RESULT: NEATH 32 LLANDOVERY 40
Match report to follow…
Neath play Llandovery in their penultimate home game of the Premiership season on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
The Blacks were a little unlucky to lose out 36-41 in an 11-try spectacular at Llanelli on Saturday last and they make a number of changes to the starting line-up.
Winger James Roberts and centre Matthew Pearce return while Luke Scully and Scott Gibson team up at half-back. Up front, Liam Tobias, Garin Lloyd and Ryan Thomas form the front row with Ryan Bean and Jon Barley packing behind.
Jordan Collier leads the team from the back-row alongside Leon Ward and Aled Cockwell with Skewen’s Stefan Bond figuring on the replacements’ bench for the first time.
Neath v Llandovery (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Iwan Evans, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Luke Scully, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Liam Tobias, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Ryan Bean, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Leon Ward, 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Stefan Bond, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Geraint James, 19 Matthew Davies 20 Aled Morris, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Dan Guarneri, 23 Geraint Llewellyn
It is sad to recall that 10 years ago at Cardiff this weekend – Sunday, April 20 to be precise – Neath RFC suffered a tragic blow when scrum-half Gareth Jones incurred a serious neck injury from which complications ultimately cost him his life.
The match had been switched to the Sunday for live S4C coverage and at the final whistle, in the most muted title celebrations, Neath (who lost the game 22-24) were crowned champions – but everyone’s thoughts were with Gareth Jones.
A fortnight later, Neath dedicated their WRU Cup final against Pontypridd to their young scrum-half whose life hung in the balance. The Blacks wore special “Snid” t-shirts for the warm-up and, most fittingly, completed the double with a 28-22 win.
Normally such an achievement would have presaged a summer of celebration … but it was not to be as Gareth Jones passed away on June 16, 2008.
Neath Rugby Supporters Club are inviting members to vote for their player of the year.
Between now and the end of the season, members can cast their vote and have their say on who they think deserves to follow in the footsteps of previous winners Alex Humphrey, Leon Ward and Ed Howley.
We want to know who you think the standout performer has been – who gave it their all, week in, week out? Who impressed you the most?
Members can vote by visiting the supporters club table in the clubhouse at the Neath v Llandovery game on Saturday and the Aberavon game on 4th May. You can also email your selection to firstname.lastname@example.org – ensure you include your name and your supporters club membership number.
The winner will be presented with their award at the Hall of Fame night on Friday 18th May.
So get thinking, and make sure you vote for your favourite player.
Voting is only open to Neath Rugby Supporters Club members.
One vote per member.
Closing date for voting – Friday 4th May
Tickets for Neath Rugby Supporters Club’s annual Hall of Fame night will be going on sale at the Neath v Llandovery game on Saturday.
Taking place on Friday 18th May, the evening will see Neath greats Adam Jones, Dai Morgan, Carl Gnojek, Mike Richards and Grahame Hodgson inducted into the Hall of Fame. The popular event has always sold out in the past and so fans are encouraged to buy their tickets as soon as possible.
Tickets cost £10 for supporters club members and £12.50 for non-members and will be on sale from the supporters club table in the clubhouse before and after Saturday’s game.
Make sure you secure yours before they all go.
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)
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
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)
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
Neath RFC have signed Dragons prop Luke Garrett who won the Guinness Pro 12 with the Scarlets last season. The 5’11’’, 121kg, 23 year old loose head flies out today as part of the Dragons squad for their Italian trip against Treviso and Zebre and will join up with Neath RFC in June for their 2018/19 season.
Luke Garrett follows fellow Dragons forward Scott Andrews to Neath RFC and like Scott he’s come through the Dragons pathway and Academy before being awarded his first professional contract by current Neath Head Coach, Lyn Jones. Luke also represented Wales U18s and was capped sixteen times by Wales U20s before making his professional debut against the Scarlets in 2015. In 2016/17 he joined the Scarlets on a 3 month loan and after initially impressing they extended it for the season with Luke playing eight times for them in their Pro 12 winning campaign. This season Luke has played ten times for the Dragons prior to his Italy trip this week.
Luke commented on his move to Neath ‘I’m really excited to be joining Neath, enjoying my rugby and linking up once again with my former Head Coach, Lyn Jones. I still think I’m young at 23 for a prop so I’d like to get back into professional rugby and Lyn is such an infectious character and motivator I know he’ll get the best out of me. I know I’m only going to achieve this if I can get back playing to my best and get Neath winning again. I’d like to thank the Dragons for the last five years which have been a great experience and where I’ve made some brilliant friends but I’m really looking forward to this new challenge and new chapter with Neath’
Neath RFC General Manager, Will Thomas, commented on the recruitment ‘I first watched Luke play for Blaenau Gwent Schools U15s when they upset Cardiff Schools U15s in the Dewar Shield completion, before recruiting him into the Dragons Academy. Like you’d expect from any Tredegar product he had an appetite for the scrum but what impressed me was his willingness to carry hard against a tough Cardiff Schools team on the side of a wet, windy and cold mountain in Tredegar. Fast forward eight years and I was in sunny Hong Kong when I stayed up to watch him win the Pro 12 with the Scarlets and was over the moon for him when he picked up his winners medal as I know how passionate he is about rugby and how hard he works. I’m looking forward to working with him again in Neath.’
Neath RFC Head Coach, Lyn Jones commented ‘This is another good addition for Neath Rugby as we need to set higher standards in everything we are doing rugby wise and Luke with his professional rugby experience will help us achieve that.’
‘Our Chairman, Mike Cuddy, Will Thomas and I have agreed a strategy to target players who are still young and hungry but who have professional experience and standards that will rub off on our other young players. Luke and Scott Andrews fit that criteria perfectly and just as importantly for Neath RFC both players want to win. It’s such an important season next year with four or five teams being relegated that we have to improve results wise while still having a sustainable model. I’m convinced our new strategy will achieve this.’
Welcome on board to Neath RFC Luke, we can’t wait to see you in action at the Gnoll.
Neath RFC have signed Dragons second row Scott Andrews for the Premiership 2018/19 season. The 6’5’’, 23 year old came through the Dragons Academy when Neath General Manager Will Thomas ran the Academy and was given his first professional Dragons contract by current Neath RFC Head Coach, Lyn Jones. Scott has also played national age grade rugby for Wales U20s in the 2014 World Championship and then made his Dragons debut in 2016 against Leinster in the Pro 12. Andrews has also amassed a large amount of Premiership experience playing for Cross Keys, Newport and Bedwas and also had a loan stint at high flying Ealing Trailfinders in the English Championship.
Neath RFC Head Coach, Lyn Jones, commented on this key signing ‘I worked with Scott while at the Dragons and he’s a good professional who will help us to drive standards next season. We are short of a few leaders in the squad at the moment so Scott will add vital leadership on top of his good technical and athletic ability. This is undoubtedly a key signing for us and I have no doubt the Neath community will make Scott feel very welcome at the Gnoll.’
Neath RFC Chairman, Mike Cuddy, commented ‘now that the ring fencing period in the Premiership is over we are taking a slightly different strategy to the one over the last two seasons of primarily focusing on developing young local talent. We are now adding to the young Neath squad with some key signings from professional rugby that will further help our young players in their development and just as importantly move us up the Premiership table.’
Scott Andrews commented on his move to the Welsh All Blacks, ‘I’ve really enjoyed my time at the Dragons, coming through their pathway and learning and developing to play national age grade and Pro 14 rugby so I’ve got a lot to thank them for. However it’s now time for a change and I was really excited by Lyn and Mike’s vision for Neath RFC over the next few seasons. While I’m still young and still have ambitions to return to professional rugby I’m very much concentrated on Neath next season in what is looking like being a pivotal season in the Premiership. I’m really looking forward to getting started.’
Will Thomas, General Manager at Neath RFC commented on the excitement around the Club, ‘All the supporters have been commenting about how excited they are about the plans for next season and with the addition of Regan King and now Scott will only add to the excitement. As you can imagine there was really strong competition for Scott’s signature but he wanted to work with Lyn again and he was impressed with the Club’s vision for the future.’
Welcome on board Scott, we can’t wait to see you run out for the Welsh All Blacks in front of the famous Gnoll roar.
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)
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
Neath second row Rhys Jones features in S4C’s “Ffermio” next Monday, April 9th.
Rhys is currently out of action due to a nasty injury suffered at work by his father which means Rhys has had to take on extra responsibilities on the farm and the programme focuses on how he juggles his time between farming and rugby.
Neath RFC have appointed Gareth Howells as Commercial Manager and will work with General Manager, Will Thomas, on all aspects of the Club’s commercial activities.
Gareth, previously Commercial and Marketing Manager at both Pontypridd RFC and Aberavon RFC, lives and works in Neath and has excellent links into the business community within the locality. Gareth achieved some excellent results with Pontypridd and Aberavon, most notably raising both club’s commercial profile and increasing their income streams. Having spent some time away from rugby to raise his young family he’s keen to get back stuck in to his passion of rugby.
Will Thomas commented on the new appointment, ‘I know Gareth from his time at Aberavon RFC where he did an excellent job and coupled with his impressive knowledge of the Premiership, I’ve no doubt he will make a similar impact at Neath. As Gareth lives and works in Neath, he has really good knowledge of the business environment in the locality which is going to be crucial to better engaging with current and future commercial partners.’
Gareth commented on his appointment, ‘I’m excited about joining Neath Rugby. The ‘Welsh All Blacks’ are an iconic name in world rugby and I can’t wait to get to work with Will and the team, building links in the community along with increased commercial partnerships with local and national businesses. My aim is to grow Neath Rugby’s commercial support along with attendances as a big supporter base acts as a 16th man which gives the players a lift both home and away. I’m positive that with the Club’s recruitment plans we will be a force next season.’
Gareth will start immediately and if you would like to discuss anything rugby commercial please email Gareth.Howells@neathrugby.wales
Welcome on board Gareth.