Neath Rugby News

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 9 NEWPORT 25 – (18-03-2017)

NEATH 9 points NEWPORT 25 points

What a difference a week makes !

After scaling the heights in the second-half against Aberavon in a cry-less try-fest, Neath plumbed the depths against Newport in a try-less cry-fest.

Maybe the unusual midday kick-off was to blame but Meath gave an unusually subdued performance and there was little of the attacking verve and the thrill-a-minute of the previous week – and, remember, the kick-off time was the same for both sides.

After starting brightly, Neath were soon 6-nil up before their behind-the scrum intentions were dented by a series of unfortunate injuries which ultimately saw four men replaced and hooker Aled Morris pressed into action as a makeshift wing.

Two of those injuries came in the first 25 minutes and they took the edge off Neath and deprived them of on-song wing Alec Jenkins and experienced centre Gavin Evans. Neath lost some of their early thrust and moving their best attacker Ed Howley to the wing did not help – although this was later rectified.

Apart from gaining the scrummage edge from an early stage, the Neath forwards were strangely muted in other phases. Prop Ben Uphill and lock Rhys Jones made early charges but all too rarely did Neath take the game to Newport, hard as scrum-half Chris Morgans tried to prompt some positive action – and half-time was reached with Neath trailing 9-13.

Ed Howley was responsible for all Neath’s points as he landed three well-struck penalties. But crucially Newport got the only try of the half when Wales Sevens star Elliot Frewen went in under the posts for outside-half Geraint O’Driscoll to convert and he kicked two penalties to nudge the visitors ahead.

Newport continued to get the better of things in the second-half and it was only stout defence over long periods that kept them out with home back-rowers Charlie Davies, Leon Ward and Jordan Collier working overtime.

The home side lacked nothing when it came to defensive will but the visitors added two second-half tries.

The first came when full back Llywarch ap Myrddin was allowed to run too far before wrong-footing Dan Guarneri. O’Driscoll converted and, try as they might, Neath simply could not get going and their scrum advantage whittled – or was whistled ? – away.

When Newport added a third try by flanker Rhodri Jones, it was all over for Neath whose low-key performance is a concern ahead of remaining League games against Cross Keys, Bargoed and Bridgend at home and the away game at Swansea.

Still, on a day of scrummaging controversy and mayhem in Paris, at least spectators were not subjected to 20 minutes of extra time at The Gnoll !


MATCH PREVIEW
It is high noon at The Gnoll on Saturday when Neath host Newport in a key Premiership T2 fixture with the kick off timed for midday.

Last week Neath enjoyed a superbly entertaining 41-36 victory over Aberavon and the whole XV put themselves firmly in the selection frame but the Welsh All Blacks’ side shows five changes with several key men returning including top points scorer Ed Howley who has amassed 217 points already this season.
Also back are ex-Wales centre Gavin Evans, hooker Sion Crocker, lock Jonny Griffiths and back-rower Leon Ward whose arrival as a replacement sparked last week’s revival.
On top of a hefty injury-list, the home side will again be without centre Keiran Williams, the new Wales Under-20’s captain, and scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams who are on international duty against France.
“Newport are always a formidable side and a win will put the winners firmly in the frame for a play-off place,” says skipper Jordan Collier, “and we want to give our loyal supporters that reward. Our squad is stretched with just the 23 available but, as we showed against Aberavon last week, we’ve got some good players to come off the bench when necessary and, if we all play well enough, we can do it.”

Neath v Newport (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Aaron Grabham, 13 Max Llewellyn, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Dan Guarneri, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jonny Griffiths; 6 Charlie Davies, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Jordan Collier (captain)
Replacements – 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Neil White, 18 Callum Jones, 19 Lyndon Bateman, 20 Aled Morris, 21 Josh Guy, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Rory Morgan-Williams

Referee – Mr. Mike English (Caldicot)

IT’S CAPTAIN KEIRAN

Neath centre Keiran Williams will captain Wales for the first time when the Under-20’s meet France at Montauban on Friday (8.05pm).

Keiran will be joined in the starting line-up by team-mate Reuben Morgan-Williams who will wear the No.9 shirt for the first time this season.

Neath team manager Martyn Morris said, “The Club’s sincere congratulations go to Keiran and Reuben who are two outstanding prospects. They have both bought into the Neath culture and are well grounded individuals which is a tribute to them, their families, their school (Ysgol Gyfun Ystalyfera) and the Glynneath and Neath Athletic clubs.

“We wish them every success on Friday and look forward to their return afterwards.”

NEATH’s RALLYING CALL

Neath team manager Martyn Morris is looking for the Welsh All Blacks to finish the season with a bang.

After Saturday’s sparkling 41-36 ‘non-League’ win over Aberavon, the former Wales back-rower said, “We must push on now and build on what was a very good victory.

“We have made progress this season and are aiming to finish strongly. We won twice on the road at Cardiff and Llanelli last month, now four of our last five League games are at home.

“We must use that advantage to the full and we need the backing of all our supporters to help us challenge for the play-offs – they have been patient for a long time and we need them there with us to enjoy a strong finish.

“Newport at home on Saturday, kicking off at midday, is ‘high noon’ for us and we rested some key men last Saturday – Ed Howley, Gavin Evans, Matthew Pearce, Ryan Thomas and Jon Barley to name but a few.

“Those who took the field gave everything, just as we always expect, and we battled to the very end. By playing rugby football like we can, we crossed for seven tries and the rewards came our way.”

Unbeaten Neath currently lie second in “Tier 2” and are eight points behind leaders Cross Keys but have two games in hand.

“Newport have also won both their ties so we have stressed the importance of Saturday’s Gnoll clash to the squad,” says Morris. “Supporters have their part to play and after the Newport game they can settle down to a full day’s rugby in the Clubhouse.”

KEIRAN DOES IT AGAIN !

Congratulations to Neath centre Keiran Williams who repeated his achievement for Wales Under-20’s against Scotland when he again scored two tries and was voted Man of the Match in the 41-27 win against Ireland.

Scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams played his part too, coming on as a second-half replacement.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 41 ABERAVON 36 – (11-03-2017)

NEATH 41 points ABERAVON 36 points

Fast, fluent, flowing, furious, fisticuffs, fantastic tries – forgive the “f”-words but what a game !

In picture-perfect conditions at The Gnoll, Neath and Aberavon served up a wonderful exhibition of exciting, spectator-grabbing rugby in this non-league fixture – don’t call it a friendly because that is one “f”-word not to be used and on times it was not !

Neither side was at full strength but the two teams displayed outstanding attacking intent and the game was played at 100 miles per hour over the full 80 minutes, the ball in play time hitting staggering proportions and it ended with a win for Neath in a dramatic finish on an amazing try-count of 7 to 6.

Neath opened the scoring with a try after two minutes by hard-running winger Alec Jenkins which Dan Guarneri converted from wide out. Aberavon levelled through a splendid try by the in-form Matthew Jenkins which Steff Williams converted before Neath forced two line-outs five metres from the Aberavon line which came to nothing.

Thereafter, the first-half belonged firmly to Aberavon whose alertness, confidence and cleverly-coached angles of running showed just why they topped the Premiership at the “split”. Dogged Neath defence kept them at bay before a loose kick offered possession to the visitors who counter-attacked from deep and Lee Purnell, supporting like the good flanker he is, got their second try after a slick movement.

Steff Williams converted and then the outside-half whose forte is unlocking defences added the extras to a virtuoso try of his own. As half-time approached, Neath’s Guarneri was on his way to a try under the posts only to be recalled for an off-side offence; Aberavon took the penalty quickly, the Neath defence did not marshal itself and flying wing Matthew Jenkins went over at the other end for his second try which made it 26-7 at half-time.

Neath had to get the first post-interval score and they opened the second-half every bit as brightly as they had the first. Five minutes in, outside-half Guarneri cross-kicked accurately into the waiting arms of winger Aaron Grabham who outstripped the Avon defence on a 50-metre run for his 20th try of the season.

As if in brief tribute to the history of this fixture, this signalled a flurry of fisticuffs and soon afterwards the lively Steff Williams sped away for his second try so, with half an hour remaining, there was still no sign of anything but a comfortable Aberavon win.

But two minutes later, Leon Ward – who had just arrived as a replacement for lock Lyndon Bateman – took a hand and he pulled back a try which Guarneri converted. Neath were now playing with a hint of fury and, when Ward cast off Joe Tomalin-Reeves with a monster hand-off, the ball was transferred to skipper Jordan Collier who shrugged off defenders on a 50-metre dash to the line for the next try.

The Neath forwards were on top in the final quarter, stealing line-outs to complement a strong scrummage which once had Avon reversing rapidly over 15 metres. Midway through the half, Ward was again involved when Neath ran the ball from their 22, Guarneri freeing centre Rory Morgan-Williams whose run took play up-field where possession was recycled and Guarneri’s well-judged cross-kick was capitalised upon by Alec Jenkins for his second try as referee Gareth Newman, quite correctly, and not for the last time over-ruled an optimistic Aberavon touch-judge. The conversion was missed but suddenly Neath were back in it at 29-31.

Amidst a flurry of replacements, Aberavon introduced wing Kain Teear-Bourge who nipped in for the visitors’ sixth try and that seemed to be curtains for Neath. But Aberavon promptly dropped the kick-off and Neath, moving the ball through hands with aplomb, created the overlap for teenager Tom Sadler and the Dulais Valley Youth player squeezed in at the corner for Neath’s sixth try – his first in the All Black shirt.

With Guarneri off the field, Alec Jenkins took the conversion and, although he struck it well, his attempt faded away and Neath trailed 34-36. In a grandstand finish, the Neath youngsters attacked again and replacement scrum-half Josh Guy went over for what was the 13th and winning try of a truly remarkable game.

Jenkins’ superb conversion capped an incredible comeback and there was barely time for the re-start before the final whistle was sounded by referee Gareth Newman who deserves a lot of praise for his sensible handling of a captivating game.

In a game like this with the emphasis on attacking running, it is easy to overlook the contribution of the forwards. Both eights worked hard and Aberavon’s Ben Davies, Purnell and Tomalin-Reeves regularly caught the eye. Equally as prominent for Neath were Geraint James, Charlie Davies and Aled Morris.

Unlikely as Neath’s win seemed for much of the game, victory was ultimately achieved and their enterprising handling should give the All Blacks huge encouragement as they head into next Saturday’s “High Noon” encounter with Newport at The Gnoll.

Error reduction is still a must but, after that dreadful defeat at Bridgend a week earlier, the second-half in particular was a transformation and Neath’s never-say-die attitude was as refreshing as it was necessary in a game which will live long in the memory.

Had this game been played under the guise of Southern Hemisphere “super” rugby, the critics would have been purring – for those who were not there, these teams are worth watching !


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath host near-neighbours Aberavon at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

The Welsh All Blacks’ side is almost completely different from that which lost at Bridgend last week and Neath have injury concerns ahead of next week’s key match with Newport.

The home side are also without centre Keiran Williams and scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams who are on Wales Under-20’s duty against Ireland on Saturday evening.

Hooker Ifan Phillips returns after a spell with the Ospreys so Aled Morris reverts once again to the back row.

Neath v Aberavon (Home)
15 Gareth Morris; 14 Aaron Grabham, 13 Rory Morgan-Williams, 12 Iwan Evans, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Dan Guarneri, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Ifan Phillips, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Lyndon Bateman; 6 Aled Morris, 8 Charlie Davies, 7 Jordan Collier (captain)

Replacements – 16 Sion Crocker, 17 Callum Jones, 18 Leon Ward, 19 Joe Williams, 20 Tom Sadler, 21 Josh Guy, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 A.N. Other

Referee – Mr. Gareth Newman (Cardiff)

CONGRATULATIONS TO UNDER-20s

Neath’s congratulations go to centre Keiran Williams and scrum-half Reuben
Morgan-Williams who have again won Wales under-20’s selection against Ireland
tomorrow and team manager Martyn Morris is proud of the progress of the youngsters
in the Neath squad.

“Keiran and Reuben are two of an outstanding crop of youngsters we have at The
Gnoll,” he said.

“While we have moved – and are moving – to add more experience to the squad, some
people forget just how young some of these lads are. Take last week’s game at
Bridgend when we had six teenagers take the field in Iwan Evans, Matthew Pearce, Max
Llewellyn, Callum Jones, Tom Hayward and Charlie Davies.”

“The more playing-time against good opposition these lads can get, the better they
will get,” says Morris ,”and we are looking forward to the team as a whole pushing
on now over the remainder of the season.”

BLACKS TO HOST ABERAVON

Neath will host Aberavon at The Gnoll on Saturday, March 11th in an additional friendly fixture (kick off 2.30pm).
Neath secretary Mike Price is doing his utmost to fill in the gaps in the post-split fixture-list and he said, “With Wales playing Ireland on Friday evening, there was an opportunity for a Saturday game and they don’t come better than Neath-Aberavon.

“Finding games of an appropriate standard is never easy and I’ve been in touch with many Welsh teams as well as English and Scottish clubs to no avail but now we have found opponents on our own doorstep so to speak.

“It is slightly strange to be playing Bridgend five times and both Cardiff and Aberavon four times in a season. In fact, the last time we had anything like such a situation was in war-time !

“Wearing my historian hat, it was in 1939/40 during the first year – the “phoney war” – of World War 2. After originally cancelling all activity, the WRU allowed clubs to arrange friendly games from the end of September.

“The exigencies of war meant repeat fixtures with the big South Wales clubs and Neath played Aberavon six times. More remarkably, we played Swansea seven times, Neath winning six of them.

“Thank goodness, this situation has not been forced upon us by war – just by a very peculiar fixture schedule. But at least we are playing, there is entertainment for supporters and we hope to fill in later blank dates too so keep watching this space.”

A NOT SO BLANK WEEKEND ?

It was a week of inactivity for Neath but there was plenty happening in the rugby world.

On Friday evening, Neath were toppled from top spot in Tier 2 by Cross Keys whose 26-nil bonus point win at Swansea sent them 4 points ahead, although Neath still have a game in hand. Keys’ tries came from Lewis Barnett, Scott Andrews, Leon Andrews and Matt Powell with Josh Prosser converting three.

Elsewhere, television viewers will have been delighted with centre Keiran Williams’ performance in the high-scoring Wales Under-20’s 65-34 win against Scotland at Cumbernauld. Keiran scored two tries and nearly scored another prompting BBC’s Phil Steele to describe him as part-Scott Gibbs, part Brian O’Driscoll !

Keiran was voted Man of the Match so congratulations to him and to Reuben Morgan-Williams who took another step on his rehabilitation trail when he took the field as replacement scrum-half in the 54th minute.

Back in the League on Saturday, Newport beat Cardiff 17-8 thanks to tries by Garin Harris and Rhys Jenkins plus 9 points from Geraint O’Driscoll, Cardiff had a penalty by Jarrod Evans and a late try by Will Rees-Hole.

Llanelli lost 21-28 to Bridgend. Chris Williams, Iestyn Merriman, Ashton Evans and Garan Loughor with Joseph Scrivens kicking 8 points. Llanelli tries came from Jack Condy, Rhys Fawcett and Greg George and with Dion Jones converting three,

The latest Tier 2 table is :-

P W D L FOR AGST T Points
Cross Keys 3 3 0 0 51 19 5 13
Neath 2 2 0 0 57 24 7 9
Newport 2 2 0 0 42 22 6 9
Bridgend 3 1 0 2 55 62 7 6
Swansea 3 1 0 2 47 77 6 6
Bargoed 1 1 0 0 18 13 3 4
Llanelli 3 0 0 3 42 74 5 2
Cardiff 3 0 0 3 50 71 4 1

Next Saturday (MARCH 4th) sees the Cup quarter-finals but the good news is that NEATH will be in action – against Bridgend at the Brewery Field (kick off 2.30pm).

BLACKS TO VISIT BREWERY FIELD

Neath will visit the Brewery Field on Saturday to play Bridgend in a friendly fixture (kick off 2.30pm).

Team Manager Martyn Morris said, “After going without a game last weekend we need to get back into action. Finding worthwhile games at this stage is never easy so Bridgend fit the bill and the Brewery Field is not too far away and is always a popular venue for our supporters.

“We hope to get a home fixture for the following week – our secretary Mike Price has contacted numerous Welsh clubs who are not in league or cup action and others so watch this space.”

KEIRAN & REUBEN IN WALES U-20’s

Congratulations to Neath’s Keiran Williams and Reuben Morgan-Williams who are included in the Wales squad to play Scotland on Friday.

Keiran starts for the third time this season while Reuben is on the bench after playing his first half an hour’s rugby at Cross Keys for Neath last Saturday.