the back row.
Captain Aaron Bramwell said, “Our remaining boys have pulled together but, with the injuries arising from the Llanelli game, our numbers are even more depleted. However, new players have taken the opportunity and will wear the Neath jersey with pride and we are very grateful to their clubs for releasing them on permit.”
Neath v Bridgend (Away)
15 Garyn Payne; 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nathan Griffiths; 1 Adam Nation, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Lee Evans, 5 Ioan Jones; 6 Craig Hill, 8 Elis Hopkins, 7 Ceri White
NEATH 12 LLANELLI 69
Neath in their emasculated state – if the reader will excuse the image – of continued ownership neglect were no match for a Llanelli side stiffened by the inclusion of a septet of Scarlets.
It was a night of comic confusion and grim bitterness at The Gnoll.
Pre-match concern as to whether the game would go ahead at all developed into safety and stewarding concerns and there was farce before the game with spectators confined to restricted areas before being allowed to occupy their usual seats.
The comedy spread to the field where Llanelli ran in 11 tries through Ryan Davies (3), Declan Smith (2), Ioan Nicholas (2), Kallum Davies, Tom Rogers, Jake Baker and a penalty try with Ioan Hughes (5) and Ashley Sutton adding conversions.
The bitterness was evidenced by a noisy crowd protest at half-time, chants emanating from the Town End terrace demanding “Cuddy Out” but it was well behaved and did not justify the presence of the Neath constabulary in numbers not witnessed at the ground since the demise of South Wales Police RFC !
Neath showed their spirit and bravely rallied late on with tries by Nathan Griffiths and Elis Hopkins, Callum Hall converting the latter but players must be paid, decay and deterioration must be addressed – and addressed quickly if further embarrassment and humiliation is to be avoided.
Neath v Llanelli
Aaron Bramwell; Alec Jenkins, Regan King, Keiran Williams, Callum Hall; Gavin Evans, Nathan Griffiths;
Ben Uphill, Sion Crocker, Tyla Murvai; Lee Evans, Scott Davies; Leon Ward, Scott Hicks, Elis Hopkins
Replacements – Jordan Farley, Craig Boxhall, Chris Thomas, Ceri White, Joseph Grabham, Hywel Williams, Ian Ellis, James Roberts
NEATH 17 CARDIFF 59
Pre-match optimism that the new-look, shredded Neath squad might repeat their tremendous showing against Bargoed proved completely unwarranted as Cardiff ran away to a comfortable victory at The Gnoll.
This was Cardiff’s 400th Premiership game and they can rarely have come up against a side in such a state of unpreparedness. And Cardiff are going well at the moment with too much power all round for Neath.
For the record, Cardiff’s nine tries were registered by Joseph Gatt (2), Tom Daley, Morgan Allen, William Rees-Hole, the Neath trio of Max Llewellyn, Martin Roberts and Edward Howley and Gareth Thompson who converted seven of them.
In arrears 7-42 at half-time, Neath battled hard throughout and countered briefly for a spell after the interval when they matched the visitors and carved out three fine tries by James Roberts, Ben Uphill and Ian Ellis with Callum Hall converting one before Cardiff finished stronger.
Battered and bruised as the Neath Re-Mourners are, their efforts were again fully appreciated by the supporters.
All will be praying for an end to the current troubles and there was no mistaking the under-current of resentment which prevailed at the end by which time Mike Cuddy had long departed the scene of the crime.
Aaron Bramwell again leads the NEATH team which takes on CARDIFF at THE GNOLL on FRIDAY evening (kick off 7.30pm).
Neath make six changes to the match-day squad from that which stunned many by overcoming Bargoed 30-12 last week. Among those missing are Keiran Williams and Tyla Murvei who is unavailable.
Winger Alec Jenkins is fit again to resume on the bench while Nathan Griffiths (Treorchy), Tom Slater (Narberth), Steff Bond (Skewen), Kieran Griffiths (Maesteg Quins) and Joe Grabham (Bridgend Athletic) come in.
Neath coaches Simon King, Paul Williams and Paul James united in saying, “After last week’s stirring performance, we will be seeking more of the same against Cardiff who have been going well. Support for the squad has been coming in strong all week from all directions and the passionate Gnoll crowd will demonstrate their thanks and support again tomorrow night. Expect another fully-committed display from a side who will give it everything and wear the Neath jersey with pride.”
The squad is :-
Neath v Cardiff (Home)
15 Callum Hall ; 14 James Roberts, 13 Regan King, 12 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 11 Ian Ellis; 10 Gavin Evans, 9 Tom Briggs; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Tom Slater; 4 Lee Evans, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Ceri White
Replacements: 16 Steff Bond, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Kieran Griffiths, 19 Adam Harris, 20 Iwan Davies, 21 Joe Grabham. 22 Nathan Griffiths, 23 Alec Jenkins
NEATH 30 BARGOED 12
A proper Neath team playing proper Neath rugby football in front of a proper Neath crowd took the spoils against a game Bargoed side who can count themselves unlucky to have come up against the most passionate Neath performance for many a day.
After three of the most traumatic weeks in Neath’s long and distinguished history which is still threatened by company complications, feelings are running high at The Gnoll and Bargoed stepped into a pretty febrile atmosphere in which the patched up and pumped up home team thrived.
The match programme cover heralded the message “Neath RFC Remembers” which was appropriate as The Gnoll club turned in a display which evoked fond memories of better days and maybe did justice to the spirit of their fallen World War heroes.
For heroic it was. After Bargoed had taken the lead with a try by winger Duane Dyer on the back of a suspiciously-looking forward pass, and converted by Josh Prosser, Neath were up against it. But the Blacks gradually fought back into the game : the scrum was solid, the line-out less so but newly-enthused Neath, showing a relish for the tackle, battled up-field and a typical Keiran Williams charge saw skipper Aaron Bramwell plunge over for a try which Callum Hall, playing on the wing, goaled easily.
Bargoed, well-drilled and confident, struck back with a fine second try by winger Ashley Norton and, with top referee Gwyn Morris accentuating the positive, only ball spillages stopped them going further ahead. But Neath’s spirit shone strongly in a combative forward effort and two fine Callum Hall penalties nudged them ahead 13-12 at the interval and the home side were cheered to a man as they retired to the dressing-rooms.
The Blacks made most of the running in the second-half and they deservedly extended their lead when former All Black centre Regan King scored his first try for the Welsh All Blacks, Hall again converting. Midway through the half, inspired Neath scored again when Callum Hall, by now switched to his more accustomed outside-half slot, took advantage of a ricocheted kick to touch down for his first try for the Blacks too and he added the conversion points for good measure.
The young Mountain Ash product also landed a third penalty for a 20-point haul and he saved a try with an enveloping tackle late on. Good enough for the Man of the Match award ? Normally perhaps but, on this occasion, the Supporters’ Club’s popular award went to the entire Neath team – an unprecedented honour. It was that kind of night and a pleasure to behold the joy on the sea of faces which cheered both sides at the end.
Former stalwarts Lee Evans, Marc Jones and Kevin James helped out their old club, the newcomers adapted brilliantly and the remaining Neath patriots – many of whom had points to prove – gave it everything on a night of high emotion. It would be unfair to single out any individuals in a genuine team performance by the full line-up :-
Aaron Bramwell (captain); James Roberts (Kevin James), Regan King, Keiran Williams, Callum Hall; Gavin Evans (Ian Ellis), Tom Briggs; Ben Uphill (Jonny Gethin), Sion Crocker (Garin Lloyd), Tyla Murvai (Marc Jones); Lee Evans, Rhys Morgan (Adam Harris); Elis Hopkins, Leon Ward, Ceri White (Iwan Davies) Other Replacement : Morgan Evans.
Proper Neath it was !
Aaron Bramwell captains a much-changed NEATH team to take on BARGOED at THE GNOLL on FRIDAY evening (kick off 7.30pm).
Scrum-half Tom Briggs (Kenfig Hill) makes his first start while stalwart Lee Evans lines up in the second row with Rhys Morgan (Trebanos).
The bench has a nostalgic air with former Gnoll favourites Kevin James and Marc Jones helping out their old Club in its hour of need alongside Jonny Gethin (Skewen), Adam Harris (Tondu), Iwan Davies (Trebanos) and Morgan Evans (Cross Keys).
Neath coaches Simon King, Paul Williams and Paul James united in saying, “This is not about those who have gone, it is about those who have stayed. And we are certain that the passionate Gnoll crowd will demonstrate their thanks and support to these loyal lads tomorrow night. Bargoed are a good, settled side but we have a committed side who will give it everything and wear the Neath jersey with pride.”
The squads are as follows :-
|15||AARON BRAMWELL||JULIAN MOGG||15|
|14||JAMES ROBERTS||DUANE DYER||14|
|13||REGAN KING||BARNEY NIGHTINGALE||13|
|12||KEIRAN WILLIAMS||DARREN HUMPHRIES||12|
|11||CALLUM HALL||ASHLEY NORTON||11|
|10||GAVIN EVANS||JOSHUA PROSSER||10|
|9||TOM BRIGGS||JANES LEADBEATER||9|
|1||BEN UPHILL||JON LAVENDAR||1|
|2||SION CROCKER||RHYS BUCKLEY||2|
|3||TYLA MURVAI||ALEX GARDNER-KEY||3|
|4||LEE EVANS||ASHLEY GIBSON||4|
|5||RHYS MORGAN||BRYCE MORGAN||5|
|6||ELIS HOPKINS||LEWIS JOHNSON||6|
|8||LEON WARD||ADAM POWELL||8|
|7||CERI WHITE||GRANT ROGERS||7|
|16||MARC JONES||IWAN BURGWIN||16|
|17||GARIN LLOYD||JORDAN PURCELL||17|
|18||JONNY GETHIN||JORDAN HOWELLS||18|
|19||ADAM HARRIS||CALLUM DAVIES||19|
|20||IWAN DAVIES||LOUIS BLACKER||20|
|21||MORGAN EVANS||DANIEL SUTER||21|
|22||KEVIN JAMES||LEWIS LIPPIETT||22|
|23||IAN ELLIS||RHYS MORGAN||23|
REFEREE – MR. GWYN MORRIS (CARDIFF)
ASSISTANT REFEREES – MR. RICHARD DEACY & MR. LLOYD HUGHES
NEXT HOME GAME – CARDIFF NOVEMBER 23rd 7.30pm
CARMARTHEN QUINS 41 NEATH 14
Neath’s tenth defeat of an already wretched season, exacerbated by off-field troubles, was not unexpected as they went down 5 tries to 2 to a well-drilled Carmarthen Quins side who did all that was necessary for a bonus point win.
The Gnoll club’s problems are coming home to roost and, with individual errors abounding and detracting from the whole-hearted efforts of others, it did not appear that all the Blacks wanted to play while on-song Quins looked keen and focussed.
The Blacks were pegged in their own half from the start and Quins’ stronger set-piece saw to it that they were rewarded as they efficiently built up a 20-nil lead by half-time, two tries by scrum half Gareth Rees, enjoying an armchair ride behind his pack, were converted by ex-Scarlets full back Aled Thomas who also kicked two penalties.
After the interval, despite some brave defence, two penalty tries (the second resulting in a yellow card for replacement lock Rhys Jones) and a hat-trick clinching effort by Rees converted by Thomas saw the score mount alarmingly.
Fortunately, the Blacks suddenly found it in them to attack strongly in the last quarter and registered tries by replacement hooker Garin Lloyd who peeled off a maul and by winger Mike Evans who made the most of a poor pass.
Evans and winger Ian Ellis looked dangerous as did replacement full back Aaron Bramwell while Keiran Williams was as effective as ever on his season’s bow. Up front, Sion Crocker, Jordan Collier and Lee Evans, helping out his old club on permit from Aberdare, were conspicuous.
Chris Morgans, an unlikely goal-kicker, converted both and injected some late direction but Quins were much the better side. Their determination and desire was not matched by the visitors and the Neath loyalists who comprised the majority in a meagre crowd are desperately worried – something must be done !
Apart from a couple of injuries, Neath have close to a full squad for the visit to CARMARTHEN QUINS on Friday evening (kick off 7.15pm).
Two familiar faces return to the Neath line-up with promising centre Keiran Williams making a welcome first appearance of the season and former back rower Lee Evans returning to assist his old club on permit from Aberdare after spells with Merthyr and Cross Keys.
The team is :-
Neath v Carmarthen Quins (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Ian Ellis, 13 Regan King, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Mike Evans; 10 Gavin Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Ryan Bean, 5 Scott Andrews; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Leon Ward, 7 Lee Evans
Replacements : 16 Luke Garrett, 17 Garin Lloyd, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Rhys Jones, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Lloyd Evans, 22 Chris Morgans, 23 Aaron Bramwell
NEATH 17 NEWPORT 20
Close but not close enough for Neath who probably had the better part of this game and were leading going into the final minutes but had their hopes of a first Premiership win dashed by a late Newport score.
Despite playing into a strong wind, Neath opened purposefully and their scrummage strength was evident as they enjoyed the better of the opening quarter and it was rather against the run of play that midway through the half Newport outside-half Matthew O’Brien gave the visitors the lead with a penalty for a wheeled scrum – typical of Neath’s luck this season as Newport resorted to this several times but escaped scot-free.
But Neath responded magnificently and, after some good work by hooker Sion Crocker, scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams was taken out by a nasty high tackle. After playing advantage, the referee came back and awarded Neath a penalty which was relatively light punishment for the offence.
Still, Neath kicked to touch and from the resultant line-out, lock Rhys Jones leapt highest and the Black forwards drove on for No.8 Ieuan Jones to touch down and full back Ed Howley’s superbly judged conversion gave the Blacks a lead they richly deserved. Newport’s Andrew Mann was harshly yellow-carded for apparently tipping Rhys Jones at the line-out and many a Neath man felt he had paid the penalty for the perpetrator of the earlier high tackle.
Neath’s lead did not last long though because, when home lock Scott Andrews drove strongly to the Newport 22 and was dispossessed, Newport flipped the ball wide and, with Neath’s defence organising too slowly, the end product was a try at the town end by full back David Richards, O’Brien’s easy conversion making it 10-7 to the visitors.
Neath were playing much better stuff than of late however and good build up play was rewarded when Crocker sent wing Mike Evans crashing over for their second try to make it 12-10 but, as is Neath’s unfortunate habit this season, they conceded a soft penalty bang on the whistle and O’Brien’s kick made it 13-12 at half-time.
The second-half started like the first. Scoring opportunities were few but Howley should probably made more of a chance on the left before confusion ensued as referee Mr. Wayne Davies (Llanelli) departed the field following a collision with a Newport player, continued, then departed and assistant Mr. Richard Brace (Maesteg) took over.
Neath were still looking good though and after a period of sustained movement and passing Howley went over to make it 17-13 to Neath. But back came Newport and after a yellow-card for replacement prop Luke Garrett the visitors struck with a late try which O’brien goaled to make it 17-20.
Neath could see the game disappearing from their grasp but had one final chance to redeem themselves. Spurning the chance of a penalty kick at goal which might have earned them another point, the Blacks kicked to the corner for a line-out. But Newport stole the ball, banged the ball out of play and, not for the first time, Neath were left to rue vital mistakes at key times.
In fairness, many Newport supporters felt that they were lucky to get away with this one but for Neath, it was a case of another winnable game that got away.
© 2018 Neath Rugby – Images courtesy of Len Kowalski @neathtog www.lensworkphotography.co.uk
Neath make several changes, two positional, for the visit of NEWPORT to The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm). The team is :-
Neath v Newport (Home)
15 Edd Howley 14 Ian Eillis 13 Regan King 12 Gavin Evans 11 Mike Evans 10 Ceiron Thomas 9 Ruben Morgan- Williams 1 Ben Uphill 2 Sion Crocker 3 Liam Tobias 4 Rhys Jones 5 Scott Andrews 6 Jordan Collier 7 Lloyd Evans 8 Ieuan Jones
Replacements: 16 Luke Garrett 17 Garin Lloyd 18 Tyla Murvai 19 Ryan Bean 20 Leon Ward 21 Ellis Hopkins 22 Chris Morgans 23 Calum Hall
Referee – Mr. Wayne Davies (Llanelli)
LLANDOVERY 30 NEATH 3
Few expected Neath to come away with much from Church Bank on Friday evening – and they were right !
In front of the BBC Scrum V cameras, Neath’s limitations were laid bare for all to see as the Blacks showed endeavour and enjoyed periods of possession but made far too many mistakes.
These let in Llandovery for four tries by prop Berian Watkins and full back Gavin Thomas in the first half then hooker Matthew Moore and replacement Lee Rees in the second-half.
Jack Maynard kicked a conversion and a penalty in the first-half to give Llandovery a 15-nil and he did the same after the break when full back Ed Howley landed a goal for Neath’s only points.
Skipper Jordan Collier again set a rousing example but Llandovery played with more vigour and method and really Neath rarely threatened and spent much of the time trying to play behind the gain-line.
There was little for the hardy Neath supporters who made the trip to enthuse over but sound enough debuts were made by lock Nathan Smith who worked hard and scrum-half Tom Briggs who showed some deft touches. Now for Newport at home !
Neath ring the changes behind for the visit to Llandovery on Friday (kick off 7.10pm) which is being televised live on Scrum V. The team is :-
Neath v Llandovery (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Ian Ellis, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 James Roberts; 10 Regan King, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Luke Garrett, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Nathan Smith; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 7 Lloyd Evans, 8 Ieuan Jones
Replacements : 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Garin Lloyd, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Leon Ward, 20 Elis Hopkins, 21 Aled Cockwell; 22 Tom Briggs, 23 Callum Hall
Referee – Mr. Adam Jones (Brecon)
NEATH 6 MERTHYR 34
Battling Neath gave it their all but were ultimately well beaten by high-riding Merthyr who led 17-3 at half-time, a score they were a little fortunate to double in the second-half when the Blacks held them in check for long periods.
Neath took first use of a strong wind but Merthyr took the lead with a try by wing Kyle Evans which full back Jarvis converted and Neath outside-half Callum Hall pegged them back with a penalty before another Merthyr try made it 12-3.
The Blacks then enjoyed a good period but, as the interval approached, captain Craig Locke used his considerable weight to barge over and, after the sin-binning of two errant props, it was 17-3 to the visitors with wind advantage to come.
Merthyr may well have expected to pull away in the second-half but they were held at bay by a dogged Neath effort. Once again, skipper Jordan Collier led by example, rocketing into tackles throughout, hooker Sion Crocker was as lively as ever and again the Neath scrum held up well.
Behind the scrum, full back Dan Guarneri and winger Ian Ellis were sound with the latter delivering one crunching tackle which warmed the crowd if not the recipient while Scott Gibson was a lively scrum-half.
The Blacks came close to scoring on a couple of occasions but had only a second Hall penalty to show for their efforts as the referee gave the visitors considerable leeway at tackles and scrums – such tolerance was not extended to Neath.
Merthyr added to their tally with tries by and flanker Perkins, replacement Williams and finally a break out try from a Neath attack which saw Baker score at the opposite end for the off-form Jarvis to convert,
Neath’s defeat by champions Merthyr was no big surprise but it was an improved, brave performance and now the Blacks move on to Llandovery on Friday when there will be no hiding place from the Scrum V cameras.
Neath ring the changes behind for the visit of Merthyr to The Gnoll on Saturday. The final place on a strong bench is subject to a fitness test :-
Neath v Merthyr (Home)
15 Dan Guarneri; 14 Ian Ellis, 13 Regan King, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Ryan Pugh; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Luke Garrett, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Scott Andrews; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 7 Lloyd Evans, 8 Leon Ward
Replacements: 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Darren Hughes, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Ryan Bean, 20 Elis Hopkins, 21 Ieuan Jones; 22 Owen Nesbitt, 23 A.N.Other
Referee – Mr. Rhys Jones (Pencoed)
MATCHDAY HOSPITALITY IS AVAILABLE:
PONTYPRIDD 76 NEATH 38
A crazy 114 points including 17 tries reflects a high octane game but it cannot be allowed to mask a shocking performance by the Welsh All Blacks whose indiscipline and defensive irresolution cost them dear.
It all started well enough for Neath who hit Pontypridd from the start with a fine try by centre Aaron Bramwell who just made the try-line before retiring with an injury recurrence. Full back Callum Hall converted but that was just about as good as it got for the Blacks as Pontypridd, encouraged by an abundance of penalties (mostly justified), took command through tries by prop Gareth Smith and wing Corey Howells.
Neath prop Ryan Thomas marked his 50th appearance with a yellow card and, as the penalty count raced into double-figures, the porous visitors’ defence conceded three more tries in the second quarter to captain Dafydd Lockyer, winger Dale Stuckey and Blues full back Ben Jones, veteran former Wales fly-half Ceri Sweeney converting two. Callum Hall landed a neat 40-metre penalty but at half-time it was 29-10 to Pontypridd.
The start of the second-half was 10 minutes old before Pontypridd scored first when No.8 Morgan Sieniawski crossed and Neath’s No.8 Ieuan Jones was binned. But 14-man Neath silenced the home crowd as they rocked Pontypridd with three tries in quick succession. Lock Ryan Bean regathered the restart to initiate a fine try by flanker Lloyd Evans before wing Ian Ellis quickly grabbed a second. Then Lloyd Evans started and finished a remarkable effort following his airborne re-start collection and a thumping run by Mike Evans. The immaculate Hall converted all three into the wind and suddenly Neath were back in it at 31-36.
5 points in arrears with 20 minutes remaining should have spelled a competitive last quarter finish. But far from it, Neath’s late fade-outs have been a feature of the season – the Blacks cannot be accused of being an 80-minute team this term and, looking increasingly ragged, they collapsed into disgrace. Scrum-half Jamie Hill got a try, Smith and Stuckey both got their second scores before centre Alex Knott, flanker Rhys Shellard and replacement Joe Popple got on the score-sheet, Sweeney converting five of them.
Neath had the last word when, after a couple of good carries by replacement Elis Hopkins, Ian Ellis sped away for their fifth try and Hall converted to bring to an end an entertaining game for those who like that kind of stuff. To go to Pontypridd and score five tries is one thing; but to concede 12 is another – and, if the alarm bells were not already ringing at The Gnoll, they must be now and should send every player running to the analysis-room to examine his part in it.
PONTYPRIDD – B.Jones; C.Howells (A.Webber), A,Knott. D.Lockyer (captain), (T. Riley), D.Stuckey; C.Sweeney, J.Hill (D.Francis); I.George (H.Owen), H.Dowden (J.Page), G.Smith (J.Popple); S.Smallman, C.Dicomidis; L.Evans (R.Jones), M.Sieniawski (S.Jenkins), R.Shellard.
NEATH – C.Hall; I.Ellis, A.Bramwell (J.Roberts, R.Pugh), G.Evans, M.Evans; R.King, C.Morgans (D.Guarneri); L.Garrett (B.Uphill), S.Crocker (D.Hughes), R.Thomas (L.Tobias); R.Jones (E.Hopkins), R.Bean; J.Collier (captain) (C.White), I.Jones, L.Evans
Referee – Mr. Jason Morris (Rhigos)
Winger Mike Evans returns after injury and prop Ryan Thomas plays his 50th game when Neath visit Pontypridd.
The Neath team to play Pontypridd at Sardis Road on Saturday is :-
Neath v Pontypridd (Away)
15 Callum Hall; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Aaron Bramwell, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Ian Ellis; 10 Regan King, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Luke Garrett, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Ryan Bean; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 7 Lloyd Evans, 8 Ieuan Jones
Replacements : 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Darren Hughes, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Elis Hopkins, 20 Ceri White, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 Dan Guarneri, 23 Ryan Pugh
Referee – Mr. Jason Morris (Rhigos)