NEATH 34 points CARDIFF METROPOLITAN 16 points
At a bright and brisk Gnoll a convincing 6-try victory over Cardiff Met saw Neath march on to the next round of the Swalec Cup. The University side came into the match on the back of some strong performances in the league and posed significant opposition for a Welsh All Blacks team who have been struggling for form this season.
There were however, no signs of a squad low on confidence. A blistering start saw Neath no.8 Josh Cole carrying hard off the back of a driving maul, pulling in defenders and freeing up the backline, allowing some quick hands to send Iwan Evans cantering in unopposed out wide. An ideal start for the home team, 5-0 up inside the first five minutes.
It wasn’t a lead that lasted long though and a couple of sloppy penalties from Neath forwards gave the Cardiff Met outside half Alex Seers two opportunities from the tee, bisecting the posts skilfully and pushing the visitors into a 6-5 advantage after fifteen minutes.
It was that man Seers who kicked the ball straight out after it was passed back into the 22 that gave Neath their next attacking opportunity. The ball was moved wide from the ensuing line out and after a couple of phases and some slick handling amongst the back three, winger Josh Jones snuck inside the corner flag to touch down for his teams second try.
Another good penalty from the Cardiff No. 10 reduced the deficit to just one point, before Neath were handed an injury blow as captain and scrum half Rhodri Cole was forced off the field with a bang to his lower back bringing Chris Morgan off the bench, a player only recently back from a spell injured on the sidelines.
Morgan was straight into the action. Following some neat interplay between backs and forwards, he took a quick tap penalty and scampered over the line to score Neath’s third try and extend the lead to 17-9 with five minutes to go before the interval.
Neath didn’t look to see out the half, and they were straight back on the attack from the restart. A rampaging run from the blindside Alex Humphrey took the Blacks into the opposition half and a quick dart from that man Morgan again sent winger Alec Jenkins down the touchline to bring up try number four before the break.
The second half started at the same frenetic pace as the first, and it was only some sloppy hands from Neath inside the Cardiff 22 that stopped them adding to their lead. The strength of the home pack began to tell and their dominance up front forced Cardiff into a change at hooker after a series of scrum and lineout penalties going the way of the Men in Black.
The visiting side weren’t done yet however and outside half Seers showed precise hands to unpick a solid Neath defence and send winger James Beale storming under the posts. Seers’ conversion made it 22-16 with 25 minutes left to play and game on.
In the final quarter as Neath pushed hard for a decisive score to take the game out of reach. After some sustained pressure in the Cardiff Half with strong work from both second rows and some telling touches from full back Ed Howley, the moment of magic came from fly half Luke Price. Spotting the space out wide Price took a quick penalty sending a cross-field kick into the grateful arms of tighthead prop Geraint James, who was able to cross unopposed and after some deliberation between the officials, give the home team some breathing room.
As the game opened up, Josh Cole picked from the back of another dominant home scrum and the number 8, who was titanic all match, powered his way down field. A quick release from the ruck and some good hands from the back line found more space out wide for Josh Jones to get his second and Neath’s sixth try of the match taking the score out to 34-16. Unfortunately, while the move played out, replacement prop Joel Ringer and Cardiff Met captain Will Norton exchanged blows in midfield and it was enough for them both to see yellow and mar a game played otherwise in good spirit.
The victory sees Neath move on in the Cup with a trip to Cross Keys in the next leg. This was an important win for a team who have been struggling for form of late, and coach Gareth Llewellyn will be hoping that they can kick on from here as a squad and take some confidence to Bridgend next weekend in a return to the league.
ORIGINAL MATCH PREVIEW (Postponed on 12th February 2016)
Neath host Cardiff Metropolitan in the Welsh Cup at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) with coach Gareth Llewellyn demanding better from his charges.
It is the first time for Neath to play the students in the Cup although they have played them several times in their previous guises as Cardiff Training College, Cardiff College of Education, South Glamorgan Institute and UWIC.
Neath make six changes from the side which lost heavily at the Arms Park last week, coach Llewellyn saying, “We have freshened things up a bit and are certainly looking for better things. We are boosted by the return of captain Nicky Downs and hooker Sion Crocker in the front row after long injury absences. It means we can give Ben Uphill a well-deserved rest after starting the last 9 games while we have plenty of back five options and are able to rotate players there too.”
The Welsh All Blacks will be without scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams who is on Wales Under-20’s duty in Ireland but centre Keiran Williams has been released from the squad to play.
* Neath’s game against Bedwas next week has been brought forward to the eve of the Wales-Scotland international and will be played at The Gnoll on Friday, February 12th (kick off 7.30pm)
Neath v Cardiff Metropolitan
15 Ed Howley; 14 Alec Jenkins, 13 Cameron Morris, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Josh Jones; 10 Luke Price, 9 Rhodri Cole;
1 Nicky Downs (captain), 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Jon Barley 5 Jonny Griffiths; 6 Josh Cole, 8 Steffan Jones, 7 Craig Price
Replacements (16-23) – Aaron Coundley, Keiren Mattocks, Joel Ringer, Alex Humfrey, Leon Ward, Alun Jones, Chris Morgans, Iwan Evans
Match Admission – Adults £10, Students (with ID) £5, Under-16’s FREE