NEATH 14 BEDWAS 16
A perfectly-struck touchline conversion of wing Jordan Rees’ corner try by Bedwas full back James Hallett robbed Neath of the win that should have been theirs at The Gnoll.
A light drizzle greeted the teams, Bedwas defending a 100% record and the Blacks seeking to get back on track after their heavy defeat at Pontypool. But the home side seemed to be suffering a hangover from that match in a lethargic first half which lasted over an hour due to two head injuries suffered by Neath players in separate accidents.
After lengthy on-field treatment, both lock Leon Ward and centre Matthew Pearce were withdrawn from the contest while Bedwas lost flanker Owen Jones in a prolonged first half. The only scoring action saw visiting outside-half Dion McIntosh strike three fine penalties, the middle one rebounding in off the upright, whereas Neath’s kicking was not up to the mark.
In worsening rain, handling was difficult and, after Neath lost No.8 Tomi Antozzi to the sin-bin for a harshly judged fend off and the refereeing deeming a high tackle by a Bedwas player to merit only a long talking to, supporters were glad to hear the belated half-time whistle.
Fortunately, the second-half produced better fayre with Neath making most of the running. Two long range penalty attempts by Luke Griffiths failed – the second bouncing out off the woodwork and Bedwas lost replacement Matthew Bovington to the sin bin for foul play. But Neath were gradually finding their feet with young flankers Jon Hill and Jordan Coxley looking lively in a pack which was splendidly led by hooker Sion Crocker.
Winger James Roberts, playing his first competitive game of the season, played a major role as Neath hit Bedwas with two quick converted tries. Centre Ben Atkins put him away and Jon Hill was up in support for the first and replacement Luke Griffiths, an exciting runner from full back, scored the next, adding the conversion points to both to take himself passed the half-century mark for the season.
Neath continued to set the pace and their forwards marched the Bedwas eight back towards their line, the referee ignoring three or four away forwards going to ground in an attempt to halt the flow – strange in view of what followed … Bedwas raised the siege, Neath were penalised at a scrum where they had the better of things most of the day, the inevitable kick to the corner followed and Neath were then penalised for collapsing a maul !
Neath defended resolutely as the clock ticked down but Bedwas retained possession and, eventually opting to move the ball, their only passing movement of consequence saw winger Jordan Rees squeeze in via the corner flag for a try which levelled the scores.
Then came Hallett’s last kick touchline conversion and the referee blew for full time leaving Bedwas delighted and Neath dismayed because they had enjoyed the better of the play. For all their dejection however, while it all came down to that last piece of action, Neath must not skate over their poor performance in the first half when they generally failed to impose themselves on the game sufficiently.
Better is needed and the Blacks need to recapture their zest and vigour from the start next week when they visit Cardiff Metropolitan at Cyncoed.
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); J.Roberts, B.Atkins, M.Pearce (L.Griffiths), S.Summers; C.Hall, M.Griffiths; B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker, L.Tobias; L.Ward (J.Hill), R.Morgan; J.Blackmore, T.Antozzi, J.Coxley
BEDWAS – J.Hallett; J.Jones, M.Williams, L.Bowden, J.Rees; D.McIntosh (B.Williams), R.Harries (O.Keane); J.Tucker (D.Scott), M.Dacey, R.Hutcherson; C.Hudd, G. Allen; J.Armitage (capt), D.Rogers (R.Morgans), O.Jones (M.Bovington)
Referee – Mr. R.Deacy (Cardiff),
Having lost their unbeaten record at Pontypool last week, Neath will be determined to make amends when they host Bedwas at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).
Head coach Patrick Horgan said, “Across the board, too many players under-performed when really we needed everybody at their best – and we paid the penalty.
“Fortunately, we have the stage to put things right against Bedwas who are second to Pontypool and we must show we are better than last week.”
Squad changes in the Neath starting line-up see wing James Roberts come in for his first League start of the season while Matthew Pearce, Sion Summers and Callum Hall return too. Up front Ben Uphill adds scrum-power to the pack while Jake Blackmore, Leon Ward and Jordan Coxley reappear.
Neath v Bedwas (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Sion Summers; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Tomi Antozzi, 7 Jordan Coxley
Replacements – 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Jon Hill, 19 Jordan Rees, 20 Luke Griffiths