Category: Match Reports

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 22 NARBERTH 24 – ‪SATURDAY, DECEMBER 28th, 2019

NEATH 22 NARBERTH 24
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)

MATCH PREVIEW

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

NEATH 27 TATA STEEL 12

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)

TOY APPEAL

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.

MATCH PREVIEW

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

MATCH REPORT: YSTALYFERA 9 NEATH 15 – DECEMBER 7th, 2019

YSTALYFERA 9 NEATH 15

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)

MATCH PREVIEW

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

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 34 BEDDAU 7 – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 23rd, 2019

NEATH 34 BEDDAU 7
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 www.lensworkphotography.co.uk

MATCH PREVIEW

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

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