NEATH 12 ABERAVON 43
Neath’s final home game of this Premiership campaign ended in a predictable loss in the heat of the hottest Easter Monday on record.
Despite the loss, the Neath adherents in the bumper 1,400 Bank Holiday crowd can take heart that, for all all the setbacks which have afflicted them, the Blacks are alive and kicking and still able to stage rugby football matches – and do so in a style which many of the Clubs they are leaving behind will struggle to emulate.
Neath started well and took the lead when impressive No.8 Guido Volpi crossed for the opening try and centre Will Holley converted to make it 7-nil after 12 minutes. Ten minutes later Aberavon countered when flanker Iwan Shenton scored after the visitors employed a 10-man lineout drive and they went ahead on 25 minutes when wing Steff Andrews touched down for outside-half James Garland to convert.
Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of www.lensworkphotography.co.uk @neathtog
By now Aberavon were well on top and the game was settled in a ten-minute spell before half-time when impressive flanker Jac Morgan, full back Chris Banfield and lock Ben Thomas bagged tries, Garland converting two.
31-7 down at the interval, things were looking bleak for Neath and it worsened when Aberavon were awarded a penalty try 10 minutes into the second-half. Somehow Neath dragged themselves up and a competitive second-half ensued as the forwards, fortified by fresh legs off the bench, raised their effort allowing halves Nicky Griffiths and Jordan Rees to start calling the shots.
Neath threatened the Aberavon line but lacked the efficiency to force a score and with seven minutes remaining, Aberavon broke out for a somewhat farcical score which started when they knocked on in the 22. The ball was moved wide before a Neath defender was blatantly pushed off the ball at the other end where centre Will Price scored.
Still, the Blacks refused to lie down and they had the last word with a fine try, moving the ball splendidly replacement hooker Connah Vaughan supplied the last pass to full back Alec Jenkins who marked his final Gnoll appearance with his 43rd try for the Club.
It was no more than a consolation but at least it provided a bit if joy at the conclusion of Neath’s home programme. At the final whistle came the realisation for those 1.400 attendees that the Premiership will be losing one of its biggest draws.
Relegation has long been a certainty for Neath but with such backing they will rise again. The Blacks will play Aberavon again next season and supporters can go home confident that the team will improve – and will be improved – over the summer.
NEATH – Alec Jenkins; James Roberts, Will Holley, Aaron Bramwell (captain), Geraint Roberts; Jordan Rees, Nicky Griffiths (Macauley Griffiths), Gareth Hall (Steve John), Sion Crocker, (Connah Vaughan), Tyla Murvai (Liam Tobias); Rhys Morgan (Scott Davies), Rhys Thomas, Lee Evans, Guido Volpi (Ioan Jones), Joe Grabham (Leon Ward)
On Easter Monday, Neath entertain Aberavon at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm) in the final home game of the season.
A large crowd is expected for the traditional holiday local derby and spectators are urged to arrive early to avoid congestion at the turnstiles which are situated at the town end of the ground.
Full catering facilities are available inside the ground to satisfy appetites and quench thirsts in what is expected to be fair weather.
Hooker Sion Crocker makes his 150th appearance for the Blacks thus emulating back rower Lee Evans who reached that milestone last time out against Bedwas.
Stalwarts Lee Evans and Alec Jenkins who switches to full back will be playing their last games on The Gnoll for Neath and are guaranteed a grand reception from the home crowd.
As has been their necessity this year, Neath make changes but there are no newcomers this time. Behind the scrum, Will Holley and Geraint Roberts – replacements against Bedwas – start while halves Jordan Rees and Nicky Griffiths are re-united.
Up front, Crocker is joined by Gareth Hall in the front row with Rhys Morgan coming into the second row and Joe Grabham returning to the back row. The replacements all figured last time except Connah Vaughan who comes in for Wales Under-20 call-up Garin Lloyd and prop Liam Tobias who makes a welcome return.
Neath v Aberavon (Home)
15 Alec Jenkins; 14 James Roberts, 13 Will Holley, 12 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 11 Geraint Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nicky Griffiths, 1 Gareth Hall, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Rhys Thomas, 6 Lee Evans, 8 Guido Volpi, 7 Joe Grabham
Replacements – Steve John, Connah Vaughan, Liam Tobias, Scott Davies, Ioan Jones, Leon Ward, Macauley Griffiths, Callum Hall
NEATH V ABERAVON – SUPPORTER INFORMATION
To assist spectator enjoyment, all supporters should please take note of the following:
- Parking is available in the multi-storey car park near the Town End of the ground (closes at 6.30pm)
- The Clubhouse will be open prior to the match with two large downstairs bars for supporters
- Hospitality (£10 for a 2 course meal, plus coffee at H/T) is available for home and away supporters
- The Gnoll is a “no smoking/no vaping” environment
- No dogs or pets allowed (Other than guide dogs for the blind)
- Admission £10, Under-16’s free
- The only points of admission to the ground will be via the turnstiles at the Town End – turnstiles will be open from 1.30pm
- Programmes (£2) available from outside bar
- Catering facilities will be available inside the ground near the turnstiles (bar and burgers, teas etc.)
- Supporters are not permitted to stand on the concourse in front of the Clubhouse or Main Stand for safety reasons
- Supporters are requested to follow any instructions given by safety stewards
- Please respect the kicker when he is kicking at goal
- Please respect the match officials