Category: Match Reports




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)


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)


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)



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)


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)



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)


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


Narberth brought Neath’s five-match winning run to an abrupt halt when they edged a closely-fought encounter at The Gnoll in front of an appreciative audience which outweighed many of those crowds seen at Premiership grounds.

Given that the two sides occupy adjacent League placings at the half-way stage, there is evidently little between them and, while play was sometimes a little untidy, there was plenty of honest effort on show.

Full back Nick Gale gave Narberth the lead with a penalty after Neath full back Aaron Bramwell infringed but Neath sustained possession well with returning lock Matthew Davies, prop Ben Uphill and flanker Tomi Antozzi to the fore, and outside-half Callum Hall darted through a big gap to score the opening try.

Neath were playing some good rugby and the outside breaks of centre Jarrad Rees nearly bore fruit. The Blacks went further ahead when a strong break by centre Matthew Pearce helped set up a third try in as many home games for try-machine prop Liam Tobias and Hall’s conversion made it 12-3 but Neath’s tackling was not up to the mark and Narberth pulled back a score when scrum-half Rhys Lane pirouetted through a dozy Neath defence and touched down for Gale to convert. A Callum Hall penalty nudged Neath further ahead but just before half-time Narberth hit back.

And a somewhat strange score it was. The referee played a lengthy advantage before retreating to midfield then going under the posts to award a penalty try. Normally, such awards are made instantly as there can be no more advantage than 7 points but, for good measure, Neath flanker Tomi Antozzi was despatched to the in-bin too. It was to be a crucial moment and it gave Narberth an unlikely lead of 17-15 to take into half-time.

Midway through the second-half, Neath regained the lead when No.8 David Griggs powered away off Jacob Blackmore’s line-out take to levy his tenth try of the season which Hall converted. A controversial double sin-binning saw Neath defend – and defend well with flanker Scott Malone making a last-gasp try-saving tackle and Griggs making a couple of important interventions.

Narberth edged ahead again with a forward rumble try which Gale converted and, although Neath threw everything at them in a bid to retrieve the game, scum-half Nicky Griffiths’ kick bounced away into touch and narrowly eluded chasing wing James Roberts who would have had a clear run to the line.

In the final analysis, Neath were left to rue the loss of three or four League points and, in particular, that rather odd seven-pointer as it swung the game in Narberth’s favour although vitally the visitors’ better set-piece efficiency just about gave them the edge. Neath now move on to another home game against Trebanos (kick off 2.30pm) while Narberth host Tata Steel – a Neath win is therefore essential if they are to remain ahead of the Pembrokeshire side.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths (I.Morgan), Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; C.Hall, N.Griffiths; B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker (A.Nation), L.Tobias; M.Davies, J.Blackmore; T.Antozzi (J.Coxley), D.Griggs, S.Malone
NARBERTH – N.Gale; E.Dawe, J.Davies, J.Hutchings, D.Pritchard; I.Griffiths, R.Lane; B.Davies, R.Owens, T.Slater; J.Baker, A.Jenkins; R.Rees (capt), R.Osborne, T.Powell Repl. J.Rogers, L.Gibby, D.Jacobs, D.Smith, S.Phillips Referee – Mr. S.Edwards (Abercrave)


Neath’s Christmas game is a tough challenge against Narberth at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off ‪2.30pm‬) when the Welsh All Blacks will be seeking to extend their recent winning run.

Narberth come into the game on the back of an impressive 44-nil win over Ystalyfera and are one place behind Neath so the Blacks well have it all to do.

There are four changes in Neath’s starting line up from that which defeated Tata Steel 27-12 last time out. Top points scorer Luke Griffiths is fit to take his place on the wing and Scott Malone returns in the back row.

Nicky Griffiths takes over at scrum-half and, with Jon Barley away on holidays, the Blacks are pleased to welcome back lock Matthew Davies to the engine-room alongside the consistent Jacob Blackmore.

Neath v Narberth (Home) ‪2.30pm‬
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jacob Blackmore, 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Scott Malone

Replacements – 16 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 17 Adam Nation, 18 Jordan Coxley, 19 Macauley Griffiths, 20 Iestyn Morgan

Admission – Adults £8, Under-16’s FREE

MATCH REPORT: Neath RFC 27 Tata Steel RFC 12 – DECEMBER 14th, 2019


On a chilly afternoon at The Gnoll, Neath overcame Tata Steel in an entertaining, often untidy game to claim a fifth successive victory.

From the outset, both sides looked eager to move the ball on the perfect Gnoll surface. Neath opened the scoring when Jon Barley’s clean line-out take set up a forward drive from which fellow lock Jacob Blackmore powered over for the opening try. Outside-half Callum Hall converted but Tata were soon level when ex-Neath full back Geraint Llewellyn, playing on permit from Carmarthen Quins, crossed for a fine try for the visitors and outside half Mitchell Jones converted.

Gradually Neath put their game together and another strong forward surge produced a second try for prop Liam Tobias, Hall’s second conversion making it 14-7. With hooker Sion Crocker leading a good forward effort and the back row prominent, Neath were doing a lot of good work only to spoil it through lack of precision.

Tata Steel were working hard in defence and showing a readiness to counter but on 38 minutes the Blacks clicked and extended their lead with a splendid, well-constructed try by right winger Ben Atkins and shortly afterwards excellent late replacement referee Mr. Tom Spurrier (Barry) brought to an end an exciting first-half.

Leading 19-7, a series of errors made for a frustrating start to the second-half for Neath. Wrong options were taken, passes were spilled and it was all too inaccurate – in more forgiving days, it would probably have been put down to cold hands. Even when Tata were reduced to 14 men after scrum-half Macauley Griffiths was tripped off the ball as he supported a try-likely James Roberts run, the Blacks failed to add to their lead.

Indeed, Tata’s 14 men retained possession and produced some good attacks themselves before Neath made their pressure count. No.8 David Griggs made the running with a quickly taken penalty and lively flanker Jordan Coxley supported brilliantly before handing on to hungry winger James Roberts who sped over for the bonus point try.

Prop Gareth Wyn Lloyd joined the fray as replacement but was almost immediately returned to the touchline for killing the ball and the visitors cut the deficit to 26-12 when a good build-up and sure handling put winger Ryan Griffiths in at the corner.

But the Blacks were not to be denied and they launched another strong assault on the Tata line which held firm – illegally – and, to make the game absolutely safe, up stepped 18 year old outside-half Iestyn Morgan to register his first points for Neath with a penalty from in front of the posts.

That made it 27-12 which was a fair reflection of Neath’s authority but the team will not be entirely happy with their display as it was a bit of a “curate’s egg” – not all good – and they can and will need to improve when Narberth visit The Gnoll on December 28 as the Pembrokeshire club are breathing down their necks in the table.

Neath – A.Bramwell (capt); B.Atkins, Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; C.Hall (I.Morgan), M.Griffiths (N.Griffiths); B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker, (Iestyn Jones) L.Tobias; J.Blackmore, J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, J.Coxley (B.Lukes)

Tata Steel – G.Llewellyn; S.Pridgeon (I.Richards), A. Jiwa Walji, M.Williams, R.Griffiths; M.Jones (L.Humphreys), S.W.Davies; J.Powell (C.Jones), J.Kay (M.Lewis), N.Elworthy; O.Thompson (E.Budge), E.Herbert; O.Phillips, H.Thomas (capt), R.Lerwell

Referee – Mr. T.Spurrier (Cardiff)


We @neathsupporters would just like to thank everyone including Players, Officials and Supporters of @tatarugby who donated to the bring a toy charity.
These toys will go to children less fortunate than many at Christmas. Below is a quickly taken snap at the @NeathRugby v @tatarugby game.


Neath will be seeking their fifth consecutive win when they host Tata Steel at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

Tata Steel lost 10-45 at home to Cardiff Metropolitan but Neath are expecting a reaction as they are a better side than that one-off result suggests and have several quality players including many who have worn the Neath shirt in the past.

The Blacks starting line-up shows four changes with Ben Atkins, Macauley Griffiths, Sion Crocker and Jordan Coxleyreturning.

Neath v Tata Steel (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Jordan Coxley
Replacements : 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Nicky Griffiths, 20 Iestyn Morgan



Neath right winger Luke Griffiths celebrated his return after a three game absence by scoring all 15 points including two tries as Neath were made to dig deep to take the points at the Ynysydarren ground.

Pre-match word from Ystalyfera was that this game was the biggest in their proud history and Neath always had it marked down as one of their toughest tasks on the road – and so it proved as the Blacks were made to battle throughout a tightly-fought affair.

Territorially Neath had the better of the first-half but ‘Fera defended valiantly. Chances were few but Neath centre Matthew Pearce took some holding and, working well in concert with back rowers Griggs and Lukes, threatened to break the stalemate.

Neath spurned a kickable penalty to go for the corner but were themselves penalised and neither side made much headway as conditions worsened. On the stroke of half-time, lively Neath hooker Jake Lewis who has been playing so well in recent weeks had the grave misfortune to suffer a knee injury and it took most of the break for the medical staff to see him safely off the pitch.

His injury drew to an end a first-half which would have pleased Alexander Armstrong and Richard Osman in that it was “pointless” – and it is a long time since that last happened ! However, it took only two minutes after the resumption for the scoreboard operator to be called into action as Griffiths gave Neath the lead with a penalty which was cancelled out by home full back Steff Castle within five minutes.

Castle’s second penalty produced huge cheers from the home element in a goodly crowd but it also jerked Neath into action. A Nicky Griffiths tap penalty threatened the home try-line but an injection of urgency from the bench saw Neath step up the pace and menace the home line. Winger James Roberts flew after a deep Pearce kick and was just beaten to the touch down before a splendid run by Neath’s in-form speedster had the home defence back-pedalling. Neath re-cycled rapidly and, swinging the ball in fine style across the three-quarter line, Griffiths dabbed down in the opposite corner and converted from wide out.

Within two minutes, another flowing movement saw Neath make light of the mud and good hands again freed Griffiths who scooted to the corner for his second try but this time his conversion attempt struck the right upright. At 15-6, Neath were in charge but Castle’s third penalty earned ‘Fera a well-deserved bonus point and made for an exciting final play as the Blacks’ defence held firm to keep a clean sheet in the vanishing light.

It had been an old-fashioned, attritional wallow in the mud. Neath, while not playing up to recent standards, stuck in there to earn the result and their two splendid tries belonged to a fairer day and were the difference. The win moved Neath up a place in the table and the Blacks now move on to Tata Steel at The Gnoll next Saturday (2.30pm) when another big effort will be required as Steel are better than their position suggests.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (captain); L.Griffiths, Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; C.Hall (Jordan Rees), N.Griffiths (M.Griffiths); B.Uphill, J.Lewis (S.Crocker), L.Tobias (S.Jones); J.Blackmore, J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, B.Lukes (L.Ward)

YSTALYFERA – S.Castle; L.Caines, J.Jarrett (C.Gibson), J.Bayliss, B.Davies; G.James, B.Williams-Jones; R.White (H.Wilkes), O.Phillips, G.Jones; G.Owen (C.Miguel), S.Jones; R.James (capt), S.R.Jones, C.Papp
Referee – Mr. S.Rees (Ebbw Vale)


With three consecutive wins behind them, Neath will again need to produce their best when they visit Ystalyfera on Saturday with a slightly earlier kick off at 2.15pm.

Ystalyfera beat Tata Steel 20-13 last time and are billing Neath’s visit as their “biggest home game ever” and every game is a big game for Neath so the Blacks know they will face a stern test at Ynysdarren Park.

Neath have season ticket holders and followers in the Swansea Valley and the Blacks have watched and enjoyed Ystalyfera’s progress through the leagues.

Last time out, Neath’s fast game saw them score six tries in beating Beddau 34-7 and the Blacks starting line-up sees just three changes with top-scorer Luke Griffiths, Ben Uphill and Liam Tobias returning.

Regular hooker Sion Crocker has returned to fitness and takes his place on a strong-looking bench alongside Steff Jones and Leon Ward with Macauley Griffiths and Jordan Rees, both so impressive in the win at Cross Keys, providing the backs cover.

Neath v Ystalyfera (Away) 2.15pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Jake Lewis, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements: 16 Steffan Jones, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Leon Ward, 19 Macauley Griffiths, 20 Jordan Rees


In a game marred by a series of injuries to Beddau players, Neath put together a first-half of rare quality as they hit the visitors with a 6-try blitz which thoroughly warmed the home crowd on a damp November afternoon.

Once again, the attendance would have done justice to a top-end Premiership tie and the match got off to a dramatic start when home winger James Roberts flew away on a 70-metre interception to register his fourth try in three games. Five minutes later, good work by the in-form winger and skipper Aaron Bramwell paved the way for a neat try by scrum-half Nicky Griffiths to make it 10-nil.

Following lengthy injury stoppages to Beddau players, Griffiths then exploited the blind-side for his second try which outside-half Callum Hall converted and the Blacks, playing some fine rugby with backs and forwards combining, sealed the bonus point when centre Jarrad Rees carved out the opportunity for wing Ben Atkins to hurtle in at the corner.

Beddau showed enterprise but also generosity in returning possession to Neath who piled on the pressure relentlessly. In the lead-up to half-time, the imperious Griffiths linked with lock Jacob Blackmore and quick recycling led to No.8 David Griggs powering over at the posts for Hall to convert and the Blacks sailed into the interval with their sixth try of the half when impressive flanker Ben Lukes set up Jarrad Rees.

Beddau attacked at the start of the second half but they lost a further player in another lengthy injury-stoppage for which Neath forfeited a man to the bin. The Blacks emptied their bench and Beddau hit back to take the scoring honours with a splendid try by speedy hooker Will Haly which outside-half Hywel Chatham goaled.

Neath introduced all their replacements including a debut for 18 year old full back Iestyn Morgan who, eager to attack, acquitted himself quite well and did enough to earn future chances. Jordan Rees earned marks for stepping into the scrum-half void too.

The Blacks spent much of the time on the attack but lost their flow in a disjointed second-half. Beddau did not turn the ball over so regularly and it was to their credit that Neath never got going which means plenty of work remains to be done.

Nevertheless, Neath can take huge confidence from their first-half display and, despite a heavy injury-list, this third consecutive win has lifted them a place in the table. The Blacks need to keep the run going if they are to target a top four place. The Blacks now have a blank weekend and will use the break to top up fitness and hopefully get some of the injured players back into action.

No fewer than 11 were unavailable for selection for this game with half likely to be back to bid for selection for the December 7 visit to Ystalyfera. The Swansea Valley club will be a real test for the Blacks and the confrontation will see the home side inspired by their 20-13 win over Tata Steel.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt) (I.Morgan); J.Roberts, Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce, B.Atkins; C.Hall, N.Griffiths (Jordan Rees); G.W.Lloyd, J.Lewis (Iestyn Jones), S.Jones (I.James); J.Blackmore, J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, B.Lukes (J.Coxley)

BEDDAU – C.Wheeler; C.Baker, A.Ashford, S.Gardner, C.Ellis (M.Davies); H.Chatham, H.Rumens (T.Marley); M.Morgan (S.Ware), W.Haly, B.Warren; S.Tiley, R.Owen; L.James, T.Axenderrie, J.Goodwin (capt) (R.Barnes/M.Howells)

Referee – Mr. C.Williams (Ystalyfera)

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of


With two wins over Cross Keys behind them, Neath will need to be at their best when Beddau visit The Gnoll for the first time on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).

Beddau are one place behind Neath in the table after beating Ystalyfera 24-17 last Saturday and will come to The Gnoll with all guns blazing.

Skipper Aaron Bramwell returns to lead Neath with other starting changes seeing Ben Atkins on the wing and Nicky Griffiths returning at scrum-half. In the pack, prop Gareth Lloyd gets a chance to impress as does Ben Lukes in the back row.

Neath v Beddau (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Ben Atkins; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Griffiths; 1 Gareth Lloyd, 2 Jake Lewis, 3 Steff Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements: 16 Ifan James, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Jordan Coxley, 19 Jordan Rees, 20 Iestyn Morgan



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)


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



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)

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)


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.