The funeral of former Neath RFC secretary Allan Benjamin will be held at London Road Presbyterian Church on Tuesday, May 2nd at 12.30pm followed by a private service at Margam Crematorium.
NEATH 29 points BARGOED 36 points
Neath’s Jekyll and Hyde progress continued when they missed out on the opportunity to go top of Tier 2 in contriving to throw away a 19-point lead against Bargoed.
For much of the season, Neath’s form has fluctuated from game to game; this time it fluctuated within a game – and coaches Gareth Llewellyn and Paul Williams were distraught figures at the end of this alarming second-half fade-out.
It had all started so well for Neath who looked ready to carry on their fine form from the 59-14 win over Cross Keys the previous week. A skilful take off a Reuben Morgan-Williams break by hooker Ifan Phillips saw him cross for Neath’s opening try within two minutes.
Full of running, the Blacks added another by centre Gavin Evans who was soon followed to the try-line by Phillips for his second. Ed Howley converted both and Neath were 19-nil to the good before Bargoed hit back with a try by winger David Evans which outside-half Calum Jones converted.
Howley then turned on the burners to scorch away for Neath’s bonus point fourth try and he converted himself but on the stroke of half-time Bargoed bagged a crucial score through lock Joshua Jacas which Jones converted to make it 26-14 at the end of a breath-taking half of running rugby.
Bargoed came out firing in the second-half as they effectively wiped out Neath’s off-loading game. Tries by Jones and centre Ashley Norton, the second converted by Jones brought the scores level. Neath rallied mid-half and Howley was denied a certain second score by the referee calling a forward pass.
Howley edged Neath in front with a penalty only for Jones to cancel it out almost immediately and Bargoed, with the wind in their sails, clinched it when Jones went over under the posts, full back Matthew Lewis adding the straightforward conversion.
It was disappointing for Neath but another object lesson for their young side – no game is over until it is over. But full marks to Bargoed whose comeback was most admirable and they deserved their success in a 9-try spectacular which again provided many thrills for long-suffering Gnoll supporters.
The vagaries of form of Neath’s young side makes watching them a compelling, if frustrating, experience. The style is exciting if not yet efficient and Neath need to knuckle down to nail down results.
Only two wins in their remaining games at Swansea and at home to Bridgend will be enough to get Neath a home play-off while Bargoed, on this form and with three home games to come against Newport, Bridgend and Cardiff, can still qualify.
After their thumping 59-14 win over previously unbeaten leaders Cross Keys, Neath know that a win over Bargoed at The Gnoll on Easter Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) will take them top of the table.
In one of only two Premiership games being played on Saturday and the only one in Tier 2, the Welsh All Blacks are aiming to maximise their game in hand and unsurprisingly have named a very similar line-up to last week.
Neath make just three changes with Gavin Evans replacing Keiran Williams (shoulder) and Dan Guarneri resuming for Luke Price who has been called up by the Ospreys. Hooker Ifan Phillips and prop Ryan Thomas return up front while Glynneath wing James Roberts is on the bench alongside a new face in Wales Under-20’s back rower Aled Ward.
Neath v Bargoed (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Aaron Grabham, 13 Max Llewellyn, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Dan Guarneri, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Ifan Phillips, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Leon Ward, 7 Charlie Davies
Replacements – 16 Sion Crocker, 17 Neil White, 18 Geraint James, 19 Jonny Griffiths, 20 Aled Ward, 21 Chris Morgans/Josh Guy, 22 Rory Morgan-Williams, 23 James Roberts
Referee – Mr. Dewi Phillips (Aberystwyth)
Easter Saturday sees Neath entertain Bargoed at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm).
After Neath’s spectacular 8-try 59-14 win over Cross Keys last week, the young Welsh All Blacks will be aiming to continue in this vein but Bargoed are redoubtable opponents and it will be anything but easy for Neath.
This will be Bargoed’s first visit to The Gnoll in the Premiership although they have visited twice before in the Cup and once in the 1930’s.
This is Bargoed’s first year in the Premiership and, like Neath, they have been unlucky to be on the wrong end in some closely-fought games.
They have played just the three games so far in the second stage of the season and with 4 games still to play they have it all to play for.
The Neath team will be announced as usual on Thursday night after training with centres Matthew Pearce and Gavin Evans likely to be available again. Winger Kristian Corbisiero is back in training.
Supporters are reminded that entrance to The Gnoll – for season-ticket holders and paying spectators – is via the turnstiles at the Town End of the ground. Full catering facilities are available inside the ground. Please come early to beat the Easter congestion !
After Neath’s spectacular 8-try 59-14 demolition of Cross Keys, things are as tight as can be at the top – and a win for Neath next Saturday will propel them into first place.
Newport remain top after dismissing Swansea 28-10. Rhys Jenkins, Chay Smith, Llywarch ap Myrddin and Matty O’Brien got tries, Arwel Robson converting four, for the Rodney Paraders. Scrapping Swansea’s sole try came from Paul John, Laurence Howley (Ed’s brother) converted and Josh Martin kicked a penalty.
Despite having flanker Tom Morgan red-carded again, Bridgend condemned Cardiff to a remarkable fifth consecutive defeat 33-26 at the Brewery Field. Home tries were scored by Eddie Drake, Connor Tantum, Matthew Powell, Tom O’Flaherty and Jamie Murphy who converted four. Cameron Gibbon, Will Rees-Hole, Harry Millard and Rhys Carre got tries for Cardiff, Jarrod Evans converting three.
On Sunday, Llanell swamped Bargoed 52-7 with tries Tom Rogers (2), Jack Condy (2), Kalum Evans, Steffan Hughes, Tom Williams, Lloyd Pike and six conversions by Ioan Hughes to a Bryce Morgan try converted by James Hallett. The table now reads :-
|Saturday, April 15||Neath v Bargoed|
|Saturday, April 22||Bargoed v Newport|
|Saturday, April 29||Bargoed v Bridgend|
|Cross Keys v Cardiff|
|Newport v Llanelli|
|Swansea v Neath|
|Friday, May 5||Neath v Bridgend|
|Saturday, May 6||Bargoed v Cardiff|
|Newport v Cross Keys|
|Saturday, May 13||Play Offs : 1 v 4, 2 v 3|
|Saturday, May 20||Play Off Final|
Neath team manager Martyn Morris was full of praise for his young charges after Saturday’s breathtaking 59-14 victory over Cross Keys but he is insistent that the team will not get carried away – especially with battling Bargoed lurking on Easter Saturday.
“Saturday’s victory was hugely encouraging,” he said, “and a big step in developing the confidence in this young side which had an average age in the back division of around 20.
“A lot has been made of the return of Keiran Williams and Reuben Morgan-Williams from Wales Under-20’s duty – and rightly so because they were superb and always turn up for us with smiles on their faces and perform.
“But don’t under-estimate the displays of the other lads too. Luke Price had easily the best of his all too few outings in a Neath jersey this season, Max Llewellyn – the youngest of the lot – played well ahead of his years, both wings scored and Geraint Llewellyn in particular showed the determination and commitment to the cause expected of a Neath player.
“On top of that we had Ed Howley’s 24-point haul with his immaculate goal-kicking and Chris Morgans showing all his nous off the bench.
“And don’t forget the forwards either. They were up against one of the more formidable packs in the Division but the whole eight deserve praise – and the Chris Morgans try after a steal against the head was ample reward for their efforts throughout the afternoon.
“The ovation the team got as they passed through the packed Clubhouse afterwards reminded me of my days. Some of the younger lads were quite taken aback but it shows the old Neath desire is still there.
“Cross Keys is done for now – and we move on to the next challenge against Bargoed. It would be nice to put on a repeat show for our supporters but Bargoed will be smarting after losing at Llanelli on Sunday.
“We know they are a far, far better side than that and it will take another ‘A’ game performance from us to succeed and get to the top of the section.”
Neath RFC and Welsh rugby has lost one of its leading former administrators with the passing of Allan Benjamin who served the Welsh All Blacks as secretary from 1972 to 1998.
Originally from the Melyn area of the Town, Allan Benjamin was a Neath man through and through and, apart from a short spell in London where he refereed, he lived in Neath throughout his life.
A product of Neath Grammar School, Allan taught history in Swansea before becoming head-teacher at Cymer Afan Comprehensive School and was one of several educationalist rugby secretaries at the time, Swansea RFC’s David Price and Ebbw Vale RFC’s Ivor George amongst them.
For his services, Allan was honoured as a Life Member of Neath RFC.
Current Neath secretary Mike Price said, “Allan was a true gentleman and was of the old school of administrators. He was a very efficient secretary and integrity was his watchword in all his dealings – if Allan said something you could guarantee it was right and if he said he’d do something you knew it would get done properly.
“I saw him recently and, although his health was declining, he was still very interested in the Neath Club and, as always, wished us well with the courtesy one had come to expect from him.
“His dedication and attention to detail over 26 years of loyal service speaks for itself and he was one in a line of long-serving secretaries who have carefully guided the Club’s affairs throughout its history.”
Allan Benjamin’s wife Janet pre-deceased him and he is survived by his son Hywel to whom the Neath Club’s deepest sympathies are extended.
The “Western Mail” championship is making a come-back !
The popular competition which served Welsh rugby so splendidly for nigh on 100 years and propelled the nation to the very top of the world will re-appear next season in the face of the “melt-down” suffered by Premiership clubs this season following the much-criticised “split” season which has dumb-founded so many of the Game’s followers.
Next year Wales’ top clubs will return to their roots in a “suits all” solution to Welsh club woes. It will also be seen as a boost to the newspaper which has lost its position as Wales’ best-seller since it turned itself over to a non-stop diet of sanitised speak from the public-relations departments of the professional entities instead of the popular clubs.
From next season, Wales’ leading clubs will play each other when they want to – and as often as they want to – providing a welcome boon to hard-pressed club treasurers.
Clubs like Aberavon, Neath and Swansea might play each other 3 or even 4 times a year as might the clubs in Gwent in fully meaningful fixtures thereby ensuring a flow of income via the turnstiles. Midweek rugby – so popular from the 1960’s onwards – is also likely to make a come-back thus bringing into play the vastly under-utilised, yet expensive, floodlighting systems which the clubs must maintain.
On the other hand, clubs who feel their squads are stretched beyond breaking-point by regional and national calls will have the freedom to play fewer games if they wish – although it is felt that eventually they too will come around to playing more games.
The only constraint upon clubs is that they must play the other clubs in the Division at least once. The overall placings will be determined on a percentage basis – like it used to be – and, as before, Welsh Cup games will not count. There will be no “friendlies” with nothing at stake.
Cross-border fixtures against opponents of national league standard from the other home unions – although difficult to get – will count towards the table thus encouraging an outward-looking culture rather than the rather parochial, inward-looking structure which currently exists.
The new table also provides a ray of hope for aspirational non-Premiership clubs and numbers will be augmented by other clubs who share the aims and ideals of the existing 16. This could spell a return for Pontypool, other clubs who have fallen from grace or rising new entities like Narberth.
Bob Bank, chairman of the Welsh Rugby Supporters Association said, “It is great news. The flexibility of the new system will be a big boost for supporters who have become fed up with a reduced diet of rugby played at irregular times with huge gaps in fixture-lists. Now every game will count and Welsh club rugby can start to win back its appeal. At last people are beginning to wake up to the fact that rugby’s popularity and club viability depends upon far more than a small group of elite professionals. I can’t wait for September.”
… As told to our Special Reporter, Miss April Foole !
Following months of nominations and careful deliberations, the five inductees into the 2017 Hall of Fame have been chosen.
The five Neath greats will be inducted into the hall at a special celebration evening on Friday 26th May
The chosen five are (in no particular order):
Stalwart wing Elgan Rees was a fixture in the Neath team throughout the late 1970s and 1980s. He toured twice with the British and Irish Lions, winning his first Lions cap before he’d played for Wales. He eventually went on to win 13 caps for Wales, scoring six tries.
Blindside flanker Phil Pugh is latest player from our golden era. A hard tackling and abrasive player, one of his finest games in the Neath shirt came in that memorable game against New Zealand. His display that day led him to winning his first (and, amazingly, only) cap against the tourists a few weeks later.
Second row forward Roy John’s was renowned for his prowess in the lineout.
This led to him making his debut for Wales in 1950 and going on to win 19 caps for his country. He toured Australia and New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions in 1950, becoming, alongside Rees Stephens, the first Neath players to play for the Lions.
With an incredible 511 appearances, Dai Parker has played for Neath more times than any other player. The diminutive outside half was a key figure in the Neath side between 1965 and 1974, captaining the club during his final season. One of his finest moments came when he scored the winning try in the inaugural WRU cup final in 1972 cup.
Glen Ball was a distinguished centre who played for Neath during the 1970s, playing in the cup final triumph of 1972. He was also a key figure in the coaching team alongside Ron Waldron and Brian Thomas, during the club’s golden era of the late eighties and early nineties. Although he never played for Wales in a capped international, he did play against Argentina in 1968, for which he was belatedly awarded a President’s cap.
These five players will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday 26th May, where they will be awarded with their commemorative caps. https://neathrugbysupporters.com/2017/03/15/date-revealed-for-2017-hall-of-fame/
Tickets for the evening will be on sale at Neath’s remaining home games this season (Cross Keys, 8th April & Bargoed, 15th April).
Tickets cost £7.50 for supporters club members and £11 for non-members.
The Hall of Fame is sponsored by R&SD Risk Management
Neath RFC is saddened to hear that one of its oldest players former wing forward Bill Brennan has passed away.
Bill Brennan played for Neath in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s when the Club boasted a very formidable pack indeed and which included three British Lions in Rees Stephens, Roy John and Courtenay Meredith – a trio who were all in the pack the last time Wales defeated New Zealand in 1953.
Neath secretary Mike Price said, “The Brennan family has a long link with the Neath club, going back to Jack Brennan who was outside-half when Neath won their first Welsh championship in 1909/10.
“Back then and when Bill arrived on the scene, certain qualities were needed to be a member of the Neath pack and Bill obviously possessed them in abundance as he established a regular place in the side as a back row forward whose skills were such that he would occasionally be taken out of the pack to centre to cover injuries.
“He also represented the Army and Saracens and was a real character in a Neath side of many talents.
“Bill was a member of the Neath Former Players and attended all their functions until fairly recently. He was a very fit man and, even in his late Eighties, he would regularly walk from his home in Crynant to Neath.
The Club will honour his memory with a minute’s silence before their next home game on Saturday, April 8th against Cross Keys – a side against whom Bill scored one of his many Neath tries in a 16-nil win in 1952 !
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 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.”
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.