Category: Match Reports



It’s over ! At just before 9 o’clock on Wednesday evening, referee Ben Breakspear blew the final whistle to call time on Neath’s most inauspicious campaign ever.

The Blacks’ troubles have been well documented and the warning from history is that it must never happen again. Somehow, the team has held up but there was a distinct end-of-season feel to this game.

With 15 players in the 23 on permit, Neath were never in with a chance against Cardiff who are the Premiership’s form side at the moment and put the small matter of 75 points on Ebbw Vale the previous Saturday.

For all that, Neath shocked the meagre assembly at the Arms Park by scoring the opening try as winger James Roberts danced his way to the try-line for full back Callum Hall to convert.

Indeed, for much of the first-half the Blacks competed and scrummaged tidily throughout. But when Cardiff found the benefit of a couple of decisions to take a 33-7 lead into the interval there was only one result as injuries took their toll on a wilting Neath side.

Still, there was a fond farewell for forward Lee Evans as he departed early in the second half and a few hands went up to stake claims for next season.

Ifan James, Rhys Morgan and Glynneath captain James Parry earned praise as did scrum half Nathan Cornelius and, before injury, Dean Howell while Captain Bramwell (the capital is well deserved) as usual ran himself to a standstill but they could not stop the Cardiff tide.

The travelling Neath supporters, loyal to the end, cheered the team off and the XV reciprocated. There is a unique bond between the Neath team and its supporters and it was an apt ending because they all know and appreciate the efforts which have gone into preserving the Club.

Perhaps those efforts are best illustrated by some random facts : 130 players appeared for Neath in 2018/19, over 300 permit applications were processed, the average number of permit-players per game since November was 13 (and would have been higher had not a few inspired signings taken place in January), 33 props appeared and 11 scrum-halves.

Although often out-gunned, all have played with spirit – and are a credit to their home clubs to whom Neath have been most grateful.

Most of the players who have remained loyal to the cause and stuck in there when the going got tough will be back in July for pre-season and their numbers will be swelled by some key signings … Neath can now look only forward and the hard work continues for the All Black Volunteers who are sparing nothing as they re-establish affairs.

NEATH – Callum Hall; James Roberts, Dean Howell (Will Holley, Matt Billett), Aaron Bramwell (captain), Geraint Roberts; Jordan Rees, Nathan Cornelius (Zach Bartlett); Ifan James, Connah Vaughan (Sion Crocker), Liam Tobias (Haydn Manorek); Rhys Morgan, Lee Evans (Jake Blackmore); Gareth Jones (Jon Hill), Leon Ward (Steve John), James Parry


Neath’s most inglorious season ever will come to an end on Wednesday evening when they play Cardiff at the Arms Park on Wednesday evening (kick off 7.15pm).

Behind the scrum, Geraint Roberts and Will Holley return with Abercrave scrum-half Nathan Cornelius drafted in for a second time. Up front, Steve John, Liam Tobias, Haydn Manorek, Rhys Morgan and Jacob Blackmore return alongside Glynneath captain James Parry and Newcastle Emlyn’s Jon Hill.

The Neath team will be announced before kick off and will be chosen from the following :-

Neath v Cardiff (Away)
Callum Hall; Matt Billett, Geraint Roberts, James Roberts, Will Holley, Dean Howell, Aaron Bramwell (captain), Jordan Rees, Nathan Cornelius, Zach Bartlett, Gareth Jones, Ifan James, Steve John, Sion Crocker, Connah Vaughan, Haydn Manorek, Liam Tobias; Ioan Jones, Rhys Morgan, Lee Evans, Leon Ward, Jacob Blackmore, James Parry, Jon Hill



As the scoreline suggests, Llanelli ran out comfortable winners at Parc-y-Scarlets but not for the first time the stark headline does not reflect that Neath again went down fighting and showed much of the spirit they will need next season.

The home side, reinforced in recent weeks by several Scarlets, achieved the maximum points they needed to help prevent them joining Neath’s descent and they had too many big guns for Neath’s determined scrappers.

The Blacks simply don’t have the team organisation at the moment but, with improved cohesion, things might have been a whole lot closer. Half a dozen line-out positions on the Llanelli line failed due to the unfamiliarity amongst the forwards.

Indeed, lack of familiarity was a problem for the Blacks as scrum-half Nicky Griffiths did his utmost to carve out a few openings which – again with greater back-up from support runners – might have produced more.

Throw in a couple of silly errors and there could only be one result and Llanelli were too strong with Scarlets flanker Dan Davis setting a rousing example. Fast to the breakdown, committed to the tackle and rugby-intelligent, Davis is the real deal and should be playing at regional level.

He scored one of Llanelli’s nine tries, the others coming from skipper Jason Lewis (2), No.8 Richard Rees, lock Chris Long, the Australian-Scarlet Ed Kennedy, Ryan Davies, a final intercept by hooker Greg George.

Outside half Ioan Hughes converted five but did not have a chance to convert the penalty try which interspersed two Callum Hall penalties at the start of the game.

Neath often threatened but lacked the control;  those attacking line-outs prevented better and they lacked the incisiveness to make it count so had to be content with a sixth try of the season for skipper Aaron Bramwell, Hall converting, off a Nicky Griffiths tap.

Still, as has been the case in nearly every game since the “Troubles”, there was commendable effort and endeavour from the Neath lads whose time will come again as this type of effort, if produced consistently, will not go unrewarded.

Llanelli, suffering their own domestic upheaval, meanwhile cannot now be relegated automatically; they may yet, however, face a play-off against Pontypool but they could also be safe.

It all hinges on Bridgend’s game at Pontypridd on Saturday – if Bridgend get 3 points or more, Llanelli will enter the play-off with Bedwas relegated 2 points; if Bridgend get 2 points, they will face the play-off with Bedwas relegated; if, however, Bridgend get 1 point or less, they will be relegated and Bedwas will take on the play-off.

NEATH – Callum Hall; James Roberts (Nathan Cornelius), Aaron Bramwell (captain), Dean Howell, Matt Billett (Mark Harvey); Jordan Rees, Nicky Griffiths (Nathan Griffiths); Ifan James (Tyla Murvia), Sion Crocker, Gareth Hall (Keiran Griifths); Ioan Jones (Jon Barley), Rhys Thomas; Lee Evans, Leon Ward (Kiaran Mackey), Travis Huntley


Neath visit Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) and as usual are much-changed.

In a behind the scrum shuffle, Callum Hall moves to full back with skipper Aaron Bramwell going to centre and Dean Howell (Seven Sisters) and Matt Billett (Skewen) coming in on permit. Jordan Rees and Nicky Griffiths are re-united at half.

Up front, Ifan James, Sion Crocker and Gareth Hall (Glynneath) comprise an all-change front rank with Rhys Thomas and Ioan Jones paired behind them while Leon Ward returns to the back row.

Neath v Llanelli (Away)
15 Callum Hall; 14 James Roberts, 13 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 12 Dean Howell, 11 Matt Billett; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Ifan James, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Gareth Hall; 4 Ioan Jones, 5 Rhys Thomas; 6 Lee Evans, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Travis Huntley

Replacements – 16 Keiran Griffiths, 17 Connah Vaughan, 18 Tyla Murvai, 19 Jon Barley, 20 Kiaran Mackey, 21 Nathan Griffiths, 22 Nathan Cornelius, 23 Mark Harvey



Well and truly beaten, Neath remain defiant after this chastening defeat at Ebbw Vale where the home side ran in 11 tries against the visitors’ inexperienced line-up.

Again, there was plenty of effort about the Neath effort and they did some good things before the inevitable mistake crept in and they were rarely able to sustain pressure.

Neath handed first starts to prop Haydn Manorek (Vardre), hooker Connah Vaughan after 11 appearances as replacement, No.8 Travis Huntley (Tondu) and flanker Kiaran Mackey (Brynaman) and operated for most of the game with two teenage second rowers in Rhys Thomas and Ioan Jones.

All acquitted themselves well and showed promise for the future but taking such a raw and inexperienced pack to Eugene Cross Park is not the recipe for success against the grizzly Ebbw eight although Neath packs have fared worse there in the scrums than this.

Behind them, Macauley Griffiths coped well with the hand he was dealt, none did better than centre Will Holley while skipper Aaron Bramwell drew gasps from the crowd with his spectacular head-on tackling.

The travelling supporters made their presence felt and cheered loudly Neath’s brightest moment when outside-half Callum Hall danced his way over after a rare period of uninterrupted pressure and Holley added the conversion points.

A similar cheer greeted the injury time emergence of veteran deputy coach Paul Jones, a last-resort replacement when Leon Ward was detained at work.

But it was very much Ebbw’s day and the Blacks’ mood was not helped by the fact that two of the home tries were scored by Neath’s former Wales wing Dafydd Howells, now an under-used resource of the Dragons.

For the record their other scores came from flanker Dawid Rubasniak (3), centre Lloyd Evans (2), wing Stefan Thomas (2) and outside-half Rhys Jones and there was also a penalty try. Rhys Jones kicked a penalty and seven conversions for a 22-point haul.

Aaron Bramwell (captain) (Jordan Rees); James Roberts, Will Holley, Gavin Evans, Alec Jenkins (Gareth Hopkins); Callum Hall, Macauley Griffiths (Nicky Griffiths); Haydn Manorek (Kieran Griffiths), Connah Vaughan (Sion Crocker), Liam Tobias (Patryck Kaminski); Scott Davies (Rhys Thomas), Ioan Jones; Lee Evans (Paul Jones), Travis Huntley, Kiaran Mackey


Neath visit Ebbw Vale at Eugene Cross Park on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) and, with a shortened turnaround after playing Aberavon on Easter Monday, make wholesale changes.

Skipper Aaron Bramwell switches back to full back with Alec Jenkins on the wing. Gavin Evans returns at centre with Callum Hall and Macauley Griffiths resuming at half back.

Lee Evans is the only starter to retain his place in the pack and he plays in the back row alongside Leon Ward and the one newcomer in Travis Huntley who hails from Tondu.

The front-five comprises Haydn Manorek, Connah Vaughan and Liam Tobias with Scott Davies and Ioan Jones in the second row.

The replacements bench is to be confirmed pending a permit.

Neath v Ebbw Vale (Away)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Will Holley, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Haydn Manorek, 2 Connah Vaughan, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Scott Davies, 5 Ioan Jones; 6 Lee Evans, 7 Leon Ward, 8 Travis Huntley
Replacements – TBC



Neath’s final home game of this Premiership campaign ended in a predictable loss in the heat of the hottest Easter Monday on record.

Despite the loss, the Neath adherents in the bumper 1,400 Bank Holiday crowd can take heart that, for all all the setbacks which have afflicted them, the Blacks are alive and kicking and still able to stage rugby football matches – and do so in a style which many of the Clubs they are leaving behind will struggle to emulate.

Neath started well and took the lead when impressive No.8 Guido Volpi crossed for the opening try and centre Will Holley converted to make it 7-nil after 12 minutes. Ten minutes later Aberavon countered when flanker Iwan Shenton scored after the visitors employed a 10-man lineout drive and they went ahead on 25 minutes when wing Steff Andrews touched down for outside-half James Garland to convert.

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of @neathtog

By now Aberavon were well on top and the game was settled in a ten-minute spell before half-time when impressive flanker Jac Morgan, full back Chris Banfield and lock Ben Thomas bagged tries, Garland converting two.

31-7 down at the interval, things were looking bleak for Neath and it worsened when Aberavon were awarded a penalty try 10 minutes into the second-half. Somehow Neath dragged themselves up and a competitive second-half ensued as the forwards, fortified by fresh legs off the bench, raised their effort allowing halves Nicky Griffiths and Jordan Rees to start calling the shots.

Neath threatened the Aberavon line but lacked the efficiency to force a score and with seven minutes remaining, Aberavon broke out for a somewhat farcical score which started when they knocked on in the 22. The ball was moved wide before a Neath defender was blatantly pushed off the ball at the other end where centre Will Price scored.

Still, the Blacks refused to lie down and they had the last word with a fine try, moving the ball splendidly replacement hooker Connah Vaughan supplied the last pass to full back Alec Jenkins who marked his final Gnoll appearance with his 43rd try for the Club.

It was no more than a consolation but at least it provided a bit if joy at the conclusion of Neath’s home programme. At the final whistle came the realisation for those 1.400 attendees that the Premiership will be losing one of its biggest draws.

Relegation has long been a certainty for Neath but with such backing they will rise again. The Blacks will play Aberavon again next season and supporters can go home confident that the team will improve – and will be improved – over the summer.

NEATH – Alec Jenkins; James Roberts, Will Holley, Aaron Bramwell (captain), Geraint Roberts; Jordan Rees, Nicky Griffiths (Macauley Griffiths), Gareth Hall (Steve John), Sion Crocker, (Connah Vaughan), Tyla Murvai (Liam Tobias); Rhys Morgan (Scott Davies), Rhys Thomas, Lee Evans, Guido Volpi (Ioan Jones), Joe Grabham (Leon Ward)


On Easter Monday, Neath entertain Aberavon at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm) in the final home game of the season.

A large crowd is expected for the traditional holiday local derby and spectators are urged to arrive early to avoid congestion at the turnstiles which are situated at the town end of the ground.

Full catering facilities are available inside the ground to satisfy appetites and quench thirsts in what is expected to be fair weather.

Hooker Sion Crocker makes his 150th appearance for the Blacks thus emulating back rower Lee Evans who reached that milestone last time out against Bedwas.

Stalwarts Lee Evans and Alec Jenkins who switches to full back will be playing their last games on The Gnoll for Neath and are guaranteed a grand reception from the home crowd.

As has been their necessity this year, Neath make changes but there are no newcomers this time. Behind the scrum, Will Holley and Geraint Roberts – replacements against Bedwas – start while halves Jordan Rees and Nicky Griffiths are re-united.

Up front, Crocker is joined by Gareth Hall in the front row with Rhys Morgan coming into the second row and Joe Grabham returning to the back row. The replacements all figured last time except Connah Vaughan who comes in for Wales Under-20 call-up Garin Lloyd and prop Liam Tobias who makes a welcome return.

Neath v Aberavon (Home)
15 Alec Jenkins; 14 James Roberts, 13 Will Holley, 12 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 11 Geraint Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nicky Griffiths, 1 Gareth Hall, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Rhys Thomas, 6 Lee Evans, 8 Guido Volpi, 7 Joe Grabham

Replacements – Steve John, Connah Vaughan, Liam Tobias, Scott Davies, Ioan Jones, Leon Ward, Macauley Griffiths, Callum Hall


To assist spectator enjoyment, all supporters should please take note of the following:

  • Parking is available in the multi-storey car park near the Town End of the ground (closes at 6.30pm)
  • The Clubhouse will be open prior to the match with two large downstairs bars for supporters
  • Hospitality (£10 for a 2 course meal, plus coffee at H/T) is available for home and away supporters
  • The Gnoll is a “no smoking/no vaping” environment
  • No dogs or pets allowed (Other than guide dogs for the blind)
  • Admission £10, Under-16’s free
  • The only points of admission to the ground will be via the turnstiles at the Town End –  turnstiles will be open from 1.30pm
  • Programmes (£2) available from outside bar
  • Catering facilities will be available inside the ground near the turnstiles (bar and burgers, teas etc.)
  • Supporters are not permitted to stand on the concourse in front of the Clubhouse or Main Stand for safety reasons
  • Supporters are requested to follow any instructions given by safety stewards
  • Please respect the kicker when he is kicking at goal
  • Please respect the match officials


MATCH REPORT: NEATH 3 BEDWAS 28 (Saturday 13th April 2019)


Two converted tries in each half were enough for Bedwas to claim the bonus point win they needed to scrap themselves away from the relegation zone and possibly save themselves from accompanying Neath into the Premiership next season.

In sunshine and a stiff breeze, generally It was an undistinguished affair and Bedwas always looked the likely winners after they took the lead through a try by Dragons Academy winger Deon Smith converted by outside-half Joseph Scrivens.

Neath rallied briefly through a Callum Hall penalty and showed flurries of inspiration amongst a whole lot more defensive perspiration, the Blacks again showing huge defensive commitment to keep their opponents at bay.

Home centre Gavin Evans was sin-binned and Bedwas took advantage to increase their lead with a try by centre Adam Williams, converted by Scrivens and the visitors went into the interval well worth their 14-3 lead.

In the second-half, Bedwas were soon in the hunt for their bonus point which was duly earned through tries by centre Lewis Bowden and hooker Mike Dacey with Scrivens converting both and, with a quarter to go, that was it as far as the scoreboard was concerned.

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski @neathtog

Beaten they may have been but Neath refused to lie down and kept playing. No.8 Guido Volpi led the way with his strong carrying and flanker cum second-row Lee Evans made some telling impacts. Neath College captain Rhys Thomas did well on debut and scrum-half Macauley Griffiths worked hard behind a pack which gave second best.

Neath actually finished the game stronger than Bedwas, piecing together some ambitious – if unproductive – phases of combined play but Bedwas repelled them and it was too little too late and the Blacks now look forward to their final home game of the season against Aberavon on Easter Monday (kick off 2.30pm).

NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain); James Roberts, Jarrad Rees, Gavin Evans, Alec Jenkins (Geraint Roberts); Callum Hall (Will Holley), Macauley Griffiths, Steve John (Gavin Clement), Garin Lloyd (Sion Crocker), Tyla Murvai (Haydn Manorek); Scott Davies (Joe Grabham), Rhys Thomas; Lee Evans, Guido Volpi, Leon Ward (Ioan Jones)









To assist spectator enjoyment, all supporters should please take note of the following:

  • Parking is available in the multi-storey car park near the Town End of the ground (closes at 6.30pm)
  • The Clubhouse will be open prior to the match with two large downstairs bars for supporters
  • Hospitality (£10 for a 2 course meal, plus coffee at H/T) is available for home and away supporters
  • The Gnoll is a “no smoking/no vaping” environment
  • No dogs or pets allowed (Other than guide dogs for the blind)
  • Admission £10, Under-16’s free
  • The only points of admission to the ground will be via the turnstiles at the Town End –  turnstiles will be open from 1.30pm
  • Programmes (£2) available from outside bar
  • Catering facilities will be available inside the ground near the turnstiles (bar and burgers, teas etc.)
  • Supporters are not permitted to stand on the concourse in front of the Clubhouse or Main Stand for safety reasons
  • Supporters are requested to follow any instructions given by safety stewards
  • Please respect the kicker when he is kicking at goal
  • Please respect the match officials




Bargoed deservedly and easily won the basement battle in the Premiership in the sunshine on Saturday against a tired-looking Neath side.

Several of Neath’s already lean squad were missing for various reasons which meant another raft of changes, the Blacks drafting in full back Jordan Coles (Aberdare) who showed some neat touches and Ben Jones (Glynneath) who was as lively as when he last played five seasons ago and he did as much as could be expected behind a beaten pack.

Bargoed had the better of the first-half but Neath missed chances to go in front via a straightforward penalty and then a fine break by flanker Joe Grabham which failed due to lack of support.

The home side took the lead through a try by outside-half Josh Prosser which he converted and then another when weak tackling in the build up let in full back Callum Jones and when the home side were awarded a penalty try Neath were already out of it, nineteen points down at the interval.

The tries flowed in the second-half when Bargoed called nearly all the shots with Prosser giving Neath an object lesson. He sensibly dictated affairs, kicking lengthily and astutely out of defence whereas Neath gambled on running from deep.

Home tries came from wing Duane Dyer, converted by Prosser, and from centre Barney Nightingale before Neath enjoyed a golden ten minutes which yielded first tries for the club by Scott Davies who worked hard alongside Rhys Morgan in the second row and by No.8 Guido Volpi with Callum Hall converting both.

But any hopes of a sustained revival were quickly extinguished when flanker Grant Rogers crossed for a try which Prosser converted. Further scores by Geraint Edmunds, another penalty try and then one by Prosser hoisted the home side beyond the half-century.

Neath kept playing and near the end forced a series of raids close to the Bargoed line – their efforts probably deserved a score as bargoed infringed but it all came to nothing. Maybe it was a game too far for the re-shaped Blacks who have had a tough run recently and a Welsh Cup-enforced rest next Saturday might be just what the doctor ordered.

Neath coach Patrick Horgan observed, “Bargoed will in all probability be relegated with us at the end of the season so this result highlights how much work we have ahead of us.

“We had a lot of players missing from our regular crew with new recruits like Jarrad and Jordan Rees, Nicky Griffiths, Lee Evans, Leon Ward and so on out injured as well.

“We’ll regroup now for the final charge at the last five games and we need to keep our focus. We will be looking for improvements and refinements in each game and then we’ll have the summer to really get down to work.”

NEATH – Jordan Coles; Gareth Hopkins, Tom Evans (Gavin Evans), Aaron Bramwell (captain); Alec Jenkins; Callum Hall, Ben Jones; Kieran Griffiths (Cole Barry), Sion Crocker (Connah Vaughan), Tyla Murvai; Scott Davies, Rhys Morgan (Ioan Jones); Garin Lloyd (Gareth Jones), Guido Volpi, Joe Grabham (Ceri White)


Neath journey to Bargoed to play the side nearest them in the Premiership on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) and there are changes fore and aft for the Blacks.

Gareth Hopkins comes back on the wing with Callum Hall partnering Glynneath’s Ben Jones at half-back. Up front lock Rhys Morgan, Garin Lloyd and Joe Grabham resume.

The bench is yet to be finalised.

Neath v Bargoed (Away)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Alec Jenkins, 13 Tomas Evans, 12 Jarrad Rees, 11 Gareth Hopkins; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Ben Jones, 1 Kieran Griffiths, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Scott Davies, 5 Rhys Morgan, 6 Garin Lloyd, 8 Guido Volpi, 7 Joe Grabham

Replacements – TBC



Neath might be heading for relegation but they are not going down without a fight and, while Quins were undeniably the stronger unit, the Blacks again showed plenty of pride and the scoreline did not reflect how much of the game they enjoyed.

For the first time since October, Neath did not have a new starter in their line-up but they were the architects of their own downfall. After an even opening eight minutes, the Blacks were attacking only for Quins winger Dylan Morgans to intercept a pass from the pirouetting back-rower Leon Ward to race 65 metres to score at the other end.

Both Ward and fellow back-rower Ceri White were then halted inches from the try-line but, rather against the run of play, Quins scrum-half Aaron Hemmings nipped in for their second try as he capitalised upon weak tackling on the left and full back Aled Thomas slotted the simple second conversion.

Neath stuck to their task though with No.8 Guido Volpi carrying strongly at every opportunity and the front rank of Kieran Griffiths, Sion Crocker and Tyla Murvai grafted hard. Behind them, halves Macauley Griffiths and Jordan Rees were ever eager to bring centres Tom Evans and Jarrad Rees into play and, midway through the half, Neath got some overdue reward for their efforts when outside-half Jordan Rees landed a penalty.

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of @neathtog

But Quins came again when scrum half Hemmings was allowed a second bite at a scrum under the Neath posts and went in for their third try which Thomas converted. Neath pressed hard up to the interval and opted to go for a line-out rather than a simple three points but it came to nothing and Quins were in control at 21-3 up.

The Blacks continued to show a willingness to play after the restart and a clever kick by Jordan Rees was gathered by Ystalyfera winger Jon Bayliss who gathered cleanly to score wide out. Quins were clearly rattled because their next visit to the Neath 22 saw them opt for a kick at goal which the admirable Thomas landed to make it 24-8.

As the replacements flowed, the game opened up and Quins grabbed the bonus point when hooker Torin Myhill crossed from a well-worked more up the front of a line-out. Aled Thomas converted and the full back then scored himself and converted for a personal tally of 18 points which put the game beyond Neath.

But still the persistent Blacks would not lie down and they kept attacking to the end. Full back Aaron Bramwell, making his 150th appearance, played with the courage of a latter-day J.P.R. Williams (without the sweat band) and repeatedly hurtled into the attack. Neath kept chasing and ultimately replacement James Roberts gathered and two quick passes later Callum Hall skipped in for a try which he converted himself.

So it was another defeat for Neath but it was much, much better than the corresponding fixture at Carmarthen and Blacks’ supporters, while still yearning the spoils, were well content again with the intent and effort which their under-fire team is showing.

NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain); Jon Bayliss, Tomas Evans (Callum Hall), Jarrad Rees (James Roberts), Alec Jenkins; Jordan Rees, Macauley Griffiths; Kieran Griffiths (Robat White), Sion Crocker (Connah Vaughan), Tyla Murvai (Ben Curtis-Jones); Scott Davies (Garin Lloyd), Ioan Jones (Rhys Morgan), Leon Ward, Guido Volpi, Ceri White (Jake Blackmore) H


In one of only two Premiership fixtures on Saturday, Neath play Carmarthen Quins at The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm) and the Blacks’ selection features many of those who finished so strongly against RGC last week.

Young centre Tom Evans who scored a quick-fire debut try last week starts at centre along with winger Jon Bayliss who last appeared on Boxing Day. Jordan Rees and Macauley Griffiths team up at half back.

Up front prop Kieran Griffiths, hooker Sion Crocker, lock Scott Davies and flankers Leon Ward and Ceri White re-appear.

It is not quite a rota but the bench comprises five players who started last week alongside the returning Connah Vaughan and Robat White (also Ystalyfera) with one prop position to be finalised.

Neath v Carmarthen Quins (Home)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Jon Bayliss, 13 Tomas Evans, 12 Jarrad Rees, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Macauley Griffiths 1 Kieran Griffiths, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Scott Davies, 5 Ioan Jones, 6 Leon Ward, 8 Guido Volpi, 7 Ceri White

Replacements – 16 Connah Vaughan, 17 Robat White, 18 A.N.Other, 19 Rhys Morgan, 20 Jake Blackmore, 21 Garin Lloyd, 22 Callum Hall, 23 James Roberts


Neath and RGC overcame wet and windy conditions to serve up an entertaining eve-of-Grand Slam appetizer at The Gnoll on Friday evening.

Playing with first use of the elements, RGC were out of the blocks as Neath, attempting to over-play in the conditions, made too many errors and the visitors were 12 points up in the first quarter after tries by both wings Aron Evans and Sam Jones, the latter converted by outside-half Billy McBryde.

Neath, again permitting heavily with 14 loanees in the 23-man squad, did not show too much cohesion although yet again nobody could be faulted for lack of effort. Jonny Thomas re-appeared alongside Garin Lloyd and Tyla Murvai in a hard-working front row who carried strongly as did No.8 Guido Volpi while flankers Jacob Blackmore and Ben Davies also made an impact. Reuben Morgan-Williams showed a few flashes of his best at scrum-half but RGC were in firm control and made full use of the wind.

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of @neathtog

Yet RGC’s third try would not have been out of place in a West End farce. It was credited to centre Delwyn Jones but really the score belonged to inconsistent referee Mr. Stephen Allsop who performed a totally effective piece of blocking by obstructing two Neath defenders and then compounded his error by awarding the try. Bizarre ! But Neath have been hammered by the whistlers this season and McBryde’s easy conversion more or less settle the game at 19-nil. It led one observer to comment wryly “Maybe they’ll give us better referees in the Championship” but the damage was done and Neath went in to the interval 19 points adrift instead of a manageable 12.

Now playing with the wind, Neath re-started strongly and outside-half Callum Hall, fine kicker as he is, landed a long-range penalty but the kick off was not dealt with and RGC claimed the bonus point when centre Iolo Evans touched down wide out.

To their credit, Neath kept coming and fresh legs from the bench saw the replacement front row of Ifan James, Sion Crocker and Gareth Hall provide industry while Leon Ward and Ioan Jones started winning more line-out possession despite the worsening rain.

Neath began to look increasingly dangerous and a series of forward drives had RGC defending, the referee played advantage and a speculative Hall chip bounced back favourably for Neath and young centre Tom Evans was on hand to gather and touch down for a rapid debut try which Hall converted.

Momentum was now with the Blacks, replacement scrum-half Macauley Griffiths was able to speed his backs away and winger James Roberts was denied a certain try. The Blacks pressed strongly to the end and only some rugged RGC defence kept them out.

RGC were worthy winners but Neath won the second-half : not by enough to win the game and not exactly hands down but, in this most miserable of seasons, it was a small consolation for the Blacks who next Saturday host Carmarthen Quins (kick off 2.30pm).

NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain); James Roberts (Gareth Hopkins), Jarrad Rees, Lesley Klim (Tom Evans), Alec Jenkins; Callum Hall, Reuben Morgan-Williams (Macauley Griffiths); Jonny Thomas (Ifan James), Garin Lloyd (Sion Crocker), Tyla Murvai (Gareth Hall); Ioan Jones, Rhys Morgan (Leon Ward); Jake Blackmore, Guido Volpi, Ben Davies (Ceri White)


In Friday’s only Premiership action, Neath host RGC at The Gnoll (kick off 7.30pm) and the Blacks again make changes as they seek to provide long-suffering supporters with something to cheer.

Ospreys’ Namibian international Lesley Klim makes his second appearance at centre while wing Alec Jenkins and scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams return.

Up front prop Jonny Thomas re-appears after spells with Bridgend, Aberavon and latterly Baglan while lock Rhys Morgan and No.8 Guido Volpi return and Dunvant flanker Ben Davies gets a first start.

On the bench, two young players in Newcastle-Emlyn prop Ifan James and Pontarddualis centre Tomas Evans are lined up for debuts while prop Gareth Hall (Glynneath), scrum-half Macauley Griffiths (Rhydyfelin) and winger Gareth Hopkins (Beddau) could make Gnoll debuts after assisting in recent away games.

Neath v RGC (Home)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Lesley Klim, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams; 1 Jonny Thomas, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Ioan Jones, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Jake Blackmore, 8 Guido Volpi, 7 Ben Davies

Replacements – 16 Sion Crocker, 17 Ifan James, 18 Gareth Hall, 19 Leon Ward, 20 Ceri White, 21 Macauley Griffiths, 22 Tomas Evans, 23 Gareth Hopkins


NEWPORT 48 points NEATH 10 points
Neath face RGC at The Gnoll on Friday evening (kick off 7.30pm) in the last of their floodlit games for 2018/19 and will be hoping for better luck than on their visit to Newport.

The game very nearly did not take place as the Rodney Parade groundsman feared for his pitch following heavy afternoon rain but both teams were keen to play, the Neath diehards were already in the ground and, thanks to the best efforts of home secretary Dennis Bennett, common sense prevailed.

Neath made 9 changes – mostly enforced – for this game and, with 13 players in their 23 on permit, they were always going to be up against it. However, the only debutant was Ospreys centre Lesley Klim who became the first Namibian international to play for Neath on this his first appearance in Wales having arrived last August.

He obviously needs more match practice but showed well enough in his 45 minutes of action and nearly got on the receiving end of a break by co-centre Jarrad Rees which would have spelled a first-half try for Neath.

As the rain eased, it was very much Newport’s night though and, after Neath lost prop Steffan Jones with injured ankle ligaments in the first five minutes, they steadily built up a 19-nil lead through first half tries by hooker, Henry Palmer, wing Andrew Evans and scrum-half Tom Lucas, outside-half Haydn Simons converting two.

Neath had chances of their own : Klim was nearly through and there were two kick and chase efforts by wing Gareth Hopkins and scrum-half Nicky Griffiths which might have brought better reward but the cover defence just got across in time.

Right on the stroke of half-time, Neath were awarded an eminently kickable penalty but, bravely opting for the line-out instead, the forwards drove on and flanker Lee Evans dabbed down for a try which Callum Hall converted to make it 7-19.

The Blacks started the second-half promisingly enough as Hall struck a good penalty but thereafter, gamely as Neath battled, it was virtually one-way traffic as they gave away a couple of soft tries from a charge-down and an interception.

The home side levied second-half scores by Morgan Burgess, replacement Chris Williams, Chay Smith, Elliot Frewen and on time winger Duan Thomas with Simons converting two.

There were errors galore on a greasy surface but the decision to play the game was fully vindicated and a word of praise is due too to referee Mr. Carwyn Williams (Ystalyfera), in charge of his first Premiership game, who kept things going.

So Neath must dust themselves down and prepare for Friday’s re-arranged home game against RGC. The team needs support at the moment and a good home crowd might just make a difference.

NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain); James Roberts, Jarrad Rees, Lesley Klim (Caine Woolerton), Gareth Hopkins; Callum Hall (Jordan Rees), Nicky Griffiths (Macauley Griffiths); Steffan Jones (Callum Jones, Lloyd Jenkins), Garin Lloyd (Sion Crocker), Tyla Murvai; Scott Davies (Rhys Morgan), Ioan Jones; Lee Evans (Ben Davies), Leon Ward, Jake Blackmore


Neath ring the changes when they travel to play Newport at Rodney Parade on Friday evening (kick off 7.15pm). Ospreys’ Namibian international Lesley Klim comes in at centre for his debut while several players return. Gareth Hopkins is on the wing while Callum Hall and Nicky Griffiths team up at half-back. Up front, Steffan Jones and Tyla Murvai will prop alongside hooker Garin Lloyd with Ioan Jones in the second row and Trebanos’ Jake Blackmore slots in to the back row.

Neath v Newport (Away)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Lesley Klim, 11 Gareth Hopkins; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Steffan Jones, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Scott Davies, 5 Ioan Jones; 6 Lee Evans, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Jake Blackmore

Replacements – 16 Sion Crocker, 17 Callum Jones, 18 Lloyd Jenkins, 19 Rhys Morgan, 20 Ben Davies, 21 Macauley Griffiths, 22 Jordan Rees, 23 Caine Woolerton


NEATH nil LLANDOVERY 35 points
Neath’s already depleted ranks were stretched further in this home defeat by Llandovery as both captain Aaron Bramwell and centre Keiran Williams were forced to leave the field in the second-half with nasty-looking injuries.

The neck injury to their captain incensed The Gnoll crowd as Llandovery No.8 Emyr Price was yellow carded for the incident but home supporters clearly felt the offence merited a red card. Fortunately, Bramwell was not as seriously hurt as first thought and was his usual chirpy self in the Clubhouse afterwards.

It was the only severe incident in a hard-fought game in which the Blacks once more displayed great courage but were undone by their opponents’ greater organisation and a familiarity built upon having played together for far longer than this Neath team.

The loss of centre Williams was a blow as he was as busy as ever and on top form in a stubborn Neath team although he could take some consolation from being nominated “Man of the Match” by the Supporters’ Club.

He had been at the heart of a great defensive effort by the home backs who kept a rein on the Llandovery three-quarters who ran some pretty lines behind the scrum.

It was strange therefore that all five tries – by centre Rhodri Jones (2), scrum-half Lee Rees, flanker Stuart Worrall and No.8 Price – came from close-range situations with the debut-making referee hugely influential in at least two of them.

Defensive certainty usually goes with selection continuity – something which Neath cannot be assured of at the moment. In this game, the Blacks called upon three new props in Robat White (Ystalyfera), Lloyd Jenkins (Kenfig Hill) and Will Davies (Ystalyfera) with the fourth Kieran Griffiths making only his fourth appearance.

It is difficult therefore for the coaches to achieve the necessary level of organisation to cope with a well-drilled eight like Llandovery’s and, although working hard, the home forwards generally played second-fiddle to the away octet.

For Neath, the brothers Rees, Jarrad and Jordan, did a lot of good work and outside-half Jordan would have been a close second to Keiran Williams in the award stakes while it was good to see scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams making just his second start of the season although he had few opportunities to show his paces.

In the back row, Ceri White and Garin Lloyd – both out of action for two months – played a half each and came through well and Lloyd in particular made some strong incursions as Neath actually enjoyed the greater territory in the second-half.

Neath are away at Newport on Friday and the next home game will be on Friday week, March 15th when RGC visit The Gnoll for the match postponed from December.

NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain) (Callum Hall); James Roberts, Jarrad Rees, Keiran Williams (Sion O’Brien), John Lumb; Jordan Rees, Reuben Morgan-Williams; Robat White (Will Davies), Sion Crocker (Connah Vaughan), Kieran Griffiths (Lloyd Jenkins); Rhys Morgan, Scott Davies; Lee Evans (Ioan Jones), Leon Ward, Ceri White (Garin Lloyd)


Reuben Morgan-Williams makes his second appearance of the season when Neath entertain Llandovery at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

Other changes see fit-again James Roberts and John Lumb back on the wings while Ystalyfera prop Robat White slots into the front row. Scott Davies returns at lock with Leon Ward and Ceri White in the back row.

Neath v Llandovery (Home)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 John Lumb; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams; 1 Robat White, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Kieran Griffiths; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Scott Davies; 6 Lee Evans, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Ceri White

Replacements – 16 Connah Vaughan, 17 Will Davies, 18 A.N.Other, 19 Garin Lloyd, 20 Ioan Jones, 21 Nicky Griffiths, 22 Callum Hall, 23 Gavin Evans