Neath Rugby News

COLLEGE KICK OFF BROUGHT FORWARD TO 7.00pm

FLOODLIT RUGBY AT THE GNOLL

Tuesday’s floodlit match at The Gnoll on Tuesday between Neath PT College and Cardiff & Vale will now kick off at the EARLIER TIME OF 7.00pm.


Floodlit rugby returns to The Gnoll next Tuesday when Neath PT College entertain Cardiff & Vale in what should be an exciting Under-18’s League encounter, kick off 7.00pm.

Coached by Paul Williams, Neath College have started with two wins over Whitchurch (52-10) and Gower College (24-10).

There are several potential Welsh All Blacks in the home team’s ranks – and Neath supporters are encouraged to come along and back them.

Admission is £3 and Under-16’s FREE and the match will be televised by the S4C cameras.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 17 LLANELLI 40 – (23-09-2017)

NEATH 17 pts LLANELLI 40 pts

In their most disappointing showing of the season, Neath were well-beaten by a far livelier Llanelli side who ran out well deserved winners, outscoring the home side by 5 tries to 3.

In the first-half especially, Neath were a shadow of themselves and by the end of it Llanelli were more or less out of sight. A missed tackle and an interception try spelled gift scores for the visitors and provided simple conversions for visiting centre Billy McBryde who also kicked three penalties as the visitors sped into a 23-7 half-time lead.

ALARMING NATURE
Outside-half Ioan Hughes eased through for the first try and winger Ioan Nicholas enjoyed a merry 70 metre stroll for the second. The alarming nature of Neath’s first-half lack of inspiration after their promising start to the season prompted one supporter to suggest that, had this been an IPL cricket fixture, there would have been calls for an investigation into match-fixing !

At nil-13 down, Neath offered briefly when the ever-dangerous Richard Smith broke through but could not find his support. They continued to press only to give away that penalty try before the strong-running Smith provided a ray of hope when he finished off a sweeping move for his fifth try of the season which Ed Howley converted.

OVER AS A CONTEST
The game was over as a contest almost as soon as the second-half started as Llanelli reclaimed tapped Neath line-out ball to set up a third score for left wing Ryan Conbeer and the fourth was not long in coming as centre Oli Reyland exploited some poor tackling to levy the bonus-point try, McBryde converting.

To their credit, Neath then staged a mini-revival as they at last began to take the game to the opposition with some determined carrying. Sustained attacking brought its reward when centre Keiran Williams was worked over for his fourth League try this term and Llanelli were lucky to escape a yellow card as they tried to prevent it.

REPLACEMENTS’ IMPACT
Neath were beginning to play like they can – and like they need to ! Most of the replacements made their mark with a couple of neat touches from Iwan Evans and eventually Neath found a hole in the Llanelli defence which replacement flanker Elis Hopkins was delighted to exploit for a third try – his first in the Premiership after scoring at Narberth.

A bonus point try was a possibility but there was an air of inevitability about it when Neath failed to find touch from a penalty and a speculative kick downfield by Llanelli was not dealt with and Nicholas went in for his second try, Llanelli’s fifth.

FEW COMPLAINTS
Really, the Blacks could have few complaints as they paid the penalty for that lack-lustre first-half. Scott Gibson and later Chris Morgans tried hard to create behind a beaten pack in which Ifan Phillips, Ryan Bean and Leon Ward were most prominent while Rhys Jones, as ever, kept going until the end and flankers Hopkins and David Griggs injected some life from the bench.

Llanelli were much the better side though, their set-piece strong and their defence solid with Tom Phillips, Jack Condy and Dan Davis a very impressive, balanced back-row in their team’s best display of the season. It contrasted with Neath’s poorest so the Blacks must now lick their wounds and re-discover their fire before Saturday’s visit to Bridgend.

NEATH – E.Howley (G.Llewellyn); R.Smith, K.Williams, M.Pearce, M.Evans; G.Evans (capt) (I.Evans), S.Gibson (C.Morgans); N.White (B.Uphill), I.Phillips (E.Hopkins), G.James (L.Tobias); R.Jones, M.Davies (S.Crocker); L.Ward, S.Hicks (D.Griggs), R.Bean
LLANELLI – A.Evans; I.Nicholas (J.Newman), O.Reyland (M.Jenkins), W.McBryde, R.Conbeer; I.Hughes, D.Smith (G.George); T.Kaijaks (R.Thomas), T.Davies (C.Thomas), S.Gardiner (B.Leung); C.Long (R.Bullough), T.Price; T.Phillips (capt), J.Condy, D.Davis (L.Pike)

Referee – Mr. A.Evans (Cardiff)


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath play old rivals Llanelli in the Premiership West at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

After winning their first two games against Swansea and Carmarthen Quins, the Welsh All Blacks have lost their last two to RGC and unbeaten Llandovery and, with skipper Jordan Collier a long-term casualty due to a broken leg, Gavin Evans continues to lead the side.

Neath make two changes with Mike Evans and Matthew Pearce returning to the three-quarter line. Back row forward Leon Ward will make his 150th appearance while prop Ben Uphill is poised for his 50th off the bench which also features former Narberth prop Liam Tobias and Tata flanker David Griggs.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Although playing well for the most part, we have not done quite enough to win the last two games and we will need to do that little bit extra and take our chances against Llanelli who are bringing a strong team.”

Neath v Llanelli
15 Ed Howley; 14 Richard Smith, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Mike Evans; 10 Gavin Evans (captain), 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Neil White, 2 Ifan Phillips, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Matthew Davies; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Ryan Bean
Replacements :- 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Elis Hopkins, 20 David Griggs, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Geraint Llewellyn

NEATH SUPPORTERS – HELP PUT NEATH ON THE MAP !

Many NEATH RFC supporters will be familiar with the “Hollow Tree” situated in Gnoll Country Park.
Few will know that this tree has been shortlisted with the Woodland Trust for the ‘Best Tree in Wales’ 2017.

NEATH RFC SUPPORTERS can help NEATH win by voting for our tree by clicking on the site: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/treeoftheyear

Look under WALES for The Hollow Tree. Voting closes 8th October 2017.

The Hollow Tree
Gnoll Country Park, Neath
Gnoll Estate Country Park was once owned and lived on by a wealthy industrial family called the Mackworths. Today the Estate has been developed into a country park surrounded by a beautiful 18th Century landscaped garden, open green spaces and wild woodlands. A popular feature is an ancient oak tree that has been completely hollow since at least the 1950s. It has recently been fitted with bars to support the structure. The tree has managed to survive in this condition and each summer produces a full and healthy crop of leaves and acorns. Generations of children have played imaginatively in this magical, mystical tree. Ask any local grandparent what it means to them and they will tell you of their warm childhood memories of this tree and how their own children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren have played in it too. It is a truly miraculous tree so vote for NEATH’s Hollow Tree.

BLACKS : CHANGES FOR LLANELLI ?

Neath team manager Martyn Morris expects that a couple of The Gnoll club’s injured will be back in the frame for selection for Saturday’s home game against Llanelli (kick off 2.30pm).

“We did better than the scoreline suggested at Llandovery last Saturday when we were missing a few key personnel,” he said,

“But our options have increased injury-wise this week and I’m sure there will be changes as we made some squad rotations too.”

Neath are still looking to strengthen their squad and Morris revealed, “We have been joined in training this week by two new players who both have Premiership experience and they may well feature at the weekend.”

MATCH REPORT: LLANDOVERY 29 NEATH 15 – (16-09-2017)

LLANDOVERY 29 points NEATH 15 points

A disputed last play try yielded a bonus point for Llandovery – and deprived Neath of one just when the never-say-die All Blacks had threatened to turn the game on its head.

Many Neath followers claimed touch-in-goal on that point-determining score by prop Berian Watkins but the touch judge thought otherwise and Jack Maynard converted to ensure that Llandovery maintained their 100% record at the top of the Premiership West – but the game was much closer than the score suggests.

In fact, take away the concession of three scores to the final play of the first-half, the first play of the second-half and the final play of all and there was a lot less in it. But Llandovery deserved their victory – for their superior concentration and discipline as, again, Neath gave away far too many penalties and, in that respect, they were architects of their own downfall as too many were of the silly variety and cost them dear.

MUCH TO COMMEND
Nevertheless, overall there was much to commend in both side’s play. The forwards gave as good as they got with hooker Ifan Phillips showing great leadership qualities – he was everywhere tackling, carrying and supporting – and flankers Ryan Bean and Leon Ward ran themselves into the ground too while the speedy Neath backs were every bit as dangerous as the home team’s excellent set.

From the first whistle, these two most enterprising teams were evidently full of running and it was something of a surprise that it took 15 minutes before the first score was registered – a penalty by Neath’s Ed Howley. However, ten minutes later the home side took a lead they would never surrender when promising full back Tomi Lewis crossed and outside-half Kristian Jones converted. As the exchanges warmed, a player from each side was sin-binned as home hooker Ricky Guest was followed by Neath’s Neil White.

COSTLY DISMISSAL
White’s dismissal proved extremely costly to Neath who suffered a double attack of the Joneses. With the final play of the half, Llandovery struck inventively with a wonderful try by Kristian of that ilk and then with the first play of the second-half they bagged another through his namesake Jack, Kristian adding the conversion points.

At 19-3 up, the League leaders were in command and many a lesser side may have folded but Neath stuck to their guns and retaliated when Ward was halted just short of the line and centre Keiran Williams was on hand to steal over for a try.

NIP AND TUCK
It was nip and tuck for 20 minutes as play switched from end to end. Neath probably had the better chances but Llandovery put the points on the board when replacement Jack Maynard landed a penalty.

Spirited Neath were far from done though and rampaging No.8 Scott Hicks ought to have passed with the try-line beckoning and prop Geraint James went close too. Having bombed three attacking line-outs earlier, as the final whistle neared Neath finally got it right and big lock Matthew Davies ploughed over for his second try in successive weeks. Full back Howley’s conversion made it 15-22 and the Blacks were in bonus point territory.

LAST PLAY CONTROVERSY
However, they failed to clear their lines as they gamely, if optimistically, kept the ball alive in pursuit of another score. And, after being denied claims for a penalty try, Llandovery struck with that last-play try and Maynard’s conversion made the final score a little hard on Neath.

NEATH – E.Howley; R.Smith, K.Williams, G. Evans (capt), A.Jenkins (M.Pearce); I.Evans (M.Evans), S.Gibson (C.Morgans); N.White, I.Phillips, G.James; R.Jones, M.Davies (C.White); L.Ward, S.Hicks (S.Crocker), R.Bean LLANDOVERY – T.Lewis; L.Williams, R.Wall (R.Evans), R.Jones, A.Warren (A.Davies); K.Jones (J.Maynard), L.Rees; D.Evans, R.Guest (M.Moore) G.Cunniffe (B.Watkins); J.Jones J.Powell (B.Griffiths); S.Worrall, E.Price (R.Brooks), D.Eagar

Referee – Mr. B.Brakespeare


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath head to Llandovery to meet the only unbeaten team in the Premiership West on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

The Blacks lost their own unbeaten tag last week to RGC and suffered a couple of injuries in the process most notably to skipper Jordan Collier who now faces a lengthy lay-off with a broken leg.

Centre Gavin Evans takes over the captaincy for the first time while the promising pairing of Iwan Evans and Scott Gibson team up at half-back. Neil White, Ifan Phillips and Geraint James form the front row and Ryan Bean comes into the back row.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We will miss Jordan who was in top form but Gavin is a strong on-field leader too and has all the attributes and experience we could wish for. Llandovery have been going well so it will be a good contest.”

Neath v Llandovery
15 Ed Howley; 14 Richard Smith, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Neil White, 2 Ifan Phillips, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Matthew Davies; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Scott Hicks, 7
Replacements :- 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Ceri White, 19 Elis Hopkins, 20 Jon Barley, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 Mike Evans

** COMING UP NEXT AT THE GNOLL ! – September 23 fixture against Llanelli – Season Tickets are still available and cover all home Premiership matches – details on website.

FIXTURE CHANGES – INTERNATIONAL WEEKENDS

Due to clashes with Wales international matches, several fixtures have been amended.

Neath’s first visit to RGC on Saturday, November 11th will kick off slightly earlier at 2.00pm (as will the second visit on Saturday, February 10th). This will allow players and travelling supporters sufficient time to watch Wales in action on television against Australia and England.

Fixtures around the three remaining Autumn internationals will all take place on Friday evenings :-

November 17 Llandovery Home 7.30pm
24 Llanelli Away 7.15pm
December   1 Bridgend Home 7.30pm

NEATH PT COLLEGE 52 pts WHITCHURCH 8 pts

Neath College overwhelmed visiting Whitchurch at The Gnoll this afternoon in the first round of the Colleges League.

The home side bagged eight tries through winger Frankie Jones (2), centre Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler (2), hooker Garin Loyd, full back Dewi Cross, winger Kyle Jones and lock Ioan Jones with outside-half Luke Scully converting six of them.

The College’s next home game will be against Cardiff & Vale – under The Gnoll floodlights on Tuesday, September 26th.

CAPTAIN’S OPERATION A SUCCESS – NEATH SEEK COVER

Neath captain Jordan Collier underwent a successful operation on Sunday to re-set the leg which he broke in Saturday’s game against RGC and he now faces a lengthy lay-off.

Team manager Martyn Morris said, “Jordan is recuperating at home, is in a good frame of mind after the operation and everyone at Neath wishes him a speedy recovery and return to action in the New Year.

“It is a big blow to lose our captain especially since Jordan was in such excellent form over the opening games. With Charlie Davies and Josh Cole already on the injured list, we may have to go outside the squad and see if we can pick up experienced replacements from clubs in the area.

“Young Elis Hopkins, just out of youth, acquitted himself quite well on Saturday and Leon Ward is a real work-horse – our numbers are down but I thought the team as a whole showed tremendous endeavour in adversity against RGC. That spirit will take us far.”

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 18 RGC 31 – (09-09-2017)

NEATH 18 points RGC 31 points

A sickening injury midway through the first-half to Neath captain Jordan Collier who suffered a broken leg overshadowed this bristling affair as Neath slid to their first defeat of the season.

LEADING
Neath were leading 13-7 when the young flanker leapt to catch a re-start but he landed awkwardly and the game was held up for 12 minutes before he was stretchered off the field.

Although Elis Hopkins deputised splendidly, Neath were not quite the same without Collier and RGC nicked the lead before half-time then, aided by a stream of penalties awarded their way and a spate of home injuries, steadily made the game safe in the second-half.

STARTED WELL
It had all started so well for Neath who went in front via an Ed Howley penalty after five minutes. RGC hit back with an excellent try by Tian Loots which Jacob Botica converted but Neath regained the lead when they blasted the visitors’ scrum and clever combined work saw big lock Matthew Davies cross for his first try for Neath.

And things got even better for the Blacks when they mauled their way towards the line and excellent preparatory work by scrum-half Chris Morgans and his back row saw centre Keiran Williams reach over the line for their second try.

DISASTER
But then disaster struck with the injury to Collier and RGC sneaked ahead just before half-time through a driving line-out try by hooker Geurge Roberts converted by Botica. Howley had a chance to re-establish Neath’s lead when the home team’s scrum again destroyed the visitors’ pack but his long-range shot did not threaten the posts.

Neath needed to get back on track but the referee perplexed the home crowd by awarding a penalty to the visitors whose tight-head clearly dropped a scrum in front of the stand.

BACKS TO THE WALL
That was something of a pivotal moment for Neath whose scrum was altogether too strong for the visitors. It allowed RGC to take the initiative and thereafter it was very much backs against the wall as further injuries forced Neath to use all their forward replacements at an early stage with prop Neil White an unlikely lock. But Neath showed tremendous spirit before finally cracking midway through the second-half and then only after back-rower Leon Ward had been yellow-carded.

The driving line-out is one of the least appealing aspects of the modern game and is difficult to stop – legally – and it proved a potent force for RGC as they went over for their second such score by Tim Gray, Botica converting and then adding a penalty to make the game virtually safe.

WOULD NOT LIE DOWN
It was certainly secured when they sustained possession well for Henri Williams to cross for their bonus-point try, Botica converting but brave Neath would not lie down and, as visiting lock Williams found his way to the bin, quick work by replacement hooker Ifan Phillips (shades of his father Kevin) took a short penalty and Neath worked the overlap for replacement wing James Roberts to touch down for Neath’s third try.

Dismayed at losing their skipper, Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn praised his team’s effort and endeavour. He also extolled the team’s scrum which functioned strongly despite all the disruptions but pinpointed too many penalties conceded as a concern.

NEATH – E.Howley; R.Smith, K.Williams (J.Roberts), M.Pearce (I.Evans), A.Jenkins; G.Evans, C.Morgans (S.Gibson); B.Uphill (, S.Crocker (I.Phillips), R.Thomas (G.James); R.Jones, M.Davies (N.White); L.Ward, S.Hicks, J.Collier (capt) (E.Hopkins)

RGC – D.Jones; I.Pari (I.Evans), T.Hughes, T.Loots, H.Evans; J.Botica, C.Davies (A.Schwarz); J.Simpson (J.Scott), G.Roberts R.Williams), S.Wainwright (C.Reynolds); M.Francis (capt) (R.Williams), H.Williams; A.Williams, T.Gray, W.Bryan (D.Owen)

Referee–Mr. S. Rees (Ebbw Vale)


MATCH PREVIEW
Buoyed by winning their opening two Premiership games, Neath are aiming to make it a hat-trick when they take on Wales’ ‘fifth region’ RGC at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm).

Following three warm-up friendly wins and beating Swansea (39-16), Neath edged an exciting 18-15 victory over Carmarthen Quins last week and they make only three changes.

Into the starting line-up come wing Alec Jenkins with Chris Morgans taking over at scrum-half while Ryan Thomas comes in at prop.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Again, we have not made too many changes as we are building momentum and integrating team patterns. We look at it as a 23-man game anyway but all squad members know what is expected of them and will get their chances.

“RGC, with all the backing of the WRU, showed their capabilities last year. They lost at Llandovery on day one but beat Llanelli last week and, at this stage of our development, we are looking to add another scalp.

“We are setting higher standards, the supporters are enjoying the style of rugby and coming back but we know we need to keep playing and improving.”

Neath v RGC
15 Ed Howley; 14 Richard Smith, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Gavin Evans, 9 Chris Morgans ; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Matthew Davies; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Jordan Collier (captain),
Replacements :- 16 Neil White, 17 Ifan Phillips, 18 Geraint James, 19 Jon Barley, 20 Elis Hopkins, 21 Scott Gibson, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 James Roberts

** COMING UP NEXT AT THE GNOLL ! – September 23 fixture against Llanelli – Season Tickets are still available and cover all home Premiership matches – details on website.

LLEWELLYN : “TIME TO BACK THE BLACKS”

With 92 Wales caps behind him in a distinguished career, Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn knows his rugby – and, in particular, Neath rugby.

In a playing career which spanned more than 20 years at the top level, he captained the Welsh All Blacks for a remarkable seven seasons and enjoyed many great days as little Neath took on – and frightened the life out of – Southern Hemisphere giants Australia, New Zealand and South Africa at The Gnoll.

Nowadays Llewellyn – along with his assistant and former Welsh championship winner team-mate Paul Williams – is charged with the task of reviving The Gnoll club’s fortunes and, after two years of solid graft, the signs are that all the hard work is beginning to bear fruit.

Of course, the face of Welsh rugby has changed since Llewellyn’s prime but as he says, “Everything is relative. What I do know is that we are playing good, attacking rugby which pleases our supporters. Our generally young squad with a few senior, wise men is learning fast and turning a few heads again.

“Take last Saturday against Carmarthen Quins. We led for most of the game but they scored a snap try to steal the lead with two minutes remaining. But we regained possession, kept playing and eventually Ed Howley touched down to get the win back.

“It was a great finish – great determination and wonderful reward for the team on the field and our small but totally dedicated team off the field who spare nothing and are totally dedicated to achieving things for Neath again.”

The Welsh All Blacks have had the crowd on their feet in winning both their opening Premiership fixtures after an unbeaten pre-season and face RGC at The Gnoll on Saturday.

Llewellyn says, “The Gnoll is still a great place to be and at Neath we try to do things properly. One player who joined us this season said he can’t get over the atmosphere around the old place.

“We are on the right road but there is still a long way to go. One thing that hasn’t changed is that the next game is always the hardest – the next one to achieve in.

“We want Neath to have a team to be proud of again – we want all those supporters who were keen to be with us in the good times to get behind us again.

Gareth Llewellyn first pulled on the famous All Black shirt of Neath in 1988 so his views demand respect in the locality. “Now is an exciting time to ‘Back the Blacks’ !” he says, “It’s not too late to grab a season ticket or just come along on Saturday and encourage Neath onto greater things.”.”

“FIVE OUT OF FIVE : TIME TO BACK US” – MORRIS

With five wins out of five, Neath team manager Martyn Morris is calling on rugby supporters in Neath to get behind the Welsh All Blacks.

Neath have made their most successful start for years, winning all three warm-up games then League games against Swansea and Carmarthen Quins.

And, while it is early days yet, signs are that The Gnoll giant is re-awakening – the team is playing attractive, winning rugby and the former Neath and Wales flanker says, “Now is the time for the people of Neath and the District to gather around and back us again.”

He continued, “Everyone at the Club from the Board down has worked tirelessly over the last two years to turn things around. We were not in a good place but it is a completely different scenario now.

“Neath certainly needs a boost. The town centre’s long-awaited re-development is yet to bear fruit and local industry has taken a hit but the town is nothing if not defiant.

“Our rugby team is the best means of reminding everyone we are still around and it is a really exciting time to be involved with Neath.”

Morris points to some of the exciting young talents Neath are nurturing, “We are fully committed to backing the WRU Player Pathway in conjunction with the Ospreys and we have unearthed some exciting prospects ourselves.

“We have a very strong Neath base to the squad. Playing for Neath means a great deal to everyone just as it did in my day and the rapport between supporters and players is second to none.

“Our players are approachable locally and grounded and in no way are we getting ahead of ourselves but the signs are encouraging.

“We have a huge match on Saturday 2.30pm at The Gnoll against RGC and we want as many Neath people who care about their rugby, care about their town, to be there.”

Season ticket sales are up with a lot of youngsters taking advantage of the Club’s admirable “Under-16’s free” policy and the Neath club has wonderful backing from its advertisers and sponsors.

The arrival and challenge of the WRU’s ‘fifth region’ is just the time and place for Neath people to lend their support and re-connect with the club.