Category: Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 23 SWANSEA 19 – THURSDAY, AUGUST 29TH, 2019

NEATH 23 SWANSEA 19

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 www.lensworkphotography.co.uk

MATCH PREVIEW

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 43 RESOLVEN nil

NEATH 43 RESOLVEN nil
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

MATCH PREVIEW:

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 33 LONDON WELSH 5
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 www.lensworkphotography.co.uk

MATCH PREVIEW

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

LONDON WELSH LINE-UP AS FOLLOWS:

MATCH REPORT: CARDIFF 74 NEATH 7 – WEDNESDAY, MAY 8th, 2019

CARDIFF 74 NEATH 7

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

MATCH PREVIEW

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

MATCH REPORT: LLANELLI 57 NEATH 13 – SATURDAY, MAY 4th, 2019


LLANELLI 57 NEATH 13

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

MATCH PREVIEW

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

MATCH REPORT: EBBW VALE 74 NEATH 7 (27-04-2019)

EBBW VALE 74 NEATH 7

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

MATCH PREVIEW

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

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 12 ABERAVON 43 (22-04-2019)

NEATH 12 ABERAVON 43

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 www.lensworkphotography.co.uk @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)

MATCH PREVIEW

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

NEATH V ABERAVON – SUPPORTER INFORMATION

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

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

 

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

NEATH 3 BEDWAS 28

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

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

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

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

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

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski @neathtog

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

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

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

MATCH PREVIEW

NEATH / BEDWAS TEAM SHEETS:

15 AARON BRAMWELL (CAPTAIN) THOMAS BENJAMIN 15
14 JAMES ROBERTS DEON  SMITH 14
13 JARRAD REES ADAM WILLIAMS 13
12 GAVIN EVANS LEWIS BOWDEN 12
11 ALEC JENKINS JORDAN REES 11
10 CALLUM HALL JOSEPH SCRIVENS 10
9 MACAULEY GRIFFITHS LUKE CRANE 9
1 STEVE JOHN SAM COCHRANE 1
2 GARIN LLOYD MIKE DACEY 2
3 TYLA MURVAI RHYS HUTCHERSON 3
4 SCOTT DAVIES CRAIG HUDD 4
5 RHYS THOMAS JOE DAVIES 5
6 LEE EVANS JAMES RICHARDS 6
8 GUIDO VOLPI NATHAN HUDD (CAPTAIN) 8
7 LEON WARD JON ARMITAGE 7
       
16 SION CROCKER TOM DEVINE 16
17 GAVIN CLEMENT ALUN REES 17
18 HAYDN MANOREK RHYS JAMES 18
19 IOAN JONES GARETH ALLEN 19
20 JOE GRABHAM DALE ROGERS 20
21 NICKY GRIFFITHS RORY HARRIES 21
22 GERAINT ROBERTS JACOB CHILCOTT 22
23 WILL HOLLEY DION McINTOSH 23

 REFEREE – MR. RICHARD DEACY

ASSISTANT REFEREES – MR. JON HARDY  & MR. ALUN JONES 

 

NEXT HOME GAME – ABERAVON – EASTER MONDAY, APRIL 22nd  2.30pm

NEATH V BEDWAS – SUPPORTER INFORMATION

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

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

 

MATCH REPORT: BARGOED 55 NEATH 14 – SATURDAY, 30th MARCH 2019

BARGOED 55 NEATH 14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MATCH PREVIEW

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

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

The bench is yet to be finalised.

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

Replacements – TBC

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 15 CARMARTHEN QUINS 38 – SATURDAY, MARCH 23rd, 2019

NEATH 15 CARMARTHEN QUINS 38

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

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

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

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

Photos courtesy of Len Kowalski of www.lensworkphotography.co.uk @neathtog

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

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

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

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

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

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

MATCH PREVIEW

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

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

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

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

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

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