BEDWAS 26 NEATH 33
Neath, playing with pride, passion and no little panache, earned a very well-deserved win over Bedwas. The home side have endured a harrowing week with the Bridge Field and clubhouse calamitously flooded so this was Neath’s first visit to the wonderful all-weather facilities at Ystrad Mynach which Bedwas normally use for training.
Having lost to the last kick of the return game at The Gnoll in October, Neath were seeking revenge and, from the outset the game was played at great pace. Apres la deluge (it was French weekend !) both sides seemed to enjoy their rugby action in a real thriller which kept everyone on their toes throughout and there were four tries apiece.
Fast out of the blocks, Neath set the pace and a fine break by outside-half Jordan Rees paved the way for a smart opening try by winger James Roberts. But almost immediately a defensive mix-up let in Bedwas for their first try by that excellent flanker James Richards which Dion McIntosh easily converted. Neath put together some sustained, effective play and, before being injured, skipper Aaron Bramwell just fed winger Luke Griffiths too early before the winger kicked a penalty to give the Blacks a deserved lead.
Despite facing the wind, the Blacks continued to enjoy the better of things up to half-time and great top of the line-out ball to Elis Horgan gave the 17 year old scrum-half the opportunity to split the defence and he raced to the posts for Neath’s second try which Luke Griffiths converted. Neath kept possession and should probably have put the ball off the park before Bedwas turned the ball over and No.8 Dale Rogers nipped in for their second try which McIntosh converted to make it 15-14 at half-time – a lead which by no means flattered the Blacks whose discipline gave them a slight edge.
After the interval, Neath squandered two good positions – line-out and scrum – in the Bedwas 22 but went further ahead when Luke Griffiths landed a second penalty. No sooner had play re-started than Neath bagged their third try. Good work by Roberts and Griffiths saw the latter rewarded for his persistence – a lesson for all – when his chase and harrying led to a third try which raised his 100 points for the year and it was 23-14.
Griffiths blotted his copybook by missing a kick and instead the home side came again. After lock Jon Barley conceded a high tackle, a rocket-fuelled home line-out drive saw Rogers notch his second try to make it 23-19. Neath were far from done though and a quickly-taken penalty by Horgan came to nothing before Neath charged down two Bedwas defensive kicks only for the ball to drop obligingly into Bedwas hands on each occasion. This spurred on the home side and a wonderful break out and chip by scrum-half Owain Keane saw winger Gordon Collins collect and bag their bonus point try.
Suddenly Neath were behind at 23-26 but the visitors were in determined mood. They continued to take the game to Bedwas and swept up-field again; home skipper Jon Armitage was binned and Luke Griffiths levelled the scores with his third penalty. From the re-start a brilliant surging run by replacement flanker Ben Lukes with Nicky Griffiths in support carried play to the 22 and tip-top passing saw flanker Tomi Antozzi free winger Roberts who outpaced the cover to touch down for his second try.
Luke Griffiths added the crucial conversion points and missed a long range kick but, with Matthew Jones on from the bench for his first action since rejoining the Blacks in the summer and Bedwas now unable to scent a win, the visitors pushed on to claim the points from a side who are two places above them in the table.
This splendid all-action game of rugby football was uplifting. Both sides were skilled and organised : Bedwas were grand and will have been glad to get back on the field; for Neath the win should heighten the team’s belief and ambition. It clearly meant a lot too to the Blacks’ intrepid band of supporters who have stuck with the team in numbers through many difficult days.
Neath will train with a smile this week. The Blacks must be positive – no resting on laurels – and there are still areas to work on because, as the Blacks know to their cost, any lapses of concentration or looseness of approach will be eagerly seized upon by Maesteg Quins at South Parade next week.
BEDWAS – J.Hallett; G.Collins, M.Williams, L.Bowden, J.Rees (R.Morgans); D.McIntosh, M.Bancroft (O.Keane); T.Devine (L.Davies), M.Dacey, K.Williams (R.Hutcherson); D.Hudd, G.Allen; J.Richards (J.Hayward), D.Rogers, J.Armitage (capt)
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt) (N.Griffiths); L.Griffiths, B.Atkins, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; Jordan Rees (M.Jones), E.Horgan; B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker, S.Jones; J.Blackmore, J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, S.Malone (B.Lukes)
Referee – Mr. S.Rees (Ebbw Vale)
After the postponement of last week’s game against Cardiff Metropolitan (now re-arranged for Thursday, March 12th, kick off 7.30pm), Neath hope to return to action against Bedwas on Saturday.
With the Bridge Field underwater earlier this week, the game will be played at Ystrad Mynach on the all-weather surface with an early kick off at 1.00pm.
A last-gasp conversion gave Bedwas a 16-14 win at The Gnoll back in October so the Blacks will be looking to turn the tables but to do so will need to be on top form against the third-placed home team.
Neath name much the same team as was selected for last week’s postponed game, the only changes seeing Sion Crocker and Scott Malone return at hooker and flanker respectively.
Neath v Bedwas (Away) 1.00pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Elis Horgan; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Scott Malone
Replacements – 16 Ifan James, 17 Gareth Wyn lloyd, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Nicky Griffiths, 20 Matthew Jones
Neath’s game at Bedwas has now been confirmed and will go ahead on the all-weather pitch at Ystrad Mynach with the kick off at the original time of 1.00pm.
There is adequate parking available at the ground for those supporters travelling.
Team news will follow here as usual after training on Thursday evening.
CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence
Parking from 11.30am
Storm Dennis wreaked havoc across South Wales at the weekend when nearly all rugby matches were off and many clubs have suffered damage through flooding.
“All at Neath RFC were dismayed to see the damage done by “Storm Dennis” to all clubs but particularly our old friends Bedwas and Cross Keys RFC’s and I have offered both Clubs any help we can,” said Neath secretary Mike Price.
“As regards Bedwas, we are due to play there on Saturday so Dave Cousins, their secretary, and I are going to stay in touch over the next few days and will keep supporters updated.”
Any developments will be reported here.