Category: Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: CROSS KEYS 21 NEATH 24 – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 16th, 2019

CROSS KEYS 21 NEATH 24

Two weeks, two games against Cross Keys and two wins have got Neath’s season back on track – but now the Blacks need to build on it and string a run of victories together.

Neath adopted a more direct approach than of late – and it paid dividends – straighter running and improved continuity hall-marked their display. But, having established a comfortable 24-7 lead, two minutes of madness saw Keys hit back with two converted tries which made for a fraught finish.

The Blacks’ pack played with more fizz than of late with prop Steff Jones and hooker Jake Lewis looking lively from the start and lock Jon Barley having his moments too. Macauley Griffiths prompted well from the base of the scrum while the back-line handled well on a ground still heavy after the recent rains.

Neath were first to attack but overthrew a line-out on the Keys line and the home side swept up-field for an attacking line-out of their own which led to an efficient try by No.8 Spencer Gibson and outside-half Kieran Hill slotted the conversion.

But Neath were in determined mood and territorially dominated the rest of the half. Dai Griggs should have put in fellow back-rower Tomi Antozzi and Neath bearly squeezed in on the left but, on the back of two good advantages played by referee Ben Breakspear whose calm assurance marks him out as one of Wales’ most promising young officials, the Blacks continued to attack and, piling pressure on the Keys line, flanker Jacob Blackmore bundled over for his first try and Callum Hall converted – just ! – to level.

Neath now had to play up the slope and, mindful of Hill’s kicking capabilities, they needed to keep Keys in their own half. Griggs led two superb charges out of defence and the Blacks attacked. Impressive build up play led to winger James Roberts cutting back on the angle to dab down for a try on his 50th appearance – a landmark also being celebrated by prop Loam Tobias.

Hall converted then quickly landed a penalty to extend Neath’s lead to 17-7. Neath now upped the tempo and Hall’s inside pass found full back Jordan Rees who scampered to the posts for Neath’s third try which Hall converted with ease to make it 24-7.

But Neath lost the re-start and Keys came away in a flashing movement which was crowned by flanker Joe Thomas for Hill to convert. Neath hit back and attacked again and when they kicked to the posts Keys desperately ran out of defence. Their enterprise paid off, good handling seeing replacement Gwion Jones touch down at the other end for Hill to convert. Suddenly, it was 24-21 but Neath, through the strength of their forwards, kept play in the right dominion and well out of Hill’s kicking range.

The Blacks face another stern challenge next Saturday when Beddau visit The Gnoll with all guns blazing after beating Ystalyfera at the weekend.

CROSS KEYS – L.O’Brien; L.Allwood (W.Cunliffe), A.Tetley, C.Nicholls, A.Upton; K.Hill, Z.Bartlett (G.Jones); R.Cornock, C.Vaughan ( Z.Hewlett), J.Rogers (O.Peddle); H.Reader (capt) (C.Hague), S.Andrews; J.Thomas, S.Gibson, C.Johnsey

NEATH – Jordan Rees; W.Holley (S.Summers), Jarrad Rees (B.Atkins), M.Pearce, J.Roberts; C.Hall, M.Griffiths; S.Jones (G.Lloyd), J.Lewis, L.Tobias; L.Ward (capt) (J.Hill), J.Barley; J.Blackmore, D.Griggs, T. Antozzi

Referee – Mr. B.Breakspear (Abercynon)

MATCH PREVIEW

It is a case of “here we go again” when Neath visit Cross Keys at Pandy Park on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm) the two sides having met in the Cup last weekend.

The home side will be seeking a quick revenge win after Neath took the spoils 34-25 last week when, despite scoring five tries to one, the Blacks were unable to shake off a spirited Keys side.

Neath know they cannot afford to give any kicking opportunities away as Keys fly-half Kieran Hill banged over six penalties and a conversion – they must therefore play the game in opposition territory.

Neath starting changes see winger Will Holley coming in as well as half backs Callum Hall and Macauley Griffiths while in the pack prop Steff Jones and back rower David Griggs return.

Two of Neath’s try-scorers last week- James Roberts and Liam Tobias – will make their 50th appearances in an important match which the Neath forwards must establish control in.

Neath v Cross Keys (Away) 2.30pm
15 Jordan Rees; 14 Will Holley, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Steff Jones, 2 Jake Lewis, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Leon Ward, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jacob Blackmore, 8 David Griggs, 7 Tomi Antozzi
Replacements: 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Jon Hill, 19 Ben Atkins, 20 Sion Summers

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 34 CROSS KEYS 25 – SATURDAY, 9th NOVEMBER, 2019



NEATH 34 CROSS KEYS 25

Neath edged into the quarter-finals of the WRU National Cup with a much-needed win over Cross Keys at a wet Gnoll and, despite the Blacks scoring 5 tries to 1, the result was in the balance nearly to the end.

The Blacks started well but dithered and slithered in the worsening conditions before finishing strongly. The home side raced into a 17-3 lead but Keys fought their way back on the excellent boot of outside-half Kieran Hill before Neath secured their place in the last eight with two late tries.

Outside-half Dan Guarneri opened the scoring with an angled 45 yard penalty and then converted two well-worked tries by Nicky Griffiths and prop Liam Tobias – sustained forward driving yielded the first and the second came after good handling with centre Matthew Pearce and lively flanker Ben Lukes doing key work in the build-up.

Between the tries, Keys’ Bristol-based outside-half Kieran Hill had kicked a penalty and, as the home side’s accuracy and discipline declined, he added two more – one for not rolling away, the other for an alleged scrum offence. Keys were competing keenly yet Neath continued to create chances and prop Gareth Lloyd was held up over the line but Keys stuck in there and the home team had to be content with a 17-9 half-time lead.

Keys came out hungrily after half-time when Neath seemed plagued by a nasty bout of inertia. With five of the pack short of match-practice after recent injuries, Neath’s effort stalled badly. Errors proliferated and Keys, through possession, position and penalty goals, got their noses in front as Hill banged over three more goals.

Suddenly, Neath found themselves behind 17-18 but they immediately regained the lead, the home backs clicked and winger James Roberts sped away to score in the right corner, replacement Callum Hall converting from the touchline to make it 24-18.

But Roberts was then robbed in his 22 and Keys centre Corey Nicholls swooped to touch down, Hill’s touchline conversion putting them in front once more at 24-25. Neath’s response was instant and effective : awarded a penalty in the Keys’ 22, they bravely opted for the kick to touch, lock Jon Barley took the line-out, the forwards rumbled, rolled and hooker Jake Lewis marked his first start since breaking his foot with the try.

Back in front, Neath assured themselves of victory five minutes from the end when a cleverly-placed kick by acting-captain Griifiths was eagerly seized upon by James Roberts who nipped in for his second try of the afternoon and Neath were through.

Neath made hard work of reaching the last eight for the first time in four years which is no mean achievement but next Saturday they return to League action at Cross Keys which will be another one-off, must win encounter for Neath – and one thing is certain, they will need to crank up their game again as Keys will be hell-bent on hasty revenge.

NEATH – Jordan Rees; J.Roberts, Jarrad Rees (B.Atkins), M.Pearce, S.Summers; D.Guarneri (C.Hall), N.Griffiths (capt) (M.Griffiths); I.James (G.W.Lloyd), J.Lewis, (Iestyn Jones), L.Tobias (S.Jones); L.Ward (J.Coxley), J.Barley; J.Blackmore, T.Antozzi, B.Lukes (J.Hill)

CROSS KEYS –
L.O’Brien; L.Allwood (J.Adams), A.Tetley (G.Jones), C.Nicholls, B.Simmonds (A.Upton); K.Hill, E.Ash (Z.Bartlett); O.Peddle (R.Cornock), C.Vaughan (Z.Hewlett), J.Rogers (S.Hoskins); C.Hague, H.Reader (capt) (J.Wall); C.Johnsey, S.Gibson, J.Thomas

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

MATCH PREVIEW

Neath host Cross Keys at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm) with a place in the last eight of the WRU National Cup at stake.

Scrum-half Nicky Griffiths takes over the captaincy as regular skipper Aaron Bramwell is in Bermuda, Jordan Rees reverting to full back. Winger Sion Summers and centre Jarrad Rees reinforce the three-quarter line while Dan Guarneri takes over at outside-half after making his 50th appearance last time out.

In the pack, Jake Lewis gets the nod at hooker and regular lock Rhys Morgan is sidelined by a hamstring strain but Neath are fortunate in having the experienced Leon Ward to cover and provide the grunt. Ben Lukes joins the back-row with Tomi Antozzi fit again to claim a bench spot.

Neath v Cross Keys (Home) 2.30pm
15 Jordan Rees; 14 Sion Summers, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Dan Guarneri, 9 Nicky Griffiths (captain); 1 Ifan James, 2 Jake Lewis, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Leon Ward, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jacob Blackmore, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements: 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Steffan Jones, 19 Tomi Antozzi, 20 Jon Hill, 21 Macauley Griffiths, 22 Callum Hall, 23 Ben Atkins

ADMISSION – As it is a Welsh Cup match, season tickets are not valid but good news for supporters of both teams is that admission is at the special price of £5 with Under-16’s, as usual, free. Entry only via turnstiles at the Town End.

MATCH POSTPONED: NEATH v GLAMORGAN WANDERERS (Away) SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26th, 2019 – KICK OFF 2.30pm

Neath visit Glamorgan Wanderers at the Memorial Ground, Ely for the first time in several seasons on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).

Experienced scrum-half Nicky Griffiths takes over the captaincy as regular skipper Aaron Bramwell is sidelined by the viral infection which afflicted him last week but Neath are boosted by the timely return of strong-running centre Matthew Pearce and outside-half Dan Guarneri.

In the pack, prop Ifan James joins hooker Jake Lewis in the front row while the experienced Jon Barley and Leon Ward return in a bid to restore some much-needed edge to the pack.

Neath v Glamorgan Wanderers (Away) 2.30pm
15 Jordan Rees; 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Will Holley, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Dan Guarneri, 9 Nicky Griffiths (captain); 1 Ifan James, 2 Jake Lewis, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jacob Blackmore, 8 David Griggs, 7 Leon Ward
Replacements : 16 Steffan Jones, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Jon Hill, 20 Macauley Griffiths

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 13 MAESTEG HARLEQUINS 31 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19th, 2019

NEATH 13 MAESTEG QUINS 31

Neath can have had very few darker days at The Gnoll than they had on Saturday when they lost to Maesteg Quins who were very good value for their three tries to one victory.

The Blacks are now on the crest of a slump with four consecutive defeats consigning their good start to the season to memory and the time has come to make a stand.

The coaches’ scope is limited given the length of the injury-list at the moment with hooker Sion Crocker and No.8 Tomi Antozzi – the best forwards on view at Cyncoed the previous week – missing out on this one and skipper Aaron Bramwell joining them. But a dramatic improvement is called for as Gnoll supporters’ patience is not unlimited.

An early exchange of penalties between Quins outside-half Tadhg McGuckin and Neath’s Luke Griffiths was followed by a Quins try by flanker Andrew Healy which McGuckin converted to make it 10-3.

Neath levelled when No.8 David Griggs crossed for his eighth try of the season and Griffiths converted and things were evenly contested for most of the first half. But, when Neath counter-rucked effectively, the referee strangely found fit to issue a yellow card to Neath scrum-half Nicky Griffiths before the Blacks went in at the interval 13-10 to the good when Luke Griffiths landed his second penalty goal.

In the second-half, McGuckin soon evened things up with his second penalty before the referee double yellow carded Nicky Griffiths and the loss of their experienced play-maker certainly hit the Blacks hard – it was a crucial decision, possibly the turning point, and it came for two rather innocuous events.

McGuckin fired over the resultant penalty but the Blacks were still in it. They heaped pressure on the visitors line but were repelled by a combination of strong defence and several poor options and eventually Neath’s set-piece faltered in the face of a determined effort by the tight-knit Quins eight who were well led by Dean Ronan.

Quins weathered the storm and, when play switched to the other end, made the most of their opportunity when they were awarded a blind-side try following a blatant knock-on which was seen by just about everyone in the ground except the man who matters.

Wing Alex Griffiths was the beneficiary but, as the Bedwas game had proved, Neath really needed to put points on the board when on top as they cannot rely on correct refereeing decisions at this level where, minus assistants, unsighted whistlers do not always get it right.

McGuckin’s conversion made it 23-13 and Quins cemented their historic victory when Healy crossed for his second try to complete their delight and McGuckin landed another penalty. All credit to the Quins on their victory which will put them in good heart when they entertain Narberth next while Neath must make an immediate response.

NEATH – L.Griffiths; E.Clayden, A.Bramwell (capt) (D.Guarneri), W.Holley, J.Roberts; Jordan Rees, N.Griffiths (M.Griffiths); S.Jones (I.James), Iestyn Jones (J.Lewis), L.Tobias; Ioan Jones (B.Lukes), R.Morgan; J.Blackmore, D.Griggs, J.Hill

MAESTEG QUINS – K.Watkins; A.Griffiths, P.Songhurst, L.Ronan, G.Evans; T.McGuckin, C.Jones; L.Francis, J.Ronan, D.Ronan; N.Smith, N.Ace; L.Tutt, A.Hillier-Rees, A.Healy Replacements – Steve Williams, C.Thomas, G.Burridge, Scott Williams, R.Powell
Referee – Mr. E.Morris-Roberts (Ystradgynlais)

MATCH PREVIEW

Neath seek to get their season back on track when they host Maesteg Harlequins at The Gnoll for the first time on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).

For various reasons, 14 players were unavailable last weekend but the Blacks are boosted by the arrival of new centre Will Rees-Hole who is one of six changes to the side which started at Cardiff Metropolitan.

Top points scorer Luke Griffiths is at full back with speedster Ethan Clayden coming in on the wing having last played in the pre-season win over Swansea and Jordan Rees is partnered at half back by fit-again Nicky Griffiths.

Up front, Iestyn Jones deputises for Sion Crocker at hooker with Ioan Jones returning at lock, Jacob Blackmore moving to the back row alongside Jon Hill and top try-scorer David Griggs who has missed the last two games.

Neath v Maesteg Harlequins (Home) 2.30pm
15 Luke Griffiths; 14 Ethan Clayden, 13 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 12 Will Rees-Hole, 11 James Roberts; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Steffan Jones, 2 Iestyn Jones, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Ioan Jones, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Jacob Blackmore, 8 David Griggs, 7 Jon Hill
Replacements : 16 Ifan James, 17 Jake Lewis, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Macauley Griffiths, 20 Will Holley
Touch Judge – Mr. Adrian Shaw

MATCH REPORT: CARDIFF METROPOLITAN 20 NEATH 16 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 12th, 2019

CARDIFF MET 20 NEATH 16

Neath sunk to their third successive defeat but, unlike the previous week, can have few complaints as Cardiff Met were much the better side and overall the Blacks did well to emerge with a bonus point.

Injuries forced the coaches’ hand somewhat in selection with skipper Aaron Bramwell taking up the centre position after rising from his ‘flu bed which prevented him from training this week.

The rains abated and the Blacks were quicker into their stride and took the lead after Rhys Morgan’s line-out take saw the ball transferred across the three-quarter line and winger Luke Griffiths sped to the corner before converting superbly from the right touchline.

It did not take Cardiff Met long to level though and a careless Neath pass in midfield was picked off and speedy wing Jack Silvester flew to the posts and outside-half James Mattin goaled.

Neath responded with hooker Sion Crocker and No.8 Tomi Antozzi leading the forward effort and in-form wing James Roberts just failed to get the touchdown after a good run and chip and chase.

But it was the students who led at half-time after scrum-half Ellis Bevan took a quick tap and hooker Morgan Nelson dabbed down under the posts for Mattin to convert before Luke Griffiths landed a well-struck goal to make it 10-14.

Griffiths pulled back another penalty for a scrum offence shortly after the resumption but Mattin made it 17-13 when Neath replacement flanker Chris Davies was yellow-carded after what looked like an accidental clash of heads,

Cardiff Met were on top and Exeter centre Barrie Karea took careful watching but they made little headway against a determined Neath defence. On a rare foray into home territory, Griffiths landed his third penalty to make it 16-17 but maybe the Blacks missed an opportunity to get in front by not kicking to the corner for a line-out – a tactic which has served them well this season.

That was Neath’s last opportunity really as Cardiff Met dominated the remainder game, Mattin restoring their advantage. Right on time, Neath had one last chance when scrum-half Macauley Griffiths robbed his opposite number and nearly got away in the 22 but it would have been rough justice on Cardiff Met who fully deserved their victory.

Neath must now pick themselves up for the visit of Maesteg Quins to The Gnoll next Saturday with a few of the injured hopefully back to boost the ranks.

CARDIFF MET – G.Gladding (I.Sheppard); J.Silvester, W.Morris, B.Karea, Z.Clow; J.Mattin, E.Bevan; H.Dobbs (H.Sutherland), M.Nelson (D.Bartlett), M.L.Scott; I.Shenton, R.Horrington; C.Geary, D.Thurston (D.Pritchard), C.Rylands

NEATH – Jordan Rees; L.Griffiths, S.Summers (D.Guarneri), A.Bramwell (capt), J.Roberts; C.Hall, M.Griffiths; S.Jones, S.Crocker (Iestyn Jones), L.Tobias (I.James); J.Blackmore, R.Morgan; J.Coxley, T.Antozzi (C.Davies), J.Hill

Referee – Mr. S.Alsop (Chepstow)

MATCH PREVIEW

After defeats by Pontypool and Bedwas, Neath travel to Cyncoed to play Cardiff Metropolitan seeking to get their season back on track (kick off – 2.30pm).

Head coach Patrick Horgan said, “We were cruelly denied victory on the final whistle last week and now face a different challenge from the students who are also unbeaten. Last week’s disappointment should serve as a lesson to us all – we need to be far enough ahead to prevent happenings like that.”

Neath delay announcement of the team until Friday afternoon by which time a couple of permits should be confirmed but outside-half Dan Guarneri, props Ifan James and Steffan Jones and new lock Jarryd Davies will be added to the squad that did duty last week.

Neath v Cardiff Metropolitan (Away) 2.30pm
From Jordan Rees, Luke Griffiths, James Roberts, Sion Summers, Aaron Bramwell (captain), A.N.Other, Dan Guarneri, Callum Hall, Macauley Griffiths; Steffan Jones, Ifan James, Liam Tobias, Iestyn Jones, Sion Crocker, Jarryd Davies, Rhys Morgan, Jacob Blackmore, Jordan Coxley, John Hill, Tomi Antozzi, A.N.Other
Touch Judge – Mr. Adrian Shaw

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 14 BEDWAS 16 – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5th, 2019

NEATH 14 BEDWAS 16
A perfectly-struck touchline conversion of wing Jordan Rees’ corner try by Bedwas full back James Hallett robbed Neath of the win that should have been theirs at The Gnoll.

A light drizzle greeted the teams, Bedwas defending a 100% record and the Blacks seeking to get back on track after their heavy defeat at Pontypool. But the home side seemed to be suffering a hangover from that match in a lethargic first half which lasted over an hour due to two head injuries suffered by Neath players in separate accidents.

After lengthy on-field treatment, both lock Leon Ward and centre Matthew Pearce were withdrawn from the contest while Bedwas lost flanker Owen Jones in a prolonged first half. The only scoring action saw visiting outside-half Dion McIntosh strike three fine penalties, the middle one rebounding in off the upright, whereas Neath’s kicking was not up to the mark.

In worsening rain, handling was difficult and, after Neath lost No.8 Tomi Antozzi to the sin-bin for a harshly judged fend off and the refereeing deeming a high tackle by a Bedwas player to merit only a long talking to, supporters were glad to hear the belated half-time whistle.

Fortunately, the second-half produced better fayre with Neath making most of the running. Two long range penalty attempts by Luke Griffiths failed – the second bouncing out off the woodwork and Bedwas lost replacement Matthew Bovington to the sin bin for foul play. But Neath were gradually finding their feet with young flankers Jon Hill and Jordan Coxley looking lively in a pack which was splendidly led by hooker Sion Crocker.

Winger James Roberts, playing his first competitive game of the season, played a major role as Neath hit Bedwas with two quick converted tries. Centre Ben Atkins put him away and Jon Hill was up in support for the first and replacement Luke Griffiths, an exciting runner from full back, scored the next, adding the conversion points to both to take himself passed the half-century mark for the season.

Neath continued to set the pace and their forwards marched the Bedwas eight back towards their line, the referee ignoring three or four away forwards going to ground in an attempt to halt the flow – strange in view of what followed … Bedwas raised the siege, Neath were penalised at a scrum where they had the better of things most of the day, the inevitable kick to the corner followed and Neath were then penalised for collapsing a maul !

Neath defended resolutely as the clock ticked down but Bedwas retained possession and, eventually opting to move the ball, their only passing movement of consequence saw winger Jordan Rees squeeze in via the corner flag for a try which levelled the scores.

Then came Hallett’s last kick touchline conversion and the referee blew for full time leaving Bedwas delighted and Neath dismayed because they had enjoyed the better of the play. For all their dejection however, while it all came down to that last piece of action, Neath must not skate over their poor performance in the first half when they generally failed to impose themselves on the game sufficiently.

Better is needed and the Blacks need to recapture their zest and vigour from the start next week when they visit Cardiff Metropolitan at Cyncoed.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); J.Roberts, B.Atkins, M.Pearce (L.Griffiths), S.Summers; C.Hall, M.Griffiths; B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker, L.Tobias; L.Ward (J.Hill), R.Morgan; J.Blackmore, T.Antozzi, J.Coxley

BEDWAS – J.Hallett; J.Jones, M.Williams, L.Bowden, J.Rees; D.McIntosh (B.Williams), R.Harries (O.Keane); J.Tucker (D.Scott), M.Dacey, R.Hutcherson; C.Hudd, G. Allen; J.Armitage (capt), D.Rogers (R.Morgans), O.Jones (M.Bovington)

Referee – Mr. R.Deacy (Cardiff),

MATCH PREVIEW

Having lost their unbeaten record at Pontypool last week, Neath will be determined to make amends when they host Bedwas at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).

Head coach Patrick Horgan said, “Across the board, too many players under-performed when really we needed everybody at their best – and we paid the penalty.

“Fortunately, we have the stage to put things right against Bedwas who are second to Pontypool and we must show we are better than last week.”

Squad changes in the Neath starting line-up see wing James Roberts come in for his first League start of the season while Matthew Pearce, Sion Summers and Callum Hall return too. Up front Ben Uphill adds scrum-power to the pack while Jake Blackmore, Leon Ward and Jordan Coxley reappear.

Neath v Bedwas (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Sion Summers; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Tomi Antozzi, 7 Jordan Coxley
Replacements – 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Jon Hill, 19 Jordan Rees, 20 Luke Griffiths

MATCH REPORT: PONTYPOOL 59 NEATH 5 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 28th, 2019 – KICK OFF 2.30pm

PONTYPOOL 59 points NEATH 5 points

Neath were soundly thumped on their visit to Pontypool Park where a series of elementary and calamitous errors – individual and collective – made an already difficult task impossible.

The score-line says it all : Neath were totally outplayed and the side must now show its character and pride by bouncing back from this pummelling when Bedwas come to The Gnoll on Saturday.

After Luke Griffiths missed an early penalty attempt, the Blacks were never in it as two terrible mistakes saw Neath 12-nil down inside five minutes to tries by winger Lloyd Lewis and full back Geraint Walsh, centre Keiran Meek converting the latter.

Over the rest of the half, Neath played very poorly – by far their worst display this season – and the error count mounted not so much steadily as exponentially. Mistake upon mistake saw Pooler, despite having Scott Matthews yellow-carded, help themselves to two more tries before half-time by Lloyd Lewis and hooker Darren Hughes, Meek converting both to make it 26-nil at half-time.

At the start of the second-half, Pooler scored again through flanker Adam Stratton, Meek converting. The game was up for Neath but they rallied for a while and a prolonged forward assault on the Pontypool line eventually yielded a try for lock Rhys Morgan.

But Pooler soon took charge again through a try by inspirational captain Scott Matthews which Meek converted. Home prop Aaron Coundley and Neath replacement Leon Ward were yellow-carded prompting Pooler to opt for uncontested scrums.

It was scant consolation perhaps for the Neath eight whose other crumb of comfort came at the line-out which functioned well enough. No.8 Tomi Antozzi led a few forlorn charges but beyond that is probably best left unsaid.

Thereafter it was all Pooler as they stacked up tries by Stratton and replacements Clayton Gullis and Martin Luckwell, Meek converting two of them to complete Neath’s embarrassment.

Pontypool will probably go on to win the Championship – again ! – this season and thereby claim the Premiership status they have craved for so long. They are a good, well-organised team who know each other’s strengths and play to them – but that is no excuse for Neath’s collapse.

A dramatic and immediate improvement is called for – and quickly !

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

PONTYPOOL – G.Walsh; L.Lewis, D.Robinson (C.Gullis), K.Meek, P.Lewis; R.Powell, O.Leonard (M.Luckwell); A.Coundley, D.Hughes (L.Ball), C.Price (S.Evans); C.Gregory (D.Hodge), R.Clarke; S.Matthews, I.Jones, A.Stratton

Referee – Mr. J.Darcy (Cardiff

MATCH PREVIEW

After six consecutive wins, unbeaten Neath face their sternest challenge yet when they visit Championship leaders Pontypool at Pontypool Park on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).

Last week, Neath enjoyed a rip-roaring 29-19 success over Ystrad Rhondda who finished second to Pontypool last season so the Blacks know that they need to step up another level.

The feeling around The Gnoll is that, despite those six wins, Neath have yet to hit their best form and that there is a lot more to come from this squad.

Backs coach Matthew Jones who was with the Gwent club last year says, “We have made a good start. But we enter the game as very much underdogs with everything to gain.

“Pontypool have a long-standing ground record with many Premiership clubs falling there including Swansea just a fortnight ago in the Cup. But, having played there last season, I know that brings its own pressure for them.

“Neath and Pontypool have a lot going for each other and are very similar in outlook. It should be a good contest.”

The Neath starting line-up shows just three changes from the team which beat Ystrad Rhondda with Will Holley on the wing and Jon Barley and Tomi Antozzi returning up front.

Neath v Pontypool (Away) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Jarrad Rees, 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 David Griggs, 8 Scott Malone, 7 Tomi Antozzi
Replacements – 16 Steffan Jones, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Leon Ward, 19 Dan Guarneri, 20 Matthew Pearce

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 29 YSTRAD RHONDDA 19 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21st, 2019

NEATH 29 points YSTRAD RHONDDA 19 points

What a fabulous game of rugby football ! Pace, movement, passion from both sides and Neath coming out on top by the odd try in seven – taking it for the superior strength of their forwards. But Ystrad Rhondda, well drilled and combative, won many new friends on their first visit to The Gnoll and showed why they were runners-up last season.

Warm sunshine and another healthy crowd greeted the two teams and it was Neath who were faster out of the blocks. Sustaining possession with the back-line handling well, they attacked from the start through backs and forwards and it culminated in back rower David Griggs supplying the finishing touches as he powered to the posts for his sixth try of the season, Luke Griffiths adding the conversion.

Five minutes later, the Blacks doubled their score, great combined play giving outside-half Jordan Rees time to perfectly place a kick for winger Luke Griffiths who gathered and sped in for the second try and converted himself.

It was then the visitors’ turn as they worked their way upfield and their attacking intent resulted in centre Ryan Howells crossing for a try which outside half Rhys Truelove goaled. The game then entered an exciting period of attack and counter-attack with Neath eager to pick up the pace and Ystrad, full of delightful running angles.

But Neath’s forwards are a tight and determined bunch; all eight working for each other, and, from Jacob Blackmore’s line-out take, hooker Sion Crocker burrowed over for his second try in successive weeks to make it 19-7 before Ystrad hit back with a fine second try by flanker Jarrad Llewellyn.

As half-time approached, the Blacks again attacked strongly through their fast driving forwards but the move was held up and Neath were penalised at the subsequent scrum.

19-12 at half-time, it was anyone’s game with Ystrad now having the advantage of a stiffening wind. Although the visitors put together long spells of possession, Neath defended with vigour and took play to the Ystrad line. Luke Griffiths missed a pot at goal but the Blacks kept up the pressure and another penalty saw the points added by Jordan Rees.

Back came Ystrad and scrum-half Jack Foulkes burst away for the visitors’ third score, Truelove converting to make it 22-19 but thereafter Neath’s forwards exerted a firm grip on the game. The Blacks hammered away at the Ystrad line and pulled clear when David Griggs went over again for Neath’s bonus point try, Rees converting to make it 29-19.

Neath’s stranglehold continued and Ystrad, their hopes all but gone, imploded somewhat adding a red card to yellow and the game ended with Neath still on the attack when excellent referee Simon Rees (Ebbw Vale) blew the final whistle to end a rousing game and an afternoon of royal entertainment for an appreciative crowd.

The Blacks now move on to Pontypool and will be very much the underdogs with the Gwent club unbeaten at home for three years. Last season, Pooler won the title ahead of Ystrad Rhondda so Neath, still building, know it will be another step up.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths, B.Athins, Jarrad Rees (M.Pearce), S.Summers; Jordan Rees (D.Guarneri), M.Griffiths; I.James (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker (Iestyn Jones), L.Tobias; J.Blackmore (L.Ward), R.Morgan; D.Griggs, S.Malone, J.Hill

YSTRAD RHONDDA – L.Greening; K.Williams, A.Lewis, R.Howells, A.Clarke; R.Truelove, J.Foulkes; M.Auger, L.Wiggins, D.Webb; N.Hughes (capt), K.Evans; M.Roderick, H.Connolly, J.Llewellyn Reps. I.Haskins, C.Williams, L.Morris, T.Jevons, J.Davies

Referee – Mr. S.Rees (Ebbw Vale)

MATCH PREVIEW

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

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 24 TREBANOS 0 – SEPTEMBER 14th, 2019

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 www.lensworkphotography.co.uk

MATCH PREVIEW

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

MATCH REPORT: TREBANOS 7 NEATH 23 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 7th, 2019

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 www.lensworkphotography.co.uk

MATCH PREVIEW

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