NEATH 34 BEDDAU 7
In a game marred by a series of injuries to Beddau players, Neath put together a first-half of rare quality as they hit the visitors with a 6-try blitz which thoroughly warmed the home crowd on a damp November afternoon.
Once again, the attendance would have done justice to a top-end Premiership tie and the match got off to a dramatic start when home winger James Roberts flew away on a 70-metre interception to register his fourth try in three games. Five minutes later, good work by the in-form winger and skipper Aaron Bramwell paved the way for a neat try by scrum-half Nicky Griffiths to make it 10-nil.
Following lengthy injury stoppages to Beddau players, Griffiths then exploited the blind-side for his second try which outside-half Callum Hall converted and the Blacks, playing some fine rugby with backs and forwards combining, sealed the bonus point when centre Jarrad Rees carved out the opportunity for wing Ben Atkins to hurtle in at the corner.
Beddau showed enterprise but also generosity in returning possession to Neath who piled on the pressure relentlessly. In the lead-up to half-time, the imperious Griffiths linked with lock Jacob Blackmore and quick recycling led to No.8 David Griggs powering over at the posts for Hall to convert and the Blacks sailed into the interval with their sixth try of the half when impressive flanker Ben Lukes set up Jarrad Rees.
Beddau attacked at the start of the second half but they lost a further player in another lengthy injury-stoppage for which Neath forfeited a man to the bin. The Blacks emptied their bench and Beddau hit back to take the scoring honours with a splendid try by speedy hooker Will Haly which outside-half Hywel Chatham goaled.
Neath introduced all their replacements including a debut for 18 year old full back Iestyn Morgan who, eager to attack, acquitted himself quite well and did enough to earn future chances. Jordan Rees earned marks for stepping into the scrum-half void too.
The Blacks spent much of the time on the attack but lost their flow in a disjointed second-half. Beddau did not turn the ball over so regularly and it was to their credit that Neath never got going which means plenty of work remains to be done.
Nevertheless, Neath can take huge confidence from their first-half display and, despite a heavy injury-list, this third consecutive win has lifted them a place in the table. The Blacks need to keep the run going if they are to target a top four place. The Blacks now have a blank weekend and will use the break to top up fitness and hopefully get some of the injured players back into action.
No fewer than 11 were unavailable for selection for this game with half likely to be back to bid for selection for the December 7 visit to Ystalyfera. The Swansea Valley club will be a real test for the Blacks and the confrontation will see the home side inspired by their 20-13 win over Tata Steel.
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt) (I.Morgan); J.Roberts, Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce, B.Atkins; C.Hall, N.Griffiths (Jordan Rees); G.W.Lloyd, J.Lewis (Iestyn Jones), S.Jones (I.James); J.Blackmore, J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, B.Lukes (J.Coxley)
BEDDAU – C.Wheeler; C.Baker, A.Ashford, S.Gardner, C.Ellis (M.Davies); H.Chatham, H.Rumens (T.Marley); M.Morgan (S.Ware), W.Haly, B.Warren; S.Tiley, R.Owen; L.James, T.Axenderrie, J.Goodwin (capt) (R.Barnes/M.Howells)
Referee – Mr. C.Williams (Ystalyfera)
With two wins over Cross Keys behind them, Neath will need to be at their best when Beddau visit The Gnoll for the first time on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).
Beddau are one place behind Neath in the table after beating Ystalyfera 24-17 last Saturday and will come to The Gnoll with all guns blazing.
Skipper Aaron Bramwell returns to lead Neath with other starting changes seeing Ben Atkins on the wing and Nicky Griffiths returning at scrum-half. In the pack, prop Gareth Lloyd gets a chance to impress as does Ben Lukes in the back row.
Neath v Beddau (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Ben Atkins; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Griffiths; 1 Gareth Lloyd, 2 Jake Lewis, 3 Steff Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements: 16 Ifan James, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Jordan Coxley, 19 Jordan Rees, 20 Iestyn Morgan