BEDWAS 36 NEATH 28
Battling Neath came as close to victory as they have since beating Bargoed in November before two late tries secured a bonus point win for Bedwas in a keenly-fought encounter at the Bridge Field.
This time last year Britain was in the midst of the “Beast from the East” but in uncustomary sunny late February weather Neath gave as good as they got for much of the game; in the end it was probably Bedwas’ superior team-work which was enough to see them through.
Neath opened the scoring afetr 12 minutes with a penalty from fly half Jordan Rees after Bedwas were penalised at a ruck but home full back Joseph Scrivens equalised with a penalty of his own four minutes later to level the scores.
Lively Bedwas captain Alun Rees inspired the opening try by scrum-half Luke Crane and the referee doubled Neath’s woe when he yellow carded prop Gareth Wyn Lloyd before Scrivens converted.
Jordan Rees slotted another penalty but Bedwas extended their lead with a try from No.8 Dale Rogers, again converted by Scrivens, Neath losing a second man – No.8 Guido Volpi – to the sin bin and Bedwas capitalised on Neath’s 13-men when wing Adam Williams crossed, Scrivens’ conversion putting Bedwas 24-6 ahead.
Many sides would have capitulated at this stage but Neath battled back and as Bedwas conceded a string of penalties near their line – surprisingly in view of what had happened to Neath, no yellow card was issued here ! – excellent scrum-half Nicky Griffiths pounced for a try, Rees’ penalty closing the gap to 24-13 at half-time.
And the Blacks started the second-half with a bang as centre Kieran Williams scorched over for a try and a third penalty on 50 minutes by Jordan Rees cut the deficit to 21-24.
Thereafter, it was nip and tuck as both sides sought the vital next score. Every Neath player gave of their best with tearaway forwards Gareth Howells and Joe Grabham very much in the thick of the action.
But it was Bedwas who scored next when Scrivens crossed in the right corner for their fourth bonus point try and they made the game safe when replacement Sion Parry bagged another, Scrivens converting.
Still Neath were not done and, flooding their replacements, the Blacks finished stronger. Constant pressure on the Bedwas line eventually led to a third Neath try by winger Gareth Hopkins, replacement Callum Hall converting and, with the Neath scrum threatening a couple of pushovers, Bedwas held out to the relief of the home crowd.
Bedwas leapt into the safe-for-now 11th spot in the table but Neath deserved to take more than just pride out of this game which fully lived up to the capital weather.
NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain); Gareth Hopkins, Jarrad Rees, Keiran Williams, Richard Carter; Jordan Rees (Callum Hall), Nicky Griffiths (Macauley Griffiths); Gareth Wyn Lloyd (Steffan Jones), Sion Crocker (Connah Vaughan), Kieran Griffiths (Gareth Hall); Rhys Morgan (Scott Davies), Gareth Howells; Lee Evans, Guido Volpi (Jacob Blackmore), Joe Grabham
Four players return for Neath in their noon kick off at Bedwas on Saturday.
Keiran Griffiths comes in at prop with Rhys Morgan in the second row and Lee Evans back at flanker while scrum-half Nicky Griffiths plays against one of his former clubs.
Neath v Bedwas (Away)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 John Lumb, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Gareth Hopkins; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Keiran Griffiths; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Gareth Howells; 6 Lee Evans, 8 Guido Volpi, 7 Joe Grabham
Replacements – 16 Connah Vaughan, 17 Steffan Jones, 18 Gareth Hall, 19 Scott Davies, 20 Ioan Jones, 21 Dyfan Ceredig, 22 A.N. Other, 23 Callum Hall