BEDWAS 31 points NEATH 25 points
A thoroughly enjoyable match between two enterprising sides saw Bedwas hold off a tremendous Neath rally which just failed to produce a second win on the road this term.
Neath seemed to be suffering a hangover from the Cross Keys game as early tackles were not nailed and two unconverted Bedwas tries through winger George Gasson and big No.8 Robson Blake in the first seven minutes gave the confident-looking home side a 10-nil head start which would ultimately prove crucial to the destiny of this game.
To their credit, Neath rallied the forces and, from a scrum on the home 22, good work notably by the always-impressive centre Keiran Williams led to prop Ryan Thomas freeing right winger Aaron Grabham who scored in the corner and outside-half Luke Price added the conversion. Following their fine win at Merthyr, Bedwas were playing with confidence and, after their props had efforts disallowed, wing Pat Lewis nipped in for their third try which outside-half Richard Powell converted.
A Price-Powell exchange of penalties kept the scoreboard moving and, as the Neath forwards upped their effort, the Blacks got right back into the game when speedy winger Kristian Corbisiero’s eagerness in the chase was rewarded with a second try, converted by Price but a long-range Powell goal on the stroke of half-time made it 23-17.
After a third Powell penalty, the second-half belonged firmly to Neath. The Eight as a whole began to do what is expected of Neath forwards with plenty of hard graft and an appetite for the confrontation; the scrum was solid and it was good to see lock Lyndon Bateman and No.8 Calum Davies playing with some of their old zest.
As Neath launched wave after wave of attacks, three marginal occasions saved Bedwas : firstly, a forward pass was adjudged as Grabham was put away chasing his second try; secondly, only a penalty was awarded when ex-Neath full back Aaron Bramwell impeded opposite number Ed Howley when the latter was in full flight in pursuit of his own kick to the line; thirdly, it was ruled that the ball had gone forward when Luke Price was heading under the posts – even home supporters agreed that the Blacks deserved better !
Bramwell was rightly yellow-carded for the middle incident but he had saved Bedwas the 5 or 7 points which again proved pivotal – one day soon maybe Dame Fortune will smile on Neath again and this lightening quick back division will get its just reward !
Bedwas were struggling to stick the pace and, when restored to equal numbers, they were reduced to 14 men again as prop Matthew Pettit was sin-binned for not the first off the ball obstruction. With six minutes left to play, Price added his second penalty and at 20-26 Neath were bubbling. As the clock ticked to 79 minutes, the pressure finally told and Ed Howley pounced on a poor Bedwas clearing kick to cross for Neath’s third try although he could probably have gone nearer the posts to make the conversion easier.
The conversion attempt failed and, when Bedwas regained the kick-off, they gamely declined a penalty attempt and opted for a well-worked line-out drill which saw captain Dan Preece cross for their bonus-point fourth Bedwas try.
Full marks and great relief to Bedwas but there was no denying it was hard luck on the Neath side who battled hard to over-turn the early deficit.
The second-half display was encouraging but it must be set as the minimum standard for Neath who will require an even bigger effort on Saturday when the Blacks return home for only their second game at The Gnoll when champions Ebbw Vale are the visitors.
Neath visit the Bridge Field to play Bedwas in the Welsh Premiership on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
The Welsh All Blacks will be looking to bounce back after being well beaten at Cross Keys last week and will need to up their game against a Bedwas side still celebrating their fine win at cash-rich Merthyr.
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Bedwas will have been delighted with their effort last week – and rightly so. The very opposite of ourselves really because we – that’s management and players – were unhappy with the display at Cross Keys.”
There are several changes in the Neath line-up with Penclawdd winger Kristian Corbisiero, outside-half Luke Price, prop Ben Uphill, hooker Ifan Phillips and back-rower Calum Davies getting their first starts of the season.
Neath v Bedwas (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Aaron Grabham, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Kristian Corbisiero; 10 Luke Price, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Ifan Phillips, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Lyndon Bateman, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Calum Davies, 7 Jordan Collier (captain)
Replacements – 16 Callum Jones, 17 Aled Morris, 18 Geraint James, 19 Tom Hayward, 20 Charlie Davies, 21 Dan Guarneri, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 Rory Morgan-Williams