ABERAVON 40 points NEATH 24 points
Aberavon deservedly won this Foster’s Cup game, taking a 6-4 try margin from an open and somewhat carefree game which will have not brought full satisfaction to either coaching team – although Aberavon obviously had the spoils to celebrate.
The home team exploded into action and established a 21-point lead within 11 minutes against a Neath defence which was not so much missing in action as shamefully missing – back-rowers David Griggs and Lee Purnell and hooker Gareth Harvey were the beneficiaries, outside-half James Garland converting all three.
Neath woke themselves up with a well-worked try by full back Rory Morgan-Williams which outside-half Dan Guarneri converted but home lock Ben Davies immediately restored Aberavon’s advantage with a try which Garland converted from wide out.
Again Neath hit back with the forwards hammering at the Avon line before the backs came into play and replacement Iwan Evans freed winger Ed Howley to score in the corner only for Purnell to pounce for his second try, the impeccable Garland converting his fifth to give Aberavon a 35-12 interval lead.
Some choice words from team manager Martyn Morris at half-time obviously had an effect because Neath proceeded to take command of the second-half. Aberavon may have thought the job was done – as indeed, it probably was – but Neath picked themselves up off the floor and pulled back to 24-35.
Winger Kristian Corbisiero and Iwan Evans got the touchdowns, Howley converting the latter from the touchline, and they might have got closer as they had plenty of other chances to score but crucially Aberavon defended with far more resolution than did Neath in the first-half.
In the dying minutes, Aberavon were finally allowed to break out when replacement hooker Aled Morris was needlessly yellow-carded and the home side bagged their sixth try, pacey wing Mike Wilson setting up centre Matthew Jenkins to set the seal on a devil-may-care display which was unlike many in the long tradition of the fixture.
Neath visit Aberavon at the Talbot Athletic Ground on Wednesday (kick off 7.15pm) in the Foster’s Challenge Cup. Back rower Leon Ward captains a team showing nine changes.
Neath v Aberavon (Away)
15 Rory Morgan-Williams; 14 Ed Howley, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Kristian Corbisiero; 10 Dan Guarneri, 9 Josh Guy; 1 Matthew Jeffreys, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Lyndon Bateman; 6 Leon Ward (captain), 8 Calum Davies, 7 Sam Montieri
Replacements – 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Aled Morris, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Jonny Griffiths, 20 Jordan Collier, 21 Tom Sadler, 22 Iwan Evans, 23 Aaron Grabham