NEATH 30 BARGOED 12
A proper Neath team playing proper Neath rugby football in front of a proper Neath crowd took the spoils against a game Bargoed side who can count themselves unlucky to have come up against the most passionate Neath performance for many a day.
After three of the most traumatic weeks in Neath’s long and distinguished history which is still threatened by company complications, feelings are running high at The Gnoll and Bargoed stepped into a pretty febrile atmosphere in which the patched up and pumped up home team thrived.
The match programme cover heralded the message “Neath RFC Remembers” which was appropriate as The Gnoll club turned in a display which evoked fond memories of better days and maybe did justice to the spirit of their fallen World War heroes.
For heroic it was. After Bargoed had taken the lead with a try by winger Duane Dyer on the back of a suspiciously-looking forward pass, and converted by Josh Prosser, Neath were up against it. But the Blacks gradually fought back into the game : the scrum was solid, the line-out less so but newly-enthused Neath, showing a relish for the tackle, battled up-field and a typical Keiran Williams charge saw skipper Aaron Bramwell plunge over for a try which Callum Hall, playing on the wing, goaled easily.
Bargoed, well-drilled and confident, struck back with a fine second try by winger Ashley Norton and, with top referee Gwyn Morris accentuating the positive, only ball spillages stopped them going further ahead. But Neath’s spirit shone strongly in a combative forward effort and two fine Callum Hall penalties nudged them ahead 13-12 at the interval and the home side were cheered to a man as they retired to the dressing-rooms.
The Blacks made most of the running in the second-half and they deservedly extended their lead when former All Black centre Regan King scored his first try for the Welsh All Blacks, Hall again converting. Midway through the half, inspired Neath scored again when Callum Hall, by now switched to his more accustomed outside-half slot, took advantage of a ricocheted kick to touch down for his first try for the Blacks too and he added the conversion points for good measure.
The young Mountain Ash product also landed a third penalty for a 20-point haul and he saved a try with an enveloping tackle late on. Good enough for the Man of the Match award ? Normally perhaps but, on this occasion, the Supporters’ Club’s popular award went to the entire Neath team – an unprecedented honour. It was that kind of night and a pleasure to behold the joy on the sea of faces which cheered both sides at the end.
Former stalwarts Lee Evans, Marc Jones and Kevin James helped out their old club, the newcomers adapted brilliantly and the remaining Neath patriots – many of whom had points to prove – gave it everything on a night of high emotion. It would be unfair to single out any individuals in a genuine team performance by the full line-up :-
Aaron Bramwell (captain); James Roberts (Kevin James), Regan King, Keiran Williams, Callum Hall; Gavin Evans (Ian Ellis), Tom Briggs; Ben Uphill (Jonny Gethin), Sion Crocker (Garin Lloyd), Tyla Murvai (Marc Jones); Lee Evans, Rhys Morgan (Adam Harris); Elis Hopkins, Leon Ward, Ceri White (Iwan Davies) Other Replacement : Morgan Evans.
Proper Neath it was !
Aaron Bramwell captains a much-changed NEATH team to take on BARGOED at THE GNOLL on FRIDAY evening (kick off 7.30pm).
Scrum-half Tom Briggs (Kenfig Hill) makes his first start while stalwart Lee Evans lines up in the second row with Rhys Morgan (Trebanos).
The bench has a nostalgic air with former Gnoll favourites Kevin James and Marc Jones helping out their old Club in its hour of need alongside Jonny Gethin (Skewen), Adam Harris (Tondu), Iwan Davies (Trebanos) and Morgan Evans (Cross Keys).
Neath coaches Simon King, Paul Williams and Paul James united in saying, “This is not about those who have gone, it is about those who have stayed. And we are certain that the passionate Gnoll crowd will demonstrate their thanks and support to these loyal lads tomorrow night. Bargoed are a good, settled side but we have a committed side who will give it everything and wear the Neath jersey with pride.”
The squads are as follows :-
REFEREE – MR. GWYN MORRIS (CARDIFF)
ASSISTANT REFEREES – MR. RICHARD DEACY & MR. LLOYD HUGHES
NEXT HOME GAME – CARDIFF NOVEMBER 23rd 7.30pm