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Neath RFC

BEDWAS  36 points  NEATH  30  points

 Neath’s 11-match winning run came to an end in rather controversial circumstances at Bedwas where the unsighted referee disallowed a last-gasp try by No.8 David Griggs with an eminently kickable conversion to follow.

But really Neath had only themselves to blame for not winning this one as first-half defensive shortcomings gifted Bedwas their tries and in the second-half, they naively played right into the hands of Bedwas who all told kicked five of seven penalty goal opportunities afforded them.

Neath started the game at a fast pace and came close to the first try of the game very early on but wing Aaron Grabham opted to kick with support inside him and his nudge through went into touch and the opportunity was lost.

Neath’s fast game was causing Bedwas real problems and a certain try-scoring pass was squandered before the Neath forwards ruined a Bedwas heel and sharp scrum-half Elis Horgan nipped in for a try which outside-half Steff Williams converted.

A Dion McIntosh penalty brought Bedwas back into the game before Neath responded with one of their own by Steff Williams. But Bedwas levelled when skipper Craig Hudd took full advantage of some powder-puff tackling to run in from near halfway and McIntosh converted before missing a penalty chance.

After that, lack of defensive resolution or constitution – a debility not expected of Neath – came into play and effectively turned the match. Twice in quick succession, Bedwas exploited Neath’s weakness and two tries on Neath’s right flank resulted : by full back Matty Bancroft and then by strong-running left wing Dafydd Thomas.

McIntosh converted both tries and suddenly Bedwas were 24-10 to the good after a breath-taking half hour of play. But Neath, with both back replacements already employed, knuckled down and pulled back ten points before half-time to get back into the game.

From a lineout just outside the Bedwas 22, the Neath eight launched their powerful driving maul from which flanker Alun Jones pulled away and scampered over for their second try which Steff Williams converted.

The Neath forwards looked likely to repeat the dose and, with home defenders fire-fighting desperately, Bedwas conceded a penalty in front of their posts which Williams banged over to make it 20-24 at the interval.

In the second-half, Neath’s generosity knew no bounds as, over-ambitiously trying to move the ball in their own territory, they were gobbled up by the home defenders and succeeded only in giving away a series of kickable penalties – manna from heaven for an ace like McIntosh who landed three more goals.

Bedwas were 33-20 up after an hour’s play and, if salvation were to come Neath’s way, it would likely need to be via their forwards who had the edge at scrums, mauls and lineouts where the returning Jon Barley had a big influence.

When Neath decided to visit the Bedwas 22, a Barley lineout take led to prop Tim Ryan powering over for Neath’s third try but, from the re-start, Neath again gave away a penalty in their own territory. Dion McIntosh duly obliged the home faithful with his fifth successful goal – 21 points for the afternoon. Giving away five kicked penalties is rarely the recipe for success especially when coupled with the defensive errors of the first-half !

Still, Neath continued to battle hard and, in a grand finale, spreading the ball for once paid dividends when at last accurate hands freed replacement winger James Roberts who coasted outside his man and made it to the corner for Neath’s fourth try.

In a final surge, Neath attacked again and, after scrum-half Horgan was tackled metres short, another powerful forward surge off a lineout carried them over the line.

The Blacks celebrated, “Definitely a try,” confirmed our man on the spot but the referee (who incidentally had a very good game and contributed fully to a fine afternoon’s entertainment) had not seen it – and it would have taken a successful conversion to win it anyway.

Neath thus took the try-count 4-3 and two points from the game but that was of little consolation to them – a more pragmatic approach would surely have brought home the bacon as a score looked likely every time the Neath forwards got the ball in the Bedwas 22.

Neath now move on to the December 26 clash with Kenfig Hill at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm) to round off 2021.

BEDWAS – M.Bancroft;  A.Billingham (J.Guy), M.Williams, L.Bowden, D.Thomas; D.McIntosh, D.Davies; L.Jenkins (B.Drew), M.Dacey, R.Hutcherson (K.Phillips), H.Oliver, C.Hudd (capt) (C.Bushell-Thomas), D.Rogers (R.Morgan), A.Bourne, R.Jones

NEATH – I.Morgan; A.Grabham (M.Griffiths), R.Evans (capt), B.Atkins, J.Bayliss (J.Roberts); S.Williams, N.Griffiths; J.Powell (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker (M.Thomas), T.Ryan; J.Blackmore (S.Langford), J.Barley; A.Jones, D.Griggs, O.Morgan     Referee – Mr. A.Moule (Port Talbot)