NEATH 15 CARMARTHEN QUINS 38
Neath might be heading for relegation but they are not going down without a fight and, while Quins were undeniably the stronger unit, the Blacks again showed plenty of pride and the scoreline did not reflect how much of the game they enjoyed.
For the first time since October, Neath did not have a new starter in their line-up but they were the architects of their own downfall. After an even opening eight minutes, the Blacks were attacking only for Quins winger Dylan Morgans to intercept a pass from the pirouetting back-rower Leon Ward to race 65 metres to score at the other end.
Both Ward and fellow back-rower Ceri White were then halted inches from the try-line but, rather against the run of play, Quins scrum-half Aaron Hemmings nipped in for their second try as he capitalised upon weak tackling on the left and full back Aled Thomas slotted the simple second conversion.
Neath stuck to their task though with No.8 Guido Volpi carrying strongly at every opportunity and the front rank of Kieran Griffiths, Sion Crocker and Tyla Murvai grafted hard. Behind them, halves Macauley Griffiths and Jordan Rees were ever eager to bring centres Tom Evans and Jarrad Rees into play and, midway through the half, Neath got some overdue reward for their efforts when outside-half Jordan Rees landed a penalty.
Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of www.lensworkphotography.co.uk @neathtog
But Quins came again when scrum half Hemmings was allowed a second bite at a scrum under the Neath posts and went in for their third try which Thomas converted. Neath pressed hard up to the interval and opted to go for a line-out rather than a simple three points but it came to nothing and Quins were in control at 21-3 up.
The Blacks continued to show a willingness to play after the restart and a clever kick by Jordan Rees was gathered by Ystalyfera winger Jon Bayliss who gathered cleanly to score wide out. Quins were clearly rattled because their next visit to the Neath 22 saw them opt for a kick at goal which the admirable Thomas landed to make it 24-8.
As the replacements flowed, the game opened up and Quins grabbed the bonus point when hooker Torin Myhill crossed from a well-worked more up the front of a line-out. Aled Thomas converted and the full back then scored himself and converted for a personal tally of 18 points which put the game beyond Neath.
But still the persistent Blacks would not lie down and they kept attacking to the end. Full back Aaron Bramwell, making his 150th appearance, played with the courage of a latter-day J.P.R. Williams (without the sweat band) and repeatedly hurtled into the attack. Neath kept chasing and ultimately replacement James Roberts gathered and two quick passes later Callum Hall skipped in for a try which he converted himself.
So it was another defeat for Neath but it was much, much better than the corresponding fixture at Carmarthen and Blacks’ supporters, while still yearning the spoils, were well content again with the intent and effort which their under-fire team is showing.
NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain); Jon Bayliss, Tomas Evans (Callum Hall), Jarrad Rees (James Roberts), Alec Jenkins; Jordan Rees, Macauley Griffiths; Kieran Griffiths (Robat White), Sion Crocker (Connah Vaughan), Tyla Murvai (Ben Curtis-Jones); Scott Davies (Garin Lloyd), Ioan Jones (Rhys Morgan), Leon Ward, Guido Volpi, Ceri White (Jake Blackmore) H
In one of only two Premiership fixtures on Saturday, Neath play Carmarthen Quins at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm) and the Blacks’ selection features many of those who finished so strongly against RGC last week.
Young centre Tom Evans who scored a quick-fire debut try last week starts at centre along with winger Jon Bayliss who last appeared on Boxing Day. Jordan Rees and Macauley Griffiths team up at half back.
Up front prop Kieran Griffiths, hooker Sion Crocker, lock Scott Davies and flankers Leon Ward and Ceri White re-appear.
It is not quite a rota but the bench comprises five players who started last week alongside the returning Connah Vaughan and Robat White (also Ystalyfera) with one prop position to be finalised.
Neath v Carmarthen Quins (Home)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Jon Bayliss, 13 Tomas Evans, 12 Jarrad Rees, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Macauley Griffiths 1 Kieran Griffiths, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Scott Davies, 5 Ioan Jones, 6 Leon Ward, 8 Guido Volpi, 7 Ceri White
Replacements – 16 Connah Vaughan, 17 Robat White, 18 A.N.Other, 19 Rhys Morgan, 20 Jake Blackmore, 21 Garin Lloyd, 22 Callum Hall, 23 James Roberts