Category: Match Reports




It’s back to the Championship for unbeaten Neath who, with five consecutive wins behind them, take on second-placed Ystrad Rhondda for the first time at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).

Neath made it a double by beating Trebanos 24-nil last week and are gearing for a tough challenge from their Mid-District visitors who crashed out of the Cup last week when they were well below strength at Cardiff Metropolitan.

“We believe that Ystrad were without a number of players last week which helps explain that odd scoreline,” said backs coach Matthew Jones, “and I know from my time at Pontypool that they are much better than that. They are different to Trebanos, more physical maybe but their backs are sharp too and we need to be ready for it.”

The Neath team again shows several changes and is :-

Neath v Ystrad Rhondda (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Jarrad Rees, 11 Sion Summers; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ifan James, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Scott Malone, 8 David Griggs, 7 Jon Hill
Replacements – TBC


NEATH 24 points TREBANOS nil

Neath eased into the second round of the WRU National Cup with a 4-try victory over Trebanos whom they had beaten 23-7 away in the League just a week earlier.

In delightful September sunshine, the day’s biggest Cup crowd gathered at The Gnoll. The Blacks made nine changes in their starting line-up but, despite the re-shuffle, the home forwards picked up where they left off at Trebanos and were well on top throughout.

Neath were soon in front – off Jacob Blackmore’s line-out take, a neatly-worked move saw Neath drive their way to the line where No.8 Tomi Antozzi got his second try in successive weeks, Luke Griffiths converting. On 15 minutes, Neath repeated the trick and this time flanker David Griggs was the beneficiary as he claimed his fifth try of the season.

Trebanos fought hard to repel Neath but, under pressure, their penalty count was rising and outside-half Tom Dew was yellow-carded. As half-time approached, Neath bagged a third try when good running by the Neath backs and more grand forward work produced its reward in a third try for hooker Sion Crocker which winger Griffiths converted to make it 19-nil at the interval.

Trebanos started the second-half well but the Neath defence was up to the mark with prop Gareth Wyn Lloyd and flanker Ben Lukes making telling interventions. Having weathered the storm, Neath put together some threatening movements and should have added at least a couple more tries but that last pass eluded them.

As the replacements flowed, play became untidy with a lot of offside offences. Despite that, Neath tried to play and Griggs lost the ball with the line at his mercy while Luke Griffiths came desperately close too. Trebanos’ best opportunity came when a hopelessly off-side interception saw Callum Hall chase back for a last-gasp tackle but, eventually, the Blacks scored the best try of the game, splendid inter-passing paving the way for scrum-half Macauley Griffiths to glide over for Neath’s fourth try to complete the scoring for a well-deserved fifth consecutive victory.

The Neath pack once again took the honours, their heavy scrum presence, bolstered late on by a season’s debut for Ben Uphill, did them proud. Locks Jacob Blackmore and Rhys Morgan generated plenty of drive from the second row, the former’s line-out work being particularly effective, while it was good to see teenage open-sides Ben Lukes and Jon Hill getting a run and contributing to a strong forward performance. Behind them, Nicky Griffiths prompted well from scrum-half and, if the outer backs did not get too many opportunities, centre Matthew Pearce was a tower of strength, repeatedly making good ground and supplying a few of his trademark thumping tackles.

Obdurate Trebanos, well coached and full of spirit, were again well served by the hard-working Iwan Davies and Rhydian George in the back row, skipper Rhys Thomas also caught the eye while Tom Dew and Steff Lewis are accomplished performers behind.

For Neath, nilling the opposition in the Cup is not to be sniffed at and, on a weekend when Premiership sides Bridgend, Newport, Pontypridd, RGC and Swansea bit the dust, the Blacks will be hoping for a favourable draw in the second round. But first it is Ystrad Rhondda at The Gnoll in the League next Saturday (kick off 2.30pm)

NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths, B.Atkins (Jordan Rees), M.Pearce, S.Summers; C.Hall, N.Griffiths (M.Griffiths); G.W.Lloyd (B.Uphill), S.Crocker (Iestyn Jones), S.Jones (I.James); J.Blackmore (Ioan Jones), R.Morgan; D.Griggs, T.Antozzi (S.Malone), B.Lukes (J.Hill)

TREBANOS – J.Ferriman; K.Weightman, D.Skone, S.Lewis, R.Brunton; T.Dew, J.Weaver; C,Forshaw, R.Thomas (capt), D.Worth; E.Morgan, C.Michael; C.Warlow, I.Davies, R.George Repl. S.Griffiths, Rhodri Jones, A.Humphries, Robert Jones, G.Spalding, T.Wright, A.Macnamara, E.Gully

Referee – Mr. A.Parry (Pontypool)

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of


Neath and Trebanos face the unusual prospect of squaring up to one another on two successive Saturdays when the Blacks play the Swansea Valley club in the National Cup at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).

Last week, Neath won the League opener 23-7 but Neath are at pains to rule out any hint of complacency ahead of the Cup.

“The Cup is a one-off,” said forwards coach Andrew Howell, “and we need to be fully switched on for the challenge. Trebanos showed enough last week for us to realise that we will be punished if we do not perform.

“We controlled the game reasonably well but as a Team Management group we did not feel that it was anything like a good enough performance and we need to be sharper and more focussed on the task in hand.”

Coaches Patrick Horgan, Andrew Howell and Matthew Jones have shuffled their cards against a Trebanos side hell-bent on improving themselves too. Pat Horgan said, “We have made changes as 15 players will not see us through the season so it is important that we employ the full squad.

“Be clear, we are not giving people games – last week was probably not our strongest selection in any case – and the players who come in have earned their chance following the pre-season successes.

“The boys are aware of where we felt we under-performed last week and where we need to improve. Playing for Neath brings with it expectations and responsibilities and we need this squad to live up to them. Freshening up the side should give us the dynamism and explosiveness we need.”

Neath v Trebanos (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Sion Summers; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes

Replacements – 16 Ifan James, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Ioan Jones, 20 Scott Malone, 21 Jon Hill, 22 Macauley Griffiths, 23 Jordan Rees, 24 Dan Guarneri


TREBANOS 7pts NEATH 23 pts

Neath opened their Championship campaign in the September sunshine with a solid-enough 23-7 win at Trebanos who battled to the end and held the All Blacks in check when many a lesser team might have cracked.

With five changes from the side which defeated Swansea, Neath were rapidly into their stride. Efficient kick-off receipt saw the worthy left boot of centre Matthew Pearce put Neath onto the attack, Trebanos threw not straight at the line-out and were penalised at the consequent scrum and winger Luke Griffiths landed the goal from 40 metres.

Trebanos gave early indications of their defensive resolution but a break by outside-half Jordan Rees promised much for Neath only to expire due to lack of support. But Neath were slowly turning the screw, forcing Trebanos to defend in their 22, and on the half-hour Neath’s first try was registered – a debut score for No.8 Tomi Antozzi who touched down at the back of a rapidly-advancing scrum.

Griffiths converted and, when Trebanos were penalised for a deliberate knock on, the winger landed a second penalty. The half had been mostly Neath whose try-line was not threatened although winger Josh Ferryman missed with a speculative long-range goal on the interval which Neath entered a deserved 13-nil to the good.

The second-half exploded into action when Aaron Bramwell’s pass was eagerly seized upon by Ferryman who scampered to the posts and converted to bring the score back to 13-7. Neath response was instantaneous as their forwards took play to the Trebanos line, Pearce made inroads towards the posts and Jordan Rees arrowed across on the right for the Blacks’ second try and Griffiths converted to restore Neath’s advantage.

The remainder of the game was played out almost entirely in the Trebanos half but Neath were unable to cross the line again. The home side’s determination was commendable and flankers Iwan Davies and Rhydian George tackled themselves almost to a standstill until replaced. Griffiths added a third penalty but Neath, despite some strong driving play by their forwards, took wrong options and were unable to cross the Trebanos line although they came mighty close on several occasions.

It was not a complete performance by the Blacks – the opening game rarely is – but they were very much on top with hooker Sion Crocker and Tomi Antozzi setting the standards in the pack. More clinical finishing is called for and stupid penalties must be cut out but the scrum and defence look strong and it is notable that the four tries conceded by the Blacks in four games to date have come from individual errors rather than lack of organisation.

Trebanos are brave and very well organised and Neath need to be mindful that every side they meet will be equally as determined even when battered and bruised. Strangely enough Neath’s next challenge is a Cup match against the same opposition. Trebanos will come to The Gnoll on Saturday (2.30pm) fully intent on causing an upset and Neath will know that they cannot be taken lightly. Supporters are reminded that the Cup is “all pay” but at a very reasonable £5, Under-16’s free.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths, Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce (B.Atkins), W.Holley; Jordan Rees (D.Guarneri), M.Griffiths; I.James, S.Crocker (I.Jones), L.Tobias (S.Jones); R.Morgan, J.Barley (J.Blackmore); L.Ward, T.Antozzi, S.Malone

TREBANOS – T.Dew; R.Bruton, D.Skone, S.Lewis, J.Ferryman; S.Duggan, J.Weaver; C.Forshaw, R.Thomas (capt), R.Evans; E.Morgan, C.Michael; I.Davies, D.Hills, R.George Repl. O.Kennerley, S.Howard, D.Worth, C.Warlow, I.Davies

Referee – Mr. K.Shorte (Cardiff)

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of


The season proper begins for Neath when they visit Trebanos on Saturday in the Championship (kick off – 2.30pm).

After three pre-season wins over London Welsh (33-5), Resolven (43-nil) and, most impressively, Swansea (23-19), the really serious business starts now for the Blacks.

Coaches Pat Horgan, Matthew Jones and Andrew Howell ran their eyes over 33 players in the three warm-ups and only four changes are made to the side which started against Swansea with Jarrad Rees coming in at centre, Jordan Rees and Macauley Griffiths linking up again at half back and Argentine flanker Tomi Antozzi debuting at flanker.

Head coach Pat Horgan emphasised, “We have seen a lot of players so far and we will continue to rotate but we also need to establish team patterns early on.

“There will be disappointments for those not involved this week but the Championship is probably the toughest it has ever been and we will need a big squad.

“The League will define our season and it is important that we start well against Trebanos who we know are an enterprising side and will be a stiff proposition.

“Swansea was a proud accomplishment but we are all about improving and raising standards to a level where we are a team to be reckoned with again. We must make sides work harder to score against us and we must become more clinical ourselves.”

Neath v Trebanos (Away) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell; 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Will Holley; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ifan James, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Scott Malone, 8 David Griggs/Leon Ward, 7 Tomi Antozzi
Replacements – 16 Steffan Jones, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Jacob Blackmore, 19 Dan Guarneri, 20 Ben Atkins



Neath made it a hat-trick of pre-season wins when they defeated Swansea in a keenly fought encounter at The Gnoll.

These two oldest rivals produced an engrossing game, the lead see-sawing throughout an old-fashioned intense and competitive local derby with both defences eagerly out of the blocks to cut down attacks and force the error.

Neath started strongly going though the phases but when play switched to the other end, a Neath mis-kick led to Swansea opening the scoring with an unconverted forward try credited to back rower Jon Fox.

The Blacks hit back with a penalty by outside-half Dan Guarneri and, after the strong home scrum had twice rocketed Swansea backwards, No.8 David Griggs was on hand to touch down at the posts for Guarneri to convert and give Neath the lead at 10-3.

Neath kept up the pressure – the front row of Ifan James, Sion Crocker and Liam Tobias solid in the scrums, line-out men Rhys Morgan and Jon Barley (with the help of their cohorts) doing some fine work and the back row as usual doing what is expected of them in attack and defence.

Behind them, Nicky Griffiths provided direction from scrum-half and centres Ben Atkins and Matthew Pearce are rapidly building up a good understanding. A Griffiths-inspired break by Nicky and wing Luke saw Neath attack and the pragmatic Blacks got their reward when Guarneri slotted his second penalty for a 13-5 half-time lead.

Swansea came out firing after the break and a charged down kick led to a try by centre Gareth Rees which outside-half James Davies converted and they stretched their advantage when No.8 Jon Fox barged over following a line-out drive. Davies’ conversion made it 19-13 to the visitors and the game was back in the balance.

But the Blacks were not to be out-done. They roared on to the attack and forward power again produced dividends when flanker Scott Malone got the second try, Guarneri adding the points to give Neath a slender one-point advantage.

It was pulsating stuff of thrust and counter-thrust but Neath have worked very hard this summer under fitness guru Idris Hanmer and the home side were finishing stronger – the ability to out-last opponents will serve them well ! The Blacks got their reward when winger Luke Griffiths landed a beautiful penalty from 40 metres which made it 23-19.

On the back of a penalty award – Neath discipline must be spot-on – Swansea forced a line-out near the Neath line-out but the home defence was organised and secure; they stemmed the drive and Swansea, forced to move the ball, were rightly penalised for crossing by referee Mr. Gwyn Morris who is already in good early-season form.

The last five minutes were played out deep in Swansea territory. The Whites had possession but when they tried to work the ball into space they could make no headway against tigerish Neath tackling which suggests that this new-look side is developing the character, resolution and will to win which the supporters admire.

All told, it was a good performance by the emerging Neath side. Nobody at The Gnoll will be carried away by their pre-season hat-trick – victories over London Welsh, Resolven and now Swansea have made for a promising pre-season but it will count for nothing without achievement once the League starts.

But, if Neath can build on this start, step up the fitness further, continue their set-piece prowess, reduce the errors and make opponents work harder for points, 2019/20 may yet turn out to be an enjoyable season.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths, B.Atkins, M.Pearce, W.Holley; D.Guarneri, N.Griffiths; I.James, S.Crocker, L.Tobias; R.Morgan, J.Barley; S.Malone, D.Griggs, J.Hill
SWANSEA – D.Thomas; R.Griffiths, K.Charles, R.Williams, N.Trowbridge; S.Williams, T.Ham; T.Northey, M.Moore, A.Dew; O.Morgan, S.O’Rourke; D.Eager, J.Fox, C.Bowden
Referee – Mr. G.Morris (Cardiff)

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of


Neath’s build up to the new season steps up a gear when they take on Swansea at The Gnoll on Thursday evening (kick off – 7.15pm).

In the wins over London Welsh (33-5) and Resolven (43-nil), coaches Pat Horgan, Matthew Jones and Andrew Howell have run their eyes over 32 players and for this game scrum-half Nicky Griffiths returns for his first start while another newcomer may come into the back row.

Head coach Pat Horgan said, “The two wins against London Welsh and Resolven were encouraging but the squad knows that we have some stiff challenges ahead of us.

“Swansea will be a real test of where we are – it is all about improving and raising standards.”

Neath v Swansea (Home) 7.15pm
15 Aaron Bramwell; 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Will Holley; 10 Dan Guarneri, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Ifan James, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Scott Malone, 8 David Griggs, 7 A.N.Other
Replacements – TBC


Neath built on their 33-5 win over London Welsh with a 7-try win over neighbouring Resolven who battled gamely for most of the proceedings and who, in truth, deserved better than the final scoreline suggests.

The Blacks made an unprecedented 14 changes to their starting line-up with lock Rhys Morgan the only survivor as the coaches gave opportunities to the many youngsters who have trained hard with the Welsh All Blacks over the summer. Brothers Steff and Iestyn Jones figured alongside each other in the front row and Dan Guarneri led the side.

The Blacks started strongly and took the lead with a try from a scrum by No.8 David Griggs after 12 minutes but there was an understandable lack of cohesion early on.

Resolven then enjoyed a good spell with skipper Niki Reed and No.8 Ashley Morgan leading the charge and ex-Neath and Aberavon star Richard Carter bringing his centres Joe Healey and Darren Bowen into play; in fact, they might very well have taken the lead had they not been recalled for a forward pass.

As Neath warmed to their task, No.8 Griggs again showed that he knows his way to the try-line popping up to score his second try which acting-captain Dan Guarneri goaled and, when the Neath backs got outside the visiting defence, a good run by speedy wing Ben Griffin saw full back Callum Hall touch down and Guarneri added the extras with a splendid kick from wide out.

Resolven were not done though and pressed hard on the Neath line but lock Morgan executed a perfect steal, the danger was averted and a turnover won by flanker Jordan Coxley saw Neath move the ball speedily and Hall bagged his second try for 24-nil.

As the game wore on, Resolven tired and tested the patience of the referee but Neath began to dominate. Sion Summers lost the ball over the line before Ben Griffin raced over for a fine corner try which replacement full back Luke Griffiths goaled from the touchline.

With their young forwards asserting themselves, Neath were now well on top and good work by replacements Calim Bowen and Macauley Griffiths set up a second chance for the sharp Ben Griffin’s second try, Luke Griffiths repeating his touchline trick for the conversion points.

On the stroke of time, centre Matthew Pearce showed his strength to collect the seventh try but Luke Griffiths inexplicably missed the conversion with a drop-kick to end a useful work-out for both clubs which provided good entertainment for another healthy crowd which would have been the envy of several Premiership clubs.

Neath now move on to their next challenge against Swansea on Thursday, August 29th (7.15pm).

Starting line-ups :-
NEATH – C.Hall; B.Griffin, W.Holley, Jarrad Rees, J.Roberts; D.Guarneri (capt), G.Workman; G.W.Lloyd, I.Jones, S.Jones; D.Millard, R.Morgan; J.Coxley, D.Griggs, B.Lukes
RESOLVEN – N.Davies; C.Sandry, J.Healey, D.Bowen, K.Jones; R.Carter, N.Murphy; R.Jones, N.Reed (capt), J.Dowley; R.Davies, S.Martin; D.Stokes, A.Morgan, C.Pearce

Referee – Mr. S.Edwards (Abercrave)

Photo courtesy of @ValleyBoyPics


It is virtually all change for Neath who continue their pre-season build up when they entertain Resolven at The Gnoll on Tuesday evening (kick off – 7.00pm).

Coaches Pat Horgan, Matthew Jones and Andrew Howell have named a much-changed side to take on the Neath Valley club as they seek to involve all the squad who have trained hard over the summer.

Amidst 14 starting changes, only player to retain his place is hard-working lock Rhys Morgan while two places are left vacant pending permit confirmations.

Outside-half Dan Guarneri will lead the team for the first time and Pat Horgan said, “Everybody was pleased to start off with Saturday’s 33-5 win over London Welsh although a lot more work is clearly needed to bring us up to the standards expected of Neath RFC.

“This is an important step in our build-up and Resolven are a well-coached side who will test our resolve and ambition at this early stage.”

Neath v Resolven (Home) 7.00pm
15 Callum Hall; 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Will Holley, 11 A.N.Other; 10 Dan Guarneri (captain), 9 Geraint Workman; 1 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 2 Iestyn Jones, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Dafydd Millard, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Jordan Coxley, 8 A.N.Other, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements – TBC

NEATH 33 points LONDON WELSH 5 points

Neath opened the 2019/20 season by resuming links with London Welsh and ran out deserved five tries to one winners in a highly entertaining game at The Gnoll.

A healthy crowd was present to see the two “fallen giants” stir again and launch the new campaign with Neath’s new-look team expected to be fully extended by London Welsh who have gone unbeaten over two successive League promotions since they struck their own particular difficulties.

An enthralling game ensued with the Blacks generally on top although the Exiles often looked dangerous and it took last-ditch efforts to keep the visitors out. It is early to draw conclusions but Neath’s strong set piece got even better as the game went on while the rapidity of midfield passing was impressive if not always accurate. A solid front five will grow in vigour and evidently Neath have options in the back-row and in midfield.

Neath started purposefully and right wing Luke Griffiths nearly got in at the corner. The Blacks got turned over twice early on but, after three line-outs and three scrums on the visitors’ line, No.8 Scott Malone dabbed down for a pushover try to open the scoring.

Good work wide out by back rowers Blackmore and Malone set up a maul on the Exiles’ line and Outside Half Jordan Rees crossed for the second try which Luke Griffiths converted and, on the half hour, the winger added the points to a try of his own after he caught a perfectly-placed cross lick by outside half Jordan Rees. Before the break, the Exiles came close following a kick and chase but Luke Griffiths just got back in time to minor and Neath went in leading 19-nil.

Neath turned around to attack the Union End and, seven minutes after the re-start, Neath scrum strength saw Malone get his second try, replacement Dan Guarneri goaling.

A flurry of replacements saw Neath lose momentum and the Exiles hit back with a deserved try of their own by centre Ben Phillips after the Blacks twice over-ambitiously tried to run the ball out from behind their own try-line – such foibles are all very well for summer warm-ups but they will hopefully not be seen once the League starts !

Amidst more replacements, David Griggs who quickly distinguished himself with a couple of strong carries stretched to touch down from a scrum and Guarneri converted. That concluded the scoring but there were chances at either end, Jarrad Rees and Guarneri earning plaudits for their cover tackles – the kind of defensive resolution Neath will need… and expect.

Unusually, the Neath team was “serenaded” off the pitch by their opponents whose rendition of “Bread of Heaven” was appreciated by all and it rounded off a useful first outing for the Blacks who will realise that one win does not a winter make.

Starting line-ups :-
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths, B.Atkins, M.Pearce, S.Summers; J.Rees, M.Griffiths; I.James, S.Crocker, L.Tobias; R.Morgan, J.Barley; J.Blackmore, S.Malone, J.Hill
LONDON WELSH – R.Dawes; O.Neme, R.Howells, B.Phillips, R. Tudor-Davies; L.Davies, E.Staines; M.Griffiths, A.Evans, J.Ringer; T.Baldwin, J.Williams; G.Morgan (capt), A.Black, R.Pixley

Referee – Mr. B. Breakspear (Abercynon) replaced by Mr. A.Cox

Photo courtesy of Len Kowalski of


Saturday is high noon for Neath who kick off the new season with an attractive home tie against London Welsh at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off – midday).

Coaches Pat Horgan, Matthew Jones and Andrew Howell have named the side to take on the Exiles and it features many of those players who fought a backs to the wall mission last season when ownership woes derailed Neath’s season.

Two new wings figure in Luke Griffiths (Kenfig Hill) and South Wales Policeman Sion Summers who played for Newport last year. In the centre, there are welcome returns for Seven Sisters product Ben Atkins and Neath cricketer Matthew Pearce. The only newcomer in the pack will be at No.8 which is left vacant until the morning of the match.

Pat Horgan said, “We have had 30-40 players training regularly with us all summer and everyone has worked hard. We have another game against Resolven next Tuesday so we will have the opportunity to see most players in action over these two games.

“The boys are raring to go, itching for game action and it has been a question of holding some of them back a bit. Consolidation is the key but we hope we can challenge too as we need to get back to the high standards expected of Neath RFC.”

Neath v London Welsh (Home) 12 Noon
15 Aaron Bramwell; 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Sion Summers; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ifan James, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jacob Blackmore, 8 A.N. Other, 7 Jon Hill
Replacements TBC




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