Category: Match Reports

MATCH REPORT – CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE No.9 – 1988/89

Our secretary Mike Price continues his series examining Neath’s Welsh title wins with Part 9 – season 1988/89.

 After winning their ninth Welsh championship in 1986/87, 1987/88 was considered something of a failure by the demanding Blacks. Finishing second to the Pontypool of David Bishop and Mark Ring whom they beat in the Cup semi-final and then losing the final to Llanelli in the final was never good enough for Neath.

1988/89 was Neath’s chance to make amends and they did so in style romping to the championship Cup double and helping themselves to world record points and tries tallies on the way.

Team Manager Brian Thomas departed for work duties in Yugoslavia so more pressure was thrust upon the willing shoulders of Ron Waldron, Glen Ball and David Shaw and hooker Kevin Phillips was a truly inspiring on-field lieutenant – a super side honed to super fitness played some super rugby.

The season’s deeds have been splendidly covered by Rod Rees (“The Trail to Triumph”) and Bernard Lewis (“Neath, Neath, Neath”) – and I commend their works to anyone who wants the full story of an epic season. Suffice to say that Neath racked up the points and enjoyed some huge victories over their traditional rivals in 1988/89.

Among them were : Newbridge 73-3 (H), Pontypool 67-18 (H), Penarth 66-8 (H), Greystones 66-19 (H), Maesteg 64-nil (H), Cross Keys 60-10 (A), Newport 54-7 (H), Ebbw Vale 58-3 (H), Ebbw Vale 50-nil (A), Richmond 50-4 (H), Bridgend 49-nil (H), Cardiff 49-10 (H), Sale 48-17 (H), London Welsh 48-15 (H), Aberavon 42-6 (H), Coventry 42-9 (A), Glamorgan Wanderers 38-nil (A) Cup, Cambridge University 38-6 (H), Aberavon 34-10 (A), Pontypridd 34-15 (A), Wasps 34-6 (A), Pontypool 33-9 (A), Newport 33-16 (A), Maesteg 32-6 (A). Glamorgan Wanderers 27-13 (A), Swansea 26-6 (H) and Bridgend 22-3 (A).

1,917 points and 345 tries were scored; some of the margins are frightening even today – and remember tries were only worth 4 points then. However, perhaps most impressive of all was the 22-19 midweek win over Toulouse at The Gnoll in October.

Llanelli chased Neath hard and it was not until April 24th that the championship was won – an overcast Tuesday evening and Waterton Cross, the home of South Wales Police, was the rather unlikely venue.

The well-appointed Police ground with its large concrete stand was a wide field with a good playing surface and it regularly attracted squad sessions for the national side. But it was a rather under-used facility and certainly not used to coping with the massive Neath support which journeyed east after work. Home treasurer David Richards, a Neath man, was the busiest man in Welsh rugby that night as he willingly relieved the All Blacks’ hordes of their silver ! But the real silver (ware) went to the Blacks !

The ground had never seen such a crowd and, under the heading “CHAMPION SHOW – NEATH SEAL TITLE !”, this was how Malcolm Lewis of the “Western Mail” described the action :-

S.W. Police 4pts Neath 31 pts 

 NEATH are the new “Western Mail” champions – and now prepare for a May 6 Schweppes Cup final against Llanelli, a mouth-watering showdown with the Merit Table title-winners.

 Kevin Phillips’ team clinched the coveted consistency crown last night with a game in hand, to add the final touch of spice to the repeat Cup final against the Scarlets.

 Despite a slow start, the Welsh All Blacks ensured both will be chasing a double in front of an anticipated 50,000-strong Arms Park crowd as they secured a second championship in three seasons, their fourth in 42 years.

 But it was anything but a stroll in the park for the club who have set new world record marks of 1,849 points and 331 tries – the latter ultimately being increased by five on this occasion.

 The Police, battered by Pontypridd on Saturday, put up a tremendous battle for an hour before Neath belatedly got their customary dynamic game going.

 The home side, with scrum-half David Harrett and centre Dene Jones responding to the example of their forwards, tackled like demons and Neath, finding space at a premium, got bogged down in midfield.

 Nevertheless, the end result was the victory Neath required to put the “Western Mail” title out of Llanelli’s reach. Now both the All Blacks and the Scarlets can concentrate on Cup preparations.

 The first half was certainly not a memorable affair, despite the early promise provided by Jeremy Pugh’s first try after less than three minutes.

 Wing Chris Higgs breached the defence with a magical weaving run and unselfishly fed the supporting prop.

 Police lock Nick Jones almost forced his way over as the home forwards took the game to Neath though they could make no impression with a tapped penalty move.

But, under the watchful eye of next season’s coach Gerald Williams, they did profit when centre Phil Young intercepted and sent wing Mark Brinkworth over.

Mark Jones, in particular, was required for extensive defensive duties as the Police refused to be over-awed by a side who have swept numerous opponents before them during a remarkable season.

 And it was not until the 47th minute that Neath regained the lead, lock Paul Jackson plunging over from a line out and Paul Thorburn bringing up his 300 points for the season with the conversion.

The Wales captain and full back increased their advantage when Chris Bridges was the victim  of a high tackle, his penalty putting Neath 10 points clear and sparking a final quarter onslaught.

 Police No.8 Martyn Morris burst away on a threatening run but Neath stormed back through their forwards, supplemented by Bridges, for Pugh to claim his second try.

 Second row Jackson emulated his front row colleague as persistent Neath pressure told before centre Colin Laity broke his pack’s try-scoring dominance minutes later, Thorburn converting both.

South Wales Police : try – M. Brinkworth

Neath : tries – J. Pugh (2), P. Jackson (2), C. Laity; cons (4), pen – Paul Thorburn.

 NEATH – Paul Thorburn; Chris Higgs, Jason Ball, Colin Laity, Steve Powell; Paul Williams, Chris Bridges; David Joseph, Kevin Phillips (captain), Jeremy Pugh; Paul Jackson, Gareth Llewellyn; Phil Pugh, Mark Jones, Lyn Jones

Coach Ron Waldron was in no doubt that the title was attributable to the squad whose teamwork was of the highest order and was really like nothing seen before in Wales. Again, the side’s impressive depth is underlined by those not playing on the night the title was won including internationals Allan Bateman, Alan Edmunds, Brian Williams, John Davies, Huw Richards, Rowland Phillips and David Pickering.

Neath were proud champions for the ninth time. And the Cup ? Well, that was won too – a close thing 14-13 in front of a world record 58,000 crowd against Llanelli. So the double was Neath’s and the Welsh All Blacks were set up nicely to take on the other All Blacks, the world champions of New Zealand, the following season.

MP

MATCH REPORT – CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE IV – 1933/34

Neath added to their championship triumphs of 1909/10, 1910/11 and 1928/29 by winning the “Western Mail” title again in 1933/34.

Captained by Wales threequarter Arthur Hickman, the record was not quite as spectacular as that set by Tom Evans’ side but nevertheless they triumphed in 43 of their 52 fixtures and drew one of them, scoring 156 tries.

Llanelly and Aberavon battled tenaciously but a wonderful late season run saw Neath emerge as champions – but it was not until Neath’s 51st game of the season that the title was assured.

On Saturday, April 28, 1934, the All Blacks travelled to lush Abertillery Park and here is how Abertillery’s man described it for the “Western Mail” :-

– ABERTILLERY EXTENDED CHAMPIONS –
– BUT NEATH DESERVED TO WIN –

ABERTILLERY 0-1-3 NEATH 1-2-11
Exhilirating rugby was seen at Abertillery Park on Saturday between Neath, the unofficial Welsh champions, and Abertillery.

The champions’ victory was a tardy one, their 11 points being registered towards the end of the game, though, be it said, in less than that number of minutes.

A rally which resulted in a deserved try was the only reply that Abertillery were able to make.

Up to the time Neath scored their first try, and in the first half particularly, Abertillery shared the spoils in attack and defence. Abertillery’s line had its escapes, but so did Neath’s.

After the interval the All Blacks through the superiority their forwards established in the scrums and the speed of their backs, repeatedly launched attacks on the Abertillery line.

Once it had been crossed the defence crumbled and Neath reaped the rward which, it must be conceded, was seservedly theirs.
PLUCKY RESISTANCE
Abertillery put up a great resistance and played more convincing football than they have for a considerable period.

The outstanding man was Gwyn Moore, the Neath centre. A great attacking back, he scored two tries.

Powell served Abertillery well, especially in the first half but he took less watching than the elusive Youatt for Neath.

Despite his youth, Ken Green, the secondary schoolboy international, at full back for Abertillery, stood up magnificently, to the Neath attacks and acquitted himself in a manner that would have been creditable to a more experienced player.

Following Moore’s two tries, Rayner Jones was sent over by Youatt for atry which Hickman converted. Subsequently, Pugh scored for Abertillery. Teams :-

ABERTILLERY – K. Green; G. Woodhouse, H. Richardson, L. Murray, A.E. Williams; G. Gimblett, C. Powell; M. Meek, G. Morgan, T. Pugh, T. Richards, T. Sayers, E. Lloyd, K. Fildes, W. Watkins
NEATH – Gwyn Thomas; D.H. Davies, Glyn Daniels, Gwyn Moore, Islwyn Davies; Arthur Hickman (captain), Eddie Youatt; Tom Arthur, D.R. Prosser, D.L. Thomas, Mog Rees, D.M. Evans, Gordon Hopkins, Harold Thomas, Rayner Jones

Neath’s championship was therefore greeted with the usual understatement in the East – nothing new there ! – but the side were deserved champions and had more depth at their disposal than most.

It was by no means Neath’s strongest side as the long campaign had taken its toll and men like Dan Jones, T.H. Morgan and Glyn Prosser were not involved while star scrum-half Cliff Evans and Vernon Case had gone north during the season.

But it was a Neath team which fully lived up to the standards associated with the All Blacks.

Gwyn Moore is considered one of Neath’s finest – if not the very best of – centres and should have been capped. Gwyn Thomas, Glyn Daniels and Eddie Youatt were trialists.

Arthur Hickman was a real star with the footballing ability to play anywhere from outside-half to wing where he was capped by Wales – and he would probably have succeeded in other positions too had he decided to try his luck there.He scored 29 tries that season – and added 50 conversions and 7 penalties for good measure : 208 points in all.

As ever, the Neath pack was wonderful. Tom Arthur, the brothers Thomas and the brothers Prosser were all capped by Wales. All the others were trialists and would not have disgraced the national shirt.

In the 1930’s, economic fortunes were hard but Neath were every bit as tough as the times.

MP

1928/29 – TRIPLE CHAMPIONS !

Neath’s third Welsh Championship title win was their most comprehensive yet.

In 1928/29, former Army boxing champion Tom Evans and his men took Welsh rugby by storm and, so dominant were they, that they bore the hallmark of champions long before the end of a glorious campaign.

In fact, such was their superiority and the fact that the “Western Mail” championship operated on a percentage basis it is very difficult to pinpoint exactly when the championship was won other than by the beginning of April it was no longer possible for other clubs to fit in additional fixtures to overtake the All Blacks – and then only if they slipped up badly.

And Neath were not about to fall on any banana-skins as they embarked upon a 13- match victory charge which sealed the title for the Blacks in no uncertain terms.

An early Easter provided the launch-pad. After beating Cross Keys on Good Friday, poor Edgware felt the “blacklash” as Neath, switching forwrad George Barclay to emergency full back, thrashed the Londoners 35-3 scoring 9 tries through centre Emrys Jones (2), forward Hector Davies (2), schoolboy protege Arthur Hickman (2), wing Dan Jones, scrum-half Jimmy Owen and centre Glyn Daniels, Emrys Jones converting four.

Easter Monday visitors Glamorgan Wanderers were similarly treated in a 37-5 victory which this time featured 8 tries as wingers Dan Jones and Hickman bagged hat-tricks, others coming from Owen and Emrys Jones who converted five and kicked a penalty in a 16-point haul.

That most free-scoring of Easter-tides saw Neath’s tally rise to 109 points in three games as Abertillery were blasted 37-3 on the Tuesday. A further 9 tries were registered by Hickman (his second hat-trick in two days), Neath Rovers’ scrum-half Abraham Thomas (2), Hector Davies, Daniels, international Tom Arthur and Barclay with Emrys Jones converting five to become the first Neath player to reach 200 points in a season and the Monmouthshire side whose pursuit of Neath had petered out before Christmas were well beaten.

Maesteg made things much tougher the following Saturday as Neath won 15-8 with tries by Hickman (2) and forward Albert Davies, Emrys Jones kicking two penalties in a 15-8 success. Young Hickman was showing devastating finishing power and he made it 10 tries in four games as he crossed for a further brace, even eclipsing Dan Jones who scored the other in an 11-6 Wednesday win at Penarth. Emrys Jones kicked one conversion and was partnered at centre by Harold Hayes, borrowed from Aberavon.

Neath geared themselves for a big assault from Newport but the Usk-siders were dismissed 13-nil through tries by Dan Jones and forwards Dai Evans (later lost on HMS Hood) and Albert Davies with Emrys Jones converting two as the home forwards took control in the second-half.

An end of season Midlands tour awaited the champions. The Blacks beat Burton 23-9 at Peel Croft, scoring 7 tries and then journeyed on to the delights of Derby and an engagement with their former full back policeman Len Shipton and Chief Constable Rawlings. Two tries each for those prolific wings Dan Jones and Hickman, another by Arthur Lemon and two conversions by Emrys Jones gave Neath a 19-6 win but full back Phil Lloyd dislocated his shoulder.

Tom Arthur was provisionally sounded out as to his availability for the 1930 British Isles tour to New Zealand but had to decline as the Glamorgan force would not allow him leave of absence and his wife’s earnings from her sewing business in Russell Street would not alone have been sufficient.

Still, the burly Neath policeman was to the fore as Neath won 25-6 at Pontypool where a tough young forward Glyn Prosser of Glynneath came into the team. Dan Jones stole the show with a 4-try burst and Glyn Daniels also crossed, Emrys Jones converting three and centre Harry Rees dropped a goal.

Neath had a heavy police presence in their ranks at the time and their next game was played in aid of the Police Fund for Poor Children. There were two distinct forces operating in the area at the time, the Neath Borough Police which catered for the town and the Glamorgan County Police which served the largely outlying rural areas.

The Neath Police provided the opposition in midweek but “neither side took it too seriously” as Neath ran out 31-17 victors skipper Tom Evans and Glyn Daniels converting two of the 9 tries by Dan Jones (3) and forwards Dai Evans (2), Harold Jones, T.H. (Tonna) Morgan, Arthur Lemon and Albert Davies.

A 21-3 win at Pontypridd followed, tries being scored by Glyn Daniels (2), Hickman, Ivor Thomas and Harold Jones with Emrys Jones converting three. Then tries by Dan Jones (2), Hector Davies and Emrys Jones who converted two ensured a 16-3 win over Abertillery whose try was scored by Albert Fear.

Neath were far from full strength as they ended the season with a 17-10 win over Cwmavon. And they went down 8-9 for a second time at Cardiff where Dan Jones scored his amazing 59th Neath try of the season – a world record which has stood the test of time. In all games, Dan advanced his tally to a memorable 73. Hector Davies got another and Emrys Jones converted but Cardiff stole it late on when Welsh international wing Gwyn Davies got their third try.

Neath’s magnificent season ended when they journeyed to nearby Briton Ferry whose new dressing rooms at the Grandison Hotel were opened by Alderman J.B. Williams. Home celebrations may have been muted as Neath cantered to a 34-nil victory, Hickman again showing his potential in crossing for four tries and Hector Davies getting three. Ivor Thomas touched down too with Emrys Jones converting three and dropping a goal.

That brought to an end an amazing season. Of the 49 games played, 42 were won, 3 drawn and only 4 lost. Records tumbled : the 930 points scored was a world record which would stand the test of time; Emrys Jones’ 261 points was a Neath record which would survive longer than most; Dan Jones’ 59 tries will in all probability never be beaten while Howie Jones’ feat of scoring 6 tries in a game against Western Counties would not be broken for over 80 years.

With 21 tries in all, Howie Jones finished second to Dan Jones in the try-charts but really the team could attack from anywhere and had other prominent scorers too in Glyn Daniels (20), Hector Davies (20), Arthur Hickman (19) and Jimmy Owen (14).

The “Western Mail” table had its critics but Welsh talent was concentrated in its top clubs (an ideal circumstance for the regional age ?) who nearly all beat opponents from across the border and thus ended in credit and the final table made especially good reading for Neath men – over 17 perentage points ahead of their nearest challengers.

Tom Evans and his men could be proud of a job well done ! :-

MATCH REPORT – BACK TO BACK TITLES

Having won the title in 1909/10, the challenge for Frank Rees’ men at Neath was to do it all over again in 1910/11.

However, four pre-Christmas defeats by Leicester, Pontypool, Newport and Cardiff put the Welsh All Blacks on the back-foot and, even after winning their first overseas game at Stade Francais, Neath were second in the table to Cardiff at the end of March.

As April broke, neighbouring Aberavon were determined to make it tough for Neath – especially after a clairvoyant at Port Talbot’s Grand Theatre predicted that the home side would win 11-3 !

The soothsayer got it hopelessly wrong though. Although Bill Perry and Will Hopkins (both local constables !) had to “leave the field” with Perry being struck on the head by an irate Aberavon supporter, a Shon Evans try edged Neath home 3-nil – a verdict they deserved according to the “Druid” who wrote, “There could be no mistaking the superiority of the All Blacks.”

“Lucifer” complained in the “Gazette” of the lengths Neath went to in order to get out their best available side with Idris Jones arriving by motor-car and just making kick off while Jim Birch caught a train from policing the riots at Tonypandy !

Scrum-half Shon Evans was ranked one of the best in Wales. He had seen off the brief challenge of W.L. Morgan who instead went to Cardiff and was subsequently capped for Wales.

The Neath scrum-worker crossed for a hat-trick when Neath avenged the previous year’s defeat in a 9-nil win over London Welsh and Neath’s title hopes were boosted by Cardiff’s defeat at Gloucester.

The charge for the championship was now well and truly on and, for the second successive season, Bridgend were beaten for the fourth time (19-3) in a season through Good Friday tries by forwards D.H. Davies, Tim Jenkins, Fred David, centre and captain Frank Rees and winger Hopkin Harris with full back Fred Rees dropping a goal for good measure.

Neath were very much Bridgend’s nemesis but the following week the Mid Glamorgan side did the Blacks a huge favour when they killed off the title challenge of Swansea.

The “exceedingly tough morsels” of Headingley fought hard but capitulated 18-nil at The Gnoll on Easter Saturday as skipper Frank Rees, wing Trevor John, D.H. Davies and outside-half Jack Brennan ran in tries, three converted by Fred Rees.

The stylish full back converted two of the five tries on Easter Monday when the All Blacks beat Belfast Collegians 19-3 on a hard pitch in front of a 5,000 crowd.

The visitors fielded seven Irish internationals – five forwards in W.S. Smyth, Paddy Smyth, try-scorer William Tyrrell (later Sir), Herbert Moore and Charles Adams and two wings Cyril O’Callaghan and Joseph Quinn while full back W.E. Crawford was capped between the wars.

Home tries were scored by Shon Evans (2), Frank Rees, forward Tom Thomas and another fine young forward who would become a Neath legend, Glyn Stephens whose elder brothers Jack and Tom had played for the Club.

Stephens had earned a schoolboy cap; big and fast, he would be capped at senior level in 1912 and he became the first Neath player to captain Wales and was later President of the WRU while his son Rees gained 32 caps, was a British Lion and a Welsh selector.

Easter debuts were also handed to Morgan Lloyd (brother of Tom) and Will Hopkins – three highly promising forwards and the emergence of such “clever reserves” delighted the “Druid” of the “Cambtria Daily Leader” as Newath homed in on the title.

Glyn Stephens’ dramatic arrival on the first-class club scene saw him then score two tries on Easter Tuesday when the All Blacks beat Ferndale 22-nil and there were other tries from Brennan, Wales international T.C. Lloyd, Shon Evans and forward Neville Moore on a rare appearance, Fred Rees converting two.

The stage was set for the last big shoot-out of the season when Newport came to The Gnoll which was rather apt considering how the previous season ended and, just as they had a year earlier, the newspaper previews hailed the game the “championship decider”

It was nip and tuck all the way through as Newport sought to wrest the title away from the Welsh All Blacks. A 10,000 crowd was enraptured as the Neath pack rampaged with the internationals Howel Davies, Jim Birch, veteran D.H. Davies and T.C. Lloyd took the fight to Newport who gave as good as they got.

Glyn Stephens stood out as an international on the making but it was scoreless until Wales reject Jim Birch got the deciding try in the second-half and full back Fred Rees converted – this time even the “Western Mail” could not distort the figures and had to concede that Neath were indeed worthy champions.

Skipper Frank Rees missed the match due to injury so vice-captain Fred David led the following Neath team to victory :-

Fred Rees; Trevor John, Idris Jones, Dai Parry, Edgar Thomas; Jack Brennan, Shon Evans; Fred David (captain), Howel Davies, Jim Birch, D.H. Davies, Tom Thomas, T.C. Lloyd, Glyn Stephens, R.K. Green

Champions again !

MATCH REPORT ARCHIVES – NEATH v NORTHAMPTON (Jan 2000)

NEATH 23 NORTHAMPTON 39

Saturday 15th January 2000
(2.30pm Kick-Off)

MATCH REPORT

The visitors started the match with an attack, which led to Neath conceding a Penalty in the first minute, this was kicked by outside half Alistair Hepher.

The Saints stretched their lead when Former Neath favourite Alan Bateman crossed for a try, after a break by his fellow British Lion John Sleightholme, Hepher converted. The home side reduced the deficit when outside half Cerith Rees was successful with two penalties. Hepher responded with two penalties for the visitors.

Tristan Davies replaced Dave Tiueti at half time, while Northampton replaced scrum half Dom Malone with another British Lion in Matt Dawson. Cerith Rees scored the first points of the second half with a penalty kick. Outside half Alistair Hepher then beat the Neath defence with a dummy to score a try at the posts, which Hepher himself converted.


The All Blacks rallied and from a lineout close to the Northampton try line prop Duncan Jones crossed for a try after good work at the line out by Shawn Van Rensberg, Cerith Rees converted. Hepher then kicked two penalties for the visitors, Neath scored their second try when centre James Storey crossed after smart work by Shane Williams and man of the Match Shawn Van Rensberg. 

 

The Saints had one more score up their sleeves, a long-range effort, which was finished by Scottish International flanker Budge Poutney, which Hepher again converted.

EXTRA SPECIAL MATCH REPORT – AN EASTER RISING ?

Today, with no rugby to look forward to for a while, we travel back 99 years to Easter Tuesday, 1921.

Easter was early that year – the Tuesday was March 29th – a date to remember as it was on that day that Neath first played the famous Barbarians.

1920/21 had not been Neath’s best season by far; but neither was it their worst.

The All Blacks were still struggling to emulate their pre-war supremacy especially up front where it was taking time to re-build the pack after all the tragedy of the Great War.

But Neath enjoyed a good Easter which was much to the approval of the sporting fraternity in the Town who had been denied their rugby football during the war.

Glorious Good Friday weather drew 8,000 to The Gnoll to see Neath beat Briton Ferry but the rugby football disappointed as only a Glyn Morgan try gave Neath the spoils at 3-nil.

Still, the Blacks completed a handsome double over Northampton on the Saturday, winning 21-6 through tries by the brilliant Dai Hiddlestone (2), Llew Edwards, Arthur Hopkins and scrum-half Eddie Watkins who converted three.

Neath made it an Easter hat-trick but ended the Easter Monday game with Headingley with 13 men but, watched by 6,000, still managed to win 17-3 through tries by Reason (2), Harris (2) and Arthur Hopkins, Francis converting one.

Injuries to half-backs Eddie Watkins and David Reason ruled the pair out of Tuesday’s big game. Glyn Stephens (the first Neath man to captain Wales) was injured as was the previous year’s captain Will Hopkins who broke a leg at Swansea a fortnight earlier.

Fellow internationals Bill Perry and T.C. Lloyd were also ruled out so it was a raw Neath side which took the field against the tourists.

Neath captain Dr. J.L.G. (Gwyn) Thomas, schoolboy international and decorated war-hero, and centre Vernon Hill, Royal Flying Corps officer and ex-P.O.W., had experienced rugby with the Barbarians.

Hiddlestone (who had joined Neath from Llanelly in January) had appeared in unofficial war-time internationals but the forwards, largely local, were a young lot although Ambrose Baker had just earned his Welsh cap with Vernon Hill a reserve.

So it was that the famous invitational Barbarians paid their first-ever visit to The Gnoll – and what a game it proved to be !

After a forward rush, Bert Thomas got a try for Neath (3-nil) but W.M. David scored for the Ba-Ba’s and the conversion by Albertin put the visitors in front (3-5).

Tries by future WRU secretary Eric Evans (6-3) and Arthur Hopkins (9-3) saw Neath lead but a try and a conversion by C.J. Steyn put the visitors in front for the first time (9-10).

Amidst growing tension, the crowd was silent when Neath’s goal-kicking forward Will Powell, restored to the ranks and very much a player for the big occasion, stepped up to land a penalty and give Neath a momentous 12-10 victory.

The teams were :-

NEATH – J.L.G. Thomas (captain); David Harris, Glyn Morgan, R.I.V. Hill, Eric Evans; T.H. Francis, Levi Phillips; W.E. Thomas, Arthur Hopkins, Will Powell, David Hiddlestone, Ambrose Baker, George Watkins, Jack Thomas, C. Bannister
BARBARIANS – D.M. Houston (London Scottish); A.M M’Gregor (Pontypridd), A.M. David (Old Alleynians), P.K. Albertin (Guy’s Hospital), C.L. Steyn (Guy’s Hospital); A.T. Young (Blackheath), J.C. Seager (Blackheath); H.L.G. Hughes (Blackheath, captain), E.F. Turner (London Scottish), P.H.X. Gwynne (Blackheath), D.D. Morton (Lansdowne), F.le S. Stone (Blackheath), V. Grenning (Blackheath), R.S. Hellier (Old Alleynians), W.J. Jenkins (Cardiff)

The underdogs had proved their pedigree ! And the victory was the undoubted highlight of Neath’s season which still had another 8 games to run in April.

Neath played the Barbarians on three Easter Tuesdays in all, winning the first two and drawing the third, before the Ba-Ba’s settled on Newport to round off their holidays.

Some say it was because in the third game Will Powell charged down a conversion – not regarded as sporting by some although well within the laws !

More probably, that was only an excuse. The likelihood is that it did not make travelling sense for the Ba-Ba’s to head west from their HQ at the Esplanade Hotel in Penarth before returning home, generally east, again.

Newport made the homeward trip and – given the Ba-Ba’s lack of success at The Gnoll – the rugby a whole lot easier.

The Black and Ambers therefore became the Ba-Ba’s traditional final destination on their Easter tours and they re-visited The Gnoll but once – in Neath’s centenary year when they finally won ! MP

TODAY’S MATCH REPORT – A SIGNIFICANT ANNIVERSARY

Easter Saturday is always a special day for Neath RFC for it marks the return of the Welsh All Blacks to The Gnoll after just over 10 years playing at the nearby Bird-in-Hand Field.

1898 was the year in which Neath returned and April 9th the day – here is how the “Evening Express” reported the match (spellings and names have been tidied up) :-

NEATH v. MORRISTON.
This match was played at Neath, on the Gnoll Ground. The weather was dull, and a very strong wind blew down the field, and militated against a good game. Both teams were fairly well represented. Mr. Betts, of Newport, acted as referee.

Mog Reynolds started for Neath, and for the first few minutes Neath attacked hotly. Close to the line scrums were formed, and once or twice the All Blacks all but got over.

One of the Morriston halves got away and relieved to the centre, where the visitors were penalised. Joe Davies relieved well into Morriston ground, where Play of an even nature followed. Round after round of passing ensued, and Neath got quite close to the line again. Here a scrum was formed, and Charlie Powell, getting around nicely, scored a try which Joe Davies failed to convert.

After the resumption Neath pressed, and Morriston were penalised for the off-side play of the halves. Joe Davies tried a shot for goal, but one of the visiting backs received and returned into the field of play. Dai Evans failed to get under, or a mark in a favourable position would have resulted.

The All Blacks continued to attack, and a grand goal was kicked by Joe Davies from a mark. After the re-start Charlie Powell got away cleverly in midfield and passed to Phillips who gave rather a hard pass to Morris, which the latter failed to take.

A moment later a long kick compelled Morriston to concede a minor. When the game was resumed Neath again took up the attack, and the Morriston halves being again penalised, Joe Davies essayed another shot at goal.

The Morriston centre made a mark, but his kick was a failure, and Jim Thomas got away nicely, and passed to Bill Jones, who kicked and put his men on side, a lucky flying kick by Tom White averted a certain score, and a moment later a run by Dai Davies changed the venue to the centre, where for a time the game was strongly contested.

A fine round of passing between the home backs, in which Owen Harris was conspicuous, enabled the All Blacks to once more put on the pressure, but then a change came. Tom Roberts started a nice dribble, which was supplemented by some good passing between the visiting backs.

This resulted in Dai Davies scoring a neat try, which was not, however, converted. The game had not long been resumed when the home forwards got right up to the line. One of them knocked on at a critical moment, and nothing tangible resulted.
After another minor had been registered against the visitors Jack Linnard came away cleanly from half-way, arid when near the line he passed to Morris, who nearly got over.

The efforts of the home team were at last rewarded, and after a nice round of passing Bill Jones got over. The kick at goal just failed.

Half-time score: — G. T. M.
Neath 1* 2 4
Morriston 0 1 0
*Dropped goal.

In the second half Morriston had the advantage of the wind, which was a very important factor. Morriston waged a good fight and as a result of a fine forward dribble the oval was taken right up to the Neath line.

Jack Linnard secured there, and passed to Owen Harris, who cleared his tine and got back to the 25 flag before his progress was arrested. Good play by the home backs changed the visitors quarters where a good chance of scoring was spoiled by the referee’s whistle.

There a nice bit of play by Charlie Powell, Charlie Morris, and Bill Jones followed, and the last named was held up close to the line. A penalty kick brought the visitors relief, and enabled them to get back to the centre.

One of the Morriston halves penalised his side, but no ground was gained by the kick. Play continued in midfield for a time. and honours were fairly even. then the visitors pressed, but it was not for long. for combined play saw Neath get back once again into Morriston ground.

The visiting forwards, who were glaringly off-side, rushed into Neath ground. but Owen Harris, with the run of the afternoon, changed the venue to the centre. A moment later, Oliver Harris receiving a pass from Phillips, clean beat five men, and would have easily scored had not the touch-line judge been a bit too careful on his own side.

A moment later Charlie Powell got away splendidly from half-way, and just failed to score. The All Blacks attacked hotly, and a fine forward rush ended in Mog Reynolds adding an unconverted try. The game had just been resumed when Charlie Powell again experienced hard lines, but Neath were not long to be denied, for after a grand round of passing Bill Jones scored an unconverted try. Time was called, with the score reading:

G. T. M.
Neath 1* 4 5
Morriston 0 1 0
“Dropped goal.

NOTES
• The score equates to 16-3.
• Bill Jones (2 tries) captained Neath for 9 seasons.
• Joe Davies and Charlie Powell were multi-Wales reserves but never capped.
• Morriston’s Tom White (later Wigan RL) and Dai Davies played for Neath – school-master Davies was killed on the Western Front in September 1918.
• Charlie Morris was the first Neath player to be killed in WWI on December 28th, 1914.

NEXT WEEK – we’ll return to Neath’s championship-winning Match Reports

MP

RESULT: NEATH 14 CARDIFF METROPOLITAN 48 – THURSDAY, MARCH 12th, 2020

NEATH 14 CARDIFF METROPOLITAN 48

A magnificent second-half performance by Cardiff Met carried away the glory from a game which until half-time had seemed delicately poised and it left Neath with a whole lot more head-scratching.

On a cold evening, perfect for running rugby, the students, building towards their BUCS quarter-finals, clearly appreciated the immaculate Gnoll surface.

Neath ought to have gone in front but blew a five-metre line-out chance; instead it was the visitors who took the lead when outside half Evan Lloyd kicked a penalty and shortly afterwards he converted the first try of the game when the students exploited weak defence for a try by hooker Morgan Nelson.

The Blacks, playing into a strong wind, fought their way back and this time got a line-out right, lock Jacob Blackmore’s take and a concerted drive eventually leading to a rare try by prop Ben Uphill which winger Luke Griffiths converted superbly from the touchline.

Neath enjoyed a good spell up to half-time but could not break through and, at just 10-7 down, Neath would have been half-satisfied with their performance into the wind but what happened afterwards was a different story.

Despite having the vastly superior scrummage and the knowledge that their driving line-out would produce dividends, Neath failed to put into operation their coaches’ instructions and became suckered into an open, unstructured game which was made for the counter-attacking students.

Good to watch and very pleasing on the eye and Neath want to play it fast – but probably not against the students who have more ammunition in such a contest. After a superb chase-back tackle by young full back Iestyn Morgan had saved Neath’s bacon, a loose kick presented the Met with their first opportunity which wing Zach Clow eagerly accepted and then scrum-half Ethan McVeigh crossed, Lloyd converting both.

Neath responded with another driving line-out try by No.8 David Griggs which Luke Griffiths converted but the students hit back quickly with another try as Neath continually turned over ball. Poor Matthew Pearce got carded for his troubles after a series of high tackles against Neath went unpunished as advantage was played.

Cardiff Met finished with a flourish and the way that some experienced Neath forwards allowed themselves to be bossed should have them contemplating their navels for the full length of the Covid-19 crisis – and that may be some time !

Cardiff Met added further tries from George Gladding, Andrew Nurse and finally the accomplished Lloyd who converted two of them for a personal haul of 18 points. It gave the Met a comprehensive success as they ran a Neath team, lacking in self-esteem, off the park. In fairness, the students looked best-equipped team to have visited The Gnoll this season and their pace and ability to get the ball wide surpassed even the top two runaways Pontypool and Bargoed.

But it showed Neath, if it ever needed underlining, how much work needs to be done if they are to challenge next season – the gap is wider than many seem to think !

NEATH – I.Morgan; L.Griffiths, Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; Jordan Rees (M.Jones), M.Griffiths (N.Griffiths); B.Uphill (L.Tobias), S.Crocker (capt) (Iestyn Jones), S.Jones; J.Blackmore (S.Malone), J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, B.Lukes

CARDIFF MET – A.Nurse; Z.Clow, H.Johnston, B.Karea, M.Cunnington; E.Lloyd, E.McVeigh; T.Workman, M.Nelson, L.Yendle; L.Beer. B.Langton-Cryet; M.Heathman (capta), B.Marshall-Telfer, C.Geary Repl. I.Davies, D.Bartlett, O.Howard, K.Bevan, G.Gladding

Referee– Mr. B.Breakspear (Abercynon)

MATCH PREVIEW:

Neath play their second successive Thursday evening game when they take on Cardiff Metropolitan at The Gnoll (kick off 7.30pm).

Since the days when they were known as Cardiff Training College, the students have always played entertaining rugby and they are enjoying a successful season and are through to the quarter-finals of the British Universities competition.

Last time out, Neath’s fast game gave Bargoed considerable food for thought before bowing to the championship-chasers’ relentless forward pressure so an open game is in prospect.

Neath are again without captain Aaron Bramwell and have named much the same side with Macauley Griffiths replacing Nicky Griffiths the only change behind. Up front, Jacob Blackmore and Ben Lukes return for Matthew Davies who suffered a shoulder injury last week and Scott Malone who moves to an experienced replacements’ bench.

Neath v Cardiff Metropolitan (Home) 7.30pm
15 Iestyn Morgan; 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker (captain), 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes

Replacements – 16 Iestyn Jones, 17 Liam Tobias, 18 Scott Malone, 19 Nicky Griffiths, 20 Matthew Jones

Referee – Mr. Ben Breakspear (Abercynon)

Next Fixture
Sat March 21 Glamorgan Wanderers Home 2.30pm

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 23 BARGOED 40 – THURSDAY, MARCH 5th, 2020

NEATH 23 BARGOED 40
Bargoed kept the pressure on Championship leaders Pontypool with this well-merited win at The Gnoll – but Neath gave them a shock and were very much in the game until Bargoed’s well-drilled, burly forwards strangled them in the second-half.

Still, signs are that Neath are tuning into the fast, all-action game that the coaches and Blacks’ supporters want to see and they carried on where they left off at Bedwas with some wonderful off-loading and handling in a first-half of genuine quality.

On a chill, still evening, The Gnoll was in its usual tip-top condition and the game started at a terrific pace, Neath going through the phases and Bargoed countering but Neath were victims of their own ambition when they conceded a try to their former No.8 Adam Powell with Steffan Jones adding the conversion points.

But Neath were really into their stride, some of the handling and backing-up by backs and forwards was almost Fijian-like and Bargoed were having trouble holding them. Scrum-half Nicky Griffiths went close but was held up, then impressive 18 year old full back Iestyn Morgan arrowed towards the posts. Eventually, Neath’s pressure told and flanker Tomi Antozzi crossed for Luke Griffiths to level with the conversion.

Neath were very much on top at this stage and continued to press – centre Jarrad Rees was full of running on his return alongside the ever-reliable Matthew Pearce, the scrum was solid enough and Sion Crocker led by example with the back row showing up well, Scott Malone always effective in support, and Griffiths posing problems.

The Blacks were rewarded with two penalties by winger Luke Griffiths to lead 13-7 but just before half-time Bargoed pegged Neath in their 22 and, when outside-half Jordan Rees (who otherwise hardly put a foot wrong) dropped a difficult pass, flanker Grant Rogers flopped on the ball to claim a try and Jones’ conversion gave Bargoed a one-point half-time lead at 14-13.

Bargoed served early notice of their intentions when Neath conceded on the resumption and took the lead with a forward try by flanker Ronny Kynes which ex-Cardiff man Jones goaled but Neath hit back, attacking strongly to the posts and, with the home supporters baying for a yellow card after the defence infringed, Neath had to be satisfied with a third Griffiths penalty to make it 16-21.

Bargoed then turned the screw and concerted, well-executed forward drives produced a try for hooker Rhys Buckley and then prop John Lavender strode through a weak tackle to touch down, Jones converting both. Neath refused to lie down and when Luke Griffiths scampered away for a try and rounded to the posts for the returning Matthew Jones to convert, it was 23-35. However, Bargoed had the last word as prop Ali Gardner-Key scored to make it 40-23 to the visitors who will chase Pontypool all the way.

The visitors deserved their expected win but Neath had threatened the Division’s best defensive-line more often than most and the Blacks can take small consolation from that and they probably played the more attractive rugby – but tackles were missed and the honours and the points rightly went to the Bargoed pack.

NEATH – I.Morgan (M.Jones); L.Griffiths, Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; Jordan Rees, N.Griffiths (M.Griffiths); B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker (capt), (Iestyn Jones), S.Jones; M.Davies, J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, S.Malone (B.Lukes)

BARGOED – S.Jones; A.Jones, R.Humphries, D.Carter, S.Thomas; J.Prosser, J.Leadbetter;deserved K.Brown, W.Langley, A.Gardner-Key; G.Edmunds, J.Locke; G.Rogers (capt), A.Powell, R.Kynes Repl. (all used) – D.Humphries, H.Rees, J.Lavender, R.Buckley, L.Johnson

Referee – Mr. S.Mills (New Dock Stars)

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski @neathtog

MATCH PREVIEW:

With the weather set to improve, Neath play their first home game for over a month on Thursday evening (kick off 7.30pm) when they entertain promotion-chasing Bargoed at The Gnoll.

Bargoed are always ready to explore the width of the pitch and Neath, following Saturday’s cancellation at Maesteg Quins, are keen to get back into action so supporters can expect an evening of exciting rugby.

Neath have named the side that was due to do duty at South Parade and hooker Sion Crocker will again lead the team in the absence of skipper Aaron Bramwell who is sidelined with a shoulder injury suffered in the 33-26 win at Bedwas.

Neath v Bargoed (Home) 7.30pm
15 Iestyn Morgan; 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker (captain), 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Scott Malone

Replacements – 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Macauley Griffiths, 20 Matthew Jones

Referee – Mr. Simon Mills (New Dock Stars)

Forthcoming Fixtures
Thu March 12 Cardiff Metropolitan Home 7.30pm
Sat March 21 Glamorgan Wanderers Home 2.30pm

MATCH POSTPONED: Maesteg Quins v Neath – SATURDAY 29th February

MAESTEG QUINS V NEATH POSTPONED
Today’s Maesteg Quins-Neath match has been postponed.
Quins did their best – ours was the last of the grass pitches in our Division to be called off – and once we know of a re-arranged date it will be announced here.
Next home game is Thursday evening (7.30pm) v Bargoed.

Neath make four changes for the visit to Maesteg Quins on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

The Neath team will be :-

15 Iestyn Morgan; 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Scott Malone

Replacements: 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Macauley Griffiths, 20 Matthew Jones