Category: Match Reports

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

MATCH REPORT: BEDWAS 26 NEATH 33 – FEBRUARY 22nd, 2020

BEDWAS 26 NEATH 33
Neath, playing with pride, passion and no little panache, earned a very well-deserved win over Bedwas. The home side have endured a harrowing week with the Bridge Field and clubhouse calamitously flooded so this was Neath’s first visit to the wonderful all-weather facilities at Ystrad Mynach which Bedwas normally use for training.

Having lost to the last kick of the return game at The Gnoll in October, Neath were seeking revenge and, from the outset the game was played at great pace. Apres la deluge (it was French weekend !) both sides seemed to enjoy their rugby action in a real thriller which kept everyone on their toes throughout and there were four tries apiece.

Fast out of the blocks, Neath set the pace and a fine break by outside-half Jordan Rees paved the way for a smart opening try by winger James Roberts. But almost immediately a defensive mix-up let in Bedwas for their first try by that excellent flanker James Richards which Dion McIntosh easily converted. Neath put together some sustained, effective play and, before being injured, skipper Aaron Bramwell just fed winger Luke Griffiths too early before the winger kicked a penalty to give the Blacks a deserved lead.

Despite facing the wind, the Blacks continued to enjoy the better of things up to half-time and great top of the line-out ball to Elis Horgan gave the 17 year old scrum-half the opportunity to split the defence and he raced to the posts for Neath’s second try which Luke Griffiths converted. Neath kept possession and should probably have put the ball off the park before Bedwas turned the ball over and No.8 Dale Rogers nipped in for their second try which McIntosh converted to make it 15-14 at half-time – a lead which by no means flattered the Blacks whose discipline gave them a slight edge.

After the interval, Neath squandered two good positions – line-out and scrum – in the Bedwas 22 but went further ahead when Luke Griffiths landed a second penalty. No sooner had play re-started than Neath bagged their third try. Good work by Roberts and Griffiths saw the latter rewarded for his persistence – a lesson for all – when his chase and harrying led to a third try which raised his 100 points for the year and it was 23-14.

Griffiths blotted his copybook by missing a kick and instead the home side came again. After lock Jon Barley conceded a high tackle, a rocket-fuelled home line-out drive saw Rogers notch his second try to make it 23-19. Neath were far from done though and a quickly-taken penalty by Horgan came to nothing before Neath charged down two Bedwas defensive kicks only for the ball to drop obligingly into Bedwas hands on each occasion. This spurred on the home side and a wonderful break out and chip by scrum-half Owain Keane saw winger Gordon Collins collect and bag their bonus point try.

Suddenly Neath were behind at 23-26 but the visitors were in determined mood. They continued to take the game to Bedwas and swept up-field again; home skipper Jon Armitage was binned and Luke Griffiths levelled the scores with his third penalty. From the re-start a brilliant surging run by replacement flanker Ben Lukes with Nicky Griffiths in support carried play to the 22 and tip-top passing saw flanker Tomi Antozzi free winger Roberts who outpaced the cover to touch down for his second try.

Luke Griffiths added the crucial conversion points and missed a long range kick but, with Matthew Jones on from the bench for his first action since rejoining the Blacks in the summer and Bedwas now unable to scent a win, the visitors pushed on to claim the points from a side who are two places above them in the table.

This splendid all-action game of rugby football was uplifting. Both sides were skilled and organised : Bedwas were grand and will have been glad to get back on the field; for Neath the win should heighten the team’s belief and ambition. It clearly meant a lot too to the Blacks’ intrepid band of supporters who have stuck with the team in numbers through many difficult days.

Neath will train with a smile this week. The Blacks must be positive – no resting on laurels – and there are still areas to work on because, as the Blacks know to their cost, any lapses of concentration or looseness of approach will be eagerly seized upon by Maesteg Quins at South Parade next week.

BEDWAS – J.Hallett; G.Collins, M.Williams, L.Bowden, J.Rees (R.Morgans); D.McIntosh, M.Bancroft (O.Keane); T.Devine (L.Davies), M.Dacey, K.Williams (R.Hutcherson); D.Hudd, G.Allen; J.Richards (J.Hayward), D.Rogers, J.Armitage (capt)
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt) (N.Griffiths); L.Griffiths, B.Atkins, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; Jordan Rees (M.Jones), E.Horgan; B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker, S.Jones; J.Blackmore, J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, S.Malone (B.Lukes)
Referee – Mr. S.Rees (Ebbw Vale)

MATCH PREVIEW

After the postponement of last week’s game against Cardiff Metropolitan (now re-arranged for Thursday, March 12th, kick off 7.30pm), Neath hope to return to action against Bedwas on Saturday.

With the Bridge Field underwater earlier this week, the game will be played at Ystrad Mynach on the all-weather surface with an early kick off at 1.00pm.

A last-gasp conversion gave Bedwas a 16-14 win at The Gnoll back in October so the Blacks will be looking to turn the tables but to do so will need to be on top form against the third-placed home team.

Neath name much the same team as was selected for last week’s postponed game, the only changes seeing Sion Crocker and Scott Malone return at hooker and flanker respectively.

Neath v Bedwas (Away) 1.00pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Elis Horgan; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Scott Malone
Replacements – 16 Ifan James, 17 Gareth Wyn lloyd, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Nicky Griffiths, 20 Matthew Jones

UPDATE

Neath’s game at Bedwas has now been confirmed and will go ahead on the all-weather pitch at Ystrad Mynach with the kick off at the original time of 1.00pm.

There is adequate parking available at the ground for those supporters travelling.

Team news will follow here as usual after training on Thursday evening.

CCB Centre for Sporting Excellence
Caerphilly Road
Ystrad Mynach
Hengoed
CF82 7EP
Parking from 11.30am

Storm Dennis wreaked havoc across South Wales at the weekend when nearly all rugby matches were off and many clubs have suffered damage through flooding.

“All at Neath RFC were dismayed to see the damage done by “Storm Dennis” to all clubs but particularly our old friends Bedwas and Cross Keys RFC’s and I have offered both Clubs any help we can,” said Neath secretary Mike Price.

“As regards Bedwas, we are due to play there on Saturday so Dave Cousins, their secretary, and I are going to stay in touch over the next few days and will keep supporters updated.”

Any developments will be reported here.

POSTPONED: NEATH v CARDIFF METROPOLITAN (Home) – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15TH, 2020 – KICK OFF 2.30pm

POSTPONED – NEATH v CARDIFF MET –
Due to the early arrival of Storm Dennis, the match has been postponed.

 

 

 

Neath return to League action for the first time since January 11th when Cardiff Metropolitan visit The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

The students beat Neath at Cyncoed 20-16 last October so the Blacks are out to make amends and will be looking for an altogether more assertive performance this time from forwards and backs alike.

The fast-draining Gnoll ground is in tip-top condition and Storm Ciara made no impression at all; officials are confident that it will cope with Storm Dennis too and that the game will go ahead.

Neath are eager to play and are boosted by the return of top-scorer Luke Griffiths after injury. Jordan Rees is paired with young Elis Horgan at half-back while Ben Uphill, Steff Jones, Jon Barley, Tomi Antozzi and David Griggs return to the pack.

Fit-again Matthew Jones takes his place on a strong-looking replacements’ bench alongside Ross Pritchard while Gareth Lloyd, Ifan James and Scott Malone provide forward cover.

Neath v Cardiff Metropolitan (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Elis Horgan; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Iestyn Jones, 3 Steff Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes

Replacements – 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Ifan James, 18 Scott Malone, 19 Ross Pritchard 20 Matthew Jones

Referee – Mr. Ben Breakspear (Abercynon)

ADMISSION – £8 (all parts), Under-16’s FREE.
GATES OPEN – 1.45pm

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 33 ABERDARE 7 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 31st, 2020

NEATH 33 ABERDARE 7
Neath turned on the pace in the second-half to overcome spirited Aberdare at The Gnoll – but only after the visitors had enjoyed the better of the first-half.

Leon Ward was handed the captaincy on his 200th appearance in a much-changed Neath side which saw only Sam Court, Matthew Pearce and Jacob Blackmore retain their jerseys from the Cup game at Merthyr.

The match was played in incessant rain but both sides showed a willingness to handle the ball in a game well refereed by Mr. Jason Griffiths (Baglan). It was Aberdare, unbeaten in Division 2 East Central, who took the first-half honours as they carried the game to a rattled Neath side. Playing into the elements, the Blacks’ scrum showed its power early on but the visitors shocked Neath by taking the lead when a well-worked front of line-out move ended with lock Callum Owen striding out for a super try which centre Jamie Richards converted.

Running some good, hard lines, Aberdare were well worth their lead too as Neath struggled to get their game going. Hooker Ben Staton, No.8 Connor Parker and flanker Dafydd Stonelake were particularly impressive in the loose while behind the scrum, captain Thomas Hopkins kicked led intelligently and full back Jordan Coles was safety personified at full back. Neath had very little to cheer in the first-half although outside-half Dan Guarneri made good ground with his line-kicks from penalties and forwards Jacob Blackmore and Gareth Wyn Lloyd tried hard to inject some much-needed drive into a faulty forward effort.

However, a few choice words from coach Patrick Horgan saw a different Neath come out after half-time. Suddenly, the lethargy of the first half was forgotten, life and energy were instilled and, within five minutes, the Blacks levelled when scrum power paved the way for scrum-half Ross Pritchard to squirm over for his first try for the Club. Almost immediately Guarneri converted before the outside-half himself turned bad ball into good and went over and added the conversion points to make it 14-7. Neath had certainly picked up the pace and full back Jordan Rees then picked a superb line to cross for Neath’s third which Guarneri converted.

On the half hour, good combined work with Rees and Pritchard prominent saw flanker Jon Hill race in under the posts for Guarneri to make it 28-7 and the Blacks were in control. Aberdare introduced replacements including Lee Evans and Matthew Nuttall for nostalgic Gnoll re-appearances before Neath, with Geraint Workman a lively replacement, had the final word when James Roberts was freed on the left and the winger slid in at the corner for their fifth try.

Even allowing for all the changes, Neath will not have been at all happy with their first-half display and it should not have required an interval rollicking from the coaches to get them going. Full marks to Aberdare on their terrific first-half effort – they left The Gnoll with heads held high and evidently they are a good bet for promotion this season.

NEATH – Jordan Rees; S.Court, B.Atkins, M.Pearce (G.Workman), J.Roberts; D.Guarneri, R.Pritchard; I.James (D.Morgan), Iestyn Jones, G.W.Lloyd (S.Jones); J.Blackmore, Ioan Jones; J.Hill, L.Ward (capt), B.Lukes (T.Antozzi) (J.Barley)
ABERDARE – J.Coles; D.Thomas, J.Richards, J.Price, C.Mackie; T.Hopkins (capt), J.Parfitt; M.Griffiths, B.Staton, N.Terry; K.Parry, C.Owen; N.Millard, C.Parker, D.Stonelake Repl. M.Nuttall, P.Bevan, I.Archer, C.Davies, J.Williams, L.Evans, A.Morris

Referee – Mr. J.Griffiths (Baglan)

MATCH PREVIEW

Neath entertain Aberdare on Friday evening at The Gnoll (7:15pm KO) and make wholesale changes from the side which played Merthyr in the Cup.

Leon Ward plays his 200th game and will lead the side from No.8.

Neath v Aberdare (Home) 7.15pm KO

15 Jordan Rees; 14 Sam Court; 13 Ben Atkins; 12 Matthew Pearce; 11 James Roberts, 10 Dan Guarneri; 9 Ross Pritchard.

1 Ifan James; 2 Iestyn Jones; 3 Gareth Wyn Lloyd; 4 Jacob Blackmore; 5 Ioan Jones; 6 Jon Hill; 7 Ben Lukes; 8 Leon Ward (Capt).
Replacements: TBC

Supporters should note that season tickets will be valid for this match, Under-16’s FREE and all others £5.

MATCH REPORT: MERTHYR 44 NEATH 18 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 25TH, 2020

MERTHYR 44 NEATH 18
Battered but unbowed, Neath went out of the WRU National Cup at Merthyr on Saturday – a not totally unexpected result given the clubs’ current standings – but the score-line hides a terrific effort by the visitors whose fire was only extinguished by two late yellow cards brandished for technical offences.

It was a brave effort by the Blacks to hold last year’s beaten finalists to 2 tries to 5, two of which came in an extended injury-time, and the home side’s advantage was magnified by the immaculate goal-kicking of Matthew Jarvis – eight from eight this week and 19 points after succeeding with only one out of six the previous week.

The first-half was quite evenly-fought with neither side able to make much headway. Neath were there for the battle and they coped admirably with Merthyr’s close-range driving and shackled their biggest attacking threat behind of centres Aaron Pinches and Harley Thomson. Neath lost hooker Sion Crocker and scrum-half Macauley Griffiths to early injuries in an engaging first-half in which the best try-scoring chances came on the left flanks, Ben Atkins getting outside his man on a touchline dash and Neath captain Aaron Bramwell making a splendid last-ditch tackle at the opposite corner.

Jordan Rees and Nicky Griffiths put in several telling kicks for Neath and the outside-half was responsible for Neath’s first-half points via two penalties which matched two efforts by Jarvis who banged over a third on the stroke of half-time to give Merthyr a 9-6 lead.

However, Merthyr came out strongly after half-time and when No.8 and captain Phil Rees forced his way over from a short-range scrum, Jarvis’ conversion made it 16-6. Neath refused to lie down but, as their defence tired and their chase slowed, they conceded two quick tries to half-backs Rhys Davies and Robert Downes. Yet, the Blacks hit back and forced a scrum on the home line, Nicky Griffiths exploited the blind-side and flanker Tomi Antozzi popped up in support to claim the try.

With ten minutes remaining, the referee, showing little empathy, chose to issue Neath with two late yellow cards which astonished supporters home and away. The deficiency allowed Adam Hoskins to steal in for Merthyr but Neath refused to die and were rewarded for some excellent continuity when replacement prop Ifan James forced his way over and replacement Callum Hall converted to make it 30-16. 13 against 15 is ever a mismatch though and, on the final play of an elongated injury-time, Hoskins rather took the gloss off a valiant Neath effort with his second try on a kick to the corner.

Really, Neath deserved better as the pack lifted their game to a new level. Prop Steff Jones and lock Jacob Blackmore were active grafters while Jon Barley enjoyed his line-out tussle with Blues lock James Down. Then, of course, there was the “AGM back row” – Antozzi, Griggs, Malone – who shirked nothing.

Playing within the system but more aggressive, challenging and vigorous is something which must be repeated over the rest of the season ! If the Neath pack had played with this determination all season, the Blacks would have won three or four more games…
.
MERTHYR – M.Jarvis; A.Hoskins, H.Thomson (G.Davies), A.Pinches, S.Jones (L.Lloyd); R.Davies, R.Downes; C.Phillips (R.B.Thomas), I.Morris (S.Evans), J.Gilding (L.Owen); B.Siers, J.Downs; G.Legge (T.Daley), P.Rees (capt), J.Thomas (J.Perkins)
NEATH – I.Morgan (C.Hall); S.Court, A.Bramwell (capt), M.Pearce, B.Atkins; Jordan Rees, M.Griffiths (N.Griffiths) (R.Pritchard); B.Uphill (I.James), S.Crocker (I.Jones), S.Jones (G.W.Lloyd); J.Blackmore, J.Barley; T.Antozzi (J.Hill), D.Griggs (B.Lukes), S.Malone

Referee– Mr. E.Morris-Roberts (Ystradgynlais)

MATCH PREVIEW

It is Cup quarter final day on Saturday and Neath, along with Pontypool, keep the Championship flag flying. The Blacks visit Merthyr at the Wern (kick off 2.30pm).

With winger James Roberts away, Neath re-shuffle their resources behind. Macauley Griffiths takes over at scrum-half with Iestyn Morgan coming in at full back. Sam Court moves to the wing with skipper Aaron Bramwell at centre. The only change up front sees Jacob Blackmore return for Rhys Morgan who suffered a calf injury against Pontypool.

Neath v Merthyr (Away) 2.30pm
15 Iestyn Morgan; 14 Sam Court, 13 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Ben Atkins; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Scott Malone
Replacements – 16 Ifan James, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 19 Jon Hill, 20 Ben Lukes, 21 Nicky Griffiths, 22 Callum Hall, 23 Ross Pritchard

Referee – Mr. Elfyn Morris-Roberts (Ystradgynlais)

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 12 PONTYPOOL 54 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 18TH, 2020

NEATH 12 PONTYPOOL 54
Neath were well beaten at The Gnoll by Championship leaders Pontypool who gained their first win at the ground since 1991 and the Blacks have it all to do now if they are to achieve a top four finish.

Neath attendances are significantly up on last season and a season’s best crowd gathered at an atmospheric Gnoll to witness the battle between these old rivals in bright January sunshine. The Gnoll was, as ever, in splendid condition and Pontypool included three ex-Neath men in Aaron Coundley, Darren Hughes and Ieuan Jones as the game kicked off

As was expected, Pontypool bossed the game from the start and, while Neath contributed much to the flow of an entertaining game, they left too many defensive holes for the confident visitors to exploit. It was 4 tries to 1 in each half with Keiran Meek converting all of Pooler’s scores bar the penultimate one.

Pontypool went ahead with tries by Darren Hughes and Michael Herbert who enjoyed a happier Saturday after being sent off against Ystalyfera last week. Neath hit back, the forwards driving strongly for a very patiently-constructed try at the posts by No.8 David Griggs which outside-half Jordan Rees converted. Pooler restored their lead through a try by full back Geraint Walsh which had home supporters clamouring for a forward pass.

Neath had a chance to cut the deficit when they spurned a simple penalty shot for a kick to touch from which nothing developed and, when play switched to the other end, Pooler were awarded a scrum penalty which they used to set up an efficient line-out drive for No.8 Jones to score and Meek’s fourth conversion made it 28-7 at the break.

The game continued in similar vein in the second half. Neath worked hard and the forwards did well enough at the set-pieces with Tomi Antozzi an energetic emergency lock and flankers Scott Malone and Ben Atkins doing their utmost. But it was to no avail.

Pooler’s fifth try came when Pat Lewis fended off James Roberts before Neath enjoyed a good spell. Griggs powered away on a spectacular 40-metre charge and was hauled down a few metres short of the line and, after a period of sustained pressure, the Blacks carved out a splendid try by winger James Roberts – not many have crossed Pooler’s line twice this season.

But Pooler were too strong and in a final flourish they added tries by Lewis Barnett and Aaron Quick – the second after Roberts got back to make two brilliant tackles. On the last play, with Neath gamely keeping the ball alive, Quick was not slow to pounce for the final score which Meek converted for a personal haul of 14 points.

The gap between the top two and the rest in the Championship has been self-evident all season and serves to emphasise how much Neath need to do to catch up. Next Saturday, the Blacks visit Merthyr in the Cup knowing that greater defensive resolution is demanded but it is a chance to redeem themselves.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); B.Atkins, S.Court (I.Morgan), M.Pearce, J.Roberts; Jordan Rees, N.Griffiths (E.Horgan); B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker (Iestyn Jones), S.Jones; R.Morgan (B.Lukes), J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, S.Malone

PONTYPOOL – G.Walsh; L.Lewis, P.Lewis (L.Barnett), K.Meek, J.Thomas; R.Powell, O.Leonard (A.Quick); A.Coundley (capt), D.Hughes (L.Ball), C.Price (S.Evans); R.Clarke (A.Stratton), C.Gregory; M.Herbert, I.Jones, S.Matthews

Referee – Mr. T.Spurrier (Barry)

MATCH PREVIEW

Neath host Championship leaders Pontypool at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) and will need to make the most of any chances which come their way after failing to do so at Ystrad Rhondda last week.

On the face of it, Neath have little to lose against the Gwent side who come into the game averaging over 48 points and 7 tries over their 14 wins to date.

In the back division, Ben Atkins features on the wing after a bout of influenza with skipper Aaron Bramwell back at full back, Sam Court comes in at centre, while Jordan Rees and Nicky Griffiths are re-united at half back. Forward changes see recalls for prop Ben Uphill and flanker Scott Malone.

Neath v Pontypool (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Ben Atkins, 13 Sam Court , 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Scott Malone
Replacements – 16 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Elis Horgan, 20 Iestyn Morgan

Referee – Mr. Tom Spurrier (Cardiff)

MATCH REPORT: YSTRAD RHONDDA 20 NEATH 13 – JANUARY 11TH, 2020

YSTRAD RHONDDA 20 NEATH 13

Neath paid the full penalty for wasting their chances and went down to defeat at Gelligaled Park to Ystrad Rhondda whose second-half turnaround proved enough for victory.

A century and more ago, Neath had many a difficult day in this neck of the woods against the likes of Ferndale, Llwynypia and Treorchy and the Blacks had this one marked down as one of their toughest away challenges of the season.

Despite the rains, the pitch was in surprisingly good condition and Neath opened strongly, excellent handling by backs and forwards paved the way for No.8 David Griggs to power over at the posts for Callum Hall to convert to give the visitors a lead which Hall soon extended to 10-nil with a penalty.

Ystrad hit back with a penalty of their own by outside-half Rhys Truelove but Neath, with their powerful scrum in the ascendancy and the back row of Griggs, Tomi Antozzi and Ben Lukes on the front foot, were going well and they really ought to have scored again but a woeful pass hit the deck rather than the player and cost them a score in the right corner – it was a decisive moment as it would have put the Blacks firmly in control.

A second Hall penalty nudged Neath further ahead at 13-3 but at least two further opportunities were wasted as the Blacks did not make the most of a lot of good approach work and they now had to face the gusting wind in the second-half.

Neath had enjoyed much the better of the first-half but Ystrad came out determined to make amends. Five minutes in, they cut the arrears when good hands created an overlap for Sion Summers, who played for Neath earlier in the season, to run in for a try which Truelove converted.

The Blacks went back on the attack but solid scrum ball was wasted on the 22 and Ystrad came away with some excellent play by forwards and backs and they got their reward when Neath’s defence went missing and man of the match Truelove crossed at the posts for their second try which he converted to put the home side in front for the first time.

Neath responded positively but lacked cohesion and Truelove’s second penalty made it 13-20. The Blacks threw the kitchen sink at Ystrad in the last five minutes but it came to nothing as the home defence held firm to take the honours from a hard-fought, evenly contested game played in ever-increasing rain.

Things don’t get easier for Neath next week as they entertain Pontypool who are very much in form if their 77-8 demolition of Ystalyfera is anything to go by. Kick off at The Gnoll is 2.30pm.and it will take a real backs to the wall effort from Neath if they are to compete with the League leaders.

NEATH – Jordan Rees; I.Morgan, A.Bramwell (capt), M.Pearce, J.Roberts; C.Hall (S.Court), M.Griffiths (N.Griffiths); G.W.Lloyd (B.Uphill), S.Crocker, S.Jones; R.Morgan, J.Barley; T. Antozzi, D.Griggs, B.Lukes (S.Malone)
YSTRAD RHONDDA – L.Dunning; C.Williams, A.Lewis, R.Howells (capt), S.Summers, R.Truelove, T.Davies (J.Foulkes); T.Foulkes, L.Wiggins, I.Hankins; M.Auger, L.Morris; M.Roderick, H.Connolly, T.Jevons
Referee -Mr. B.Porte (Cardiff)

MATCH PREVIEW

Neath visit Ystrad Rhondda for the first time since 1989/90 at Gelligaled Park on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm)

Ystrad come into the game on the back of two fine away wins at Beddau (34-7) and Ystalyfera (12-8) and will be seeking to avenge Neath’s 29-19 win in an entertaining game at The Gnoll back in September.

Neath have earmarked this as one of their toughest challenges and the Blacks field a slightly more experienced side than that which defeated Trebanos 27-nil last weekend.

In the back division, skipper Aaron Bramwell fills in at centre for Sam Court who drops to the bench while Macauley Griffiths returns at scrum-half in place of Elis Horgan who had such a fine debut last week.

Forward changes see recalls for prop Gareth Wyn Lloyd and lock Jon Barley with Ben Uphill joining Iestyn Jones and Scott Malone on the bench.

Neath v Ystrad Rhondda (Away) 2.30pm
15 Jordan Rees; 14 Iestyn Morgan, 13 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements – 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Scott Malone, 19 Nicky Griffiths, 20 Sam Court
Referee – Mr. Ben Porte (Cardiff)

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 27 TREBANOS 0 – JANUARY 4TH, 2020

NEATH 27 TREBANOS nil

Neath welcomed the New Year with a comfortable bonus point win over Trebanos – and it could be that the patient home supporters saw the beginnings of a fresh dawn at The Gnoll. For Neath fielded a back division containing three teenagers making their first starts – Iestyn Morgan and two debutants Elis Horgan and Sam Court all had splendid games and a fourth, Ben Lukes, played a starring role in a dominant pack.

With flu in the Neath camp and the “Swansea mumps” forcing the influential Iwan Davies out, both sides made changes but Neath started the game full of energy and running and winger James Roberts ought to have scored but opted for contact. The Blacks kept possession and, ten minutes in, their scrum generated a mighty heave and scrum-half Elis Horgan nipped in to mark his debut with a try which brought a broad grin of approval from proud father Pat, the Neath coach.

Callum Hall converted and the outside-half soon added a penalty but there was no further score in the first-half as the Blacks, for all their set-piece advantage, dropped off the pace and could not add to their score. Trebanos wre battling hard but by half-time the writing was on the wall for Trebanos as the Neath eight were going great guns at the scrum with the front row of Ben Uphill, acting captain Sion Crocker and Steffan Jones at the fulcrum of a hastily advancing unit. Rhys Morgan’s return alongside Jordan Blackmore in the second row improved the tight play – and later kick-off reception.

Trebanos were nothing if not defiant though and Neath had much to do in the second half. Neath’s forward power continued enabling the back row of Tomi Antozzi, David Griggs and Ben Lukes, an effective line-out operator too, to come into play. Horgan, snapping and sniping behind them, played with considerable aplomb and showed a maturity beyond his tender years – a chip off the old block if ever there was !

Neath needed to inject pace into the game and it came when neat work by Penclawdd centre Sam Court, another young lad who looked perfectly at home, freed James Roberts who needed no second invitation to fly to the line. Trebanos were feeling the squeeze, their flanker Iestyn Davies was binned and their full back was lucky not to join him when a dubious tackle stooped Tomi Antozzi in his tracks as he charged towards the line. The Neath forwards battered away at the ‘Banos line, Griggs twice involved before Blackmore sent centre Matthew Pearce hurtling over for Hall to convert.

Play became a bit over-heated after another late tackle but the bonus point was soon secured. The visitors resorted to uncontested scrums but the Neath eight kept driving and re-cycling and Jordan Rees, an effective full back now operating at outside-half, stepped his way over for the fourth try. Trebanos battled bravely to the end and Neath will not be getting carried away with this result as there were too many imperfections in their play for them to be entirely happy as they seek to keep the pot boiling over 80 minutes – improved line-out accuracy, kicking and harder tackling will be needed next week at Ystrad Rhondda who will be fully charged to avenge their September defeat.

NEATH – Jordan Rees; I.Morgan, S.Court, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; C.Hall (R.Pritchard), E.Horgan; B.Uphill, S.Crocker (Iestyn Jones), S.Jones (L.Tobias); J.Blackmore (Ioan Jones), R.Morgan; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, B.Lukes
TREBANOS – J.Ferriman; R.Brunton, S.Lewis, L.Davies; S.Davies, Rob Jones (I.Temblett); D.Worth (Ross Jones), R.Thomas (capt), T.Dew (R.Evans); E.Morgan, C.Michael; Iestyn Davies, D.Hills (D.Bale), R.George (G.Spalding) Referee – Mr. A.Parry (Sebastopol, Wales)

MATCH PREVIEW

Neath kick off 2020 by hosting Trebanos at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) in what will be the third meeting of the clubs this season.

Back in September, the Blacks won the season’s opener at Trebanos 23-7 and the following week were victorious again 24-nil at The Gnoll in the National Cup but on both occasions they had to work hard for victory.

The same will be true of Saturday and Trebanos will be in good heart after winning their local derby in the Swansea Valley at Ystalyfera last Saturday 18-10.

There are three changes fore and aft in Neath’s starting line up. Behind the scrum, Iestyn Morgan is on the wing after impressing as a replacement last week, Ben Atkins returns at centre with Elis Horgan coming in for his first start at scrum-half. Up front, Steff Jones returns at tight head prop with Rhys Morgan back in the second row and Ben Lukes takes over at open-side.

Neath v Trebanos (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Iestyn Morgan, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Elis Horgan; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements – 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Ioan Jones, 19 Nicky Griffiths, 20 Jordan Rees

Referee – Mr. Aaron Parry (Sebastopol, Wales)

Gates Open 1.45pm, Admission – Adults £8, Under-16’s FREE