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George Griffiths

Neath RFC is saddened to hear the news that former Neath Borough Treasurer and life-long Season Ticket holder at The Gnoll, GEORGE GRIFFITHS has passed away.

During his lifetime he did a lot of work for the Neath YMCA and Parish of Neath Churches – St.Thomas’s Church in particular.

The Neath Club sends its sympathies to friends and to the family.

MATCH REPORT: LLANDOVERY 26 NEATH 18 – October 30, 2015, 7:30pm

Plucky Neath came away from Llandovery with an unlikely last-gasp bonus point but, after a bold start, the Blacks never really looked like winning.

An all-action opening saw Neath take the lead after just two minutes when winger Dafydd Howells made up for his disappointment at having a match-winning try disallowed against Pontypridd by touching down for the game’s opening score.

Young outside-half Iwan Evans converted and he soon gave Neath a 10-nil lead when he landed a penalty after good work by centre Dean Howell. But Llandovery quickly established set-piece superiority and they set about reducing Neath’s advantage.

Tries by No. 8 Richard Brooks, centre Rhodri Jones and outside-half Jack Maynard who converted three – interspersed by a second Evans penalty for Neath – made it 24-12 to the Church Bankers at half-time which both teams reached with 14 men after Howell and home flanker Shaun Miles were sin-binned by referee Mr. Dewi Phillips who made a promising Premiership debut.

In the second-half, Llandovery extended their lead with a Maynard penalty. But a combination of wasteful kicking and occasionally poor handling meant that the home side did not threaten over-much.

From front to back, Neath put in a worthy shift of defensive doggedness and they saw to it that their line remained intact and the Church Bankers failed to get the bonus point try.

As the game entered its final phases with both sides fully exploiting their replacements’ benches, Neath suddenly burst into life. No. 8 Calum Davies all but forced his way over the try-line from a short-range scrum only for Neath to be penalised at the next scrum.

Then a Neath take against the head led to a penalty, followed by the now- obligatory kick to touch, lineout, catch and drive and replacement scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams touched down wide out just minutes after coming on for his debut.

It was a proud moment for the Ysgol Gyfun, Ystalyfera and Neath Athletic product and, although Joel Matavesi’s conversion was wide, the try was sufficient to give Neath a bonus-point.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 14 PONTYPRIDD 16– 24th October 2015

There is only one word to sum up this Neath effort – cruel; in fact, in a nanny-state, such a brutal fate should not be allowed!

Having sunk to the bottom of the Premiership courtesy of the previous week’s defeat by Bridgend, many observers felt that the last thing Neath would have wanted was a visit from the Welsh champions.

How wrong they were because Neath restored some of their battered pride with a fighting performance which ought really to have brought them victory – indeed, had not Dafydd Howells collided with referee Dan Jones on his way to what would surely have been a match-clinching try, they would have been celebrating their first win of the season.

After the tribulations of recent years, the Welsh All Blacks are firmly committed to re-building and are giving opportunities to an exciting and enthusiastic crop of largely local youngsters – 10 of the starting line-up have their roots firmly in the Neath District – and the ‘new look’ side tore into their more experienced opponents with a relish.

Neath opened strongly as one of those youngsters Iwan Evans and acting-captain Jordan Collier cut huge holes in the Ponty defence. In an impressive start, they battered the Ponty line and, after hooker Aled Morris had twice gone close, the home side took the lead with a fine try in the right corner by Ashley Evans.
Ponty countered with a typical lineout dive and score by ex-Neath hooker Ashleigh James who showed that he still knows his way to the try-line – it was converted by ex-Wales outside-half Ceri Sweeney who soon made it 10-6 with a penalty.

But Neath were more than matching the champions, scrummaging better than of late and constantly harrying Ponty at every opportunity. On times, it was difficult to tell which side was top and Neath ended the half strongly – sustaining possession, they all but scored on the half-time whistle only for centre Cameron Morris to be squeezed out.

The Blacks started the second-half with a bang. Centre Dean Howell, enjoying his best game of the season in an inventive back division, was heavily involved as he powered towards the Ponty line. Neath’s patience paid off and with referee Jones playing a good advantage following a deliberate knock-on (should he have gone back for a yellow-card?), scrum-half Tom James crept over for his first try of the season which Iwan Evans converted.

Neath stepped up the pressure and a third try looked inevitable as Dafydd Howells clattered towards the posts only to brush into Mr. Jones – one wag said that it was the best last-ditch tackle seen at The Gnoll this year!

The conversion would have been a formality and, at 22-10, even Ponty would have struggled to get back on terms. But, showing the nous of true champions, they gradually worked their way upfield and, with Neath having lost impressive No.8 Calum Davies to the sin-bin, they worked wing Alex Webber free to score a match-winning try on the left corner.

It was a cruel ending for Neath and coach Patrick Horgan spoke for all Neath people when he said, “We could not have asked for more – the whole XV can take pride from a mighty effort. We showed we have the ability to compete with the best. Now it is a question of building more consistency into our game and the results will come.”

If anything, Neath’s next game is even tougher – a visit to Llandovery on Friday (kick off 7.30pm) – but the Blacks can take great heart from this effort and are perhaps beginning to realise what it takes.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 20 BRIDGEND 36 – 17th October 2015

A barn-storming finish saw Bridgend take the spoils in this clash between the Welsh Premiership’s bottom two clubs.

It was not a distinguished enough display to describe it as a classic game of two halves but Neath certainly had the better of the first and Bridgend were the better after the break.

Neath opened strongly and went into the lead on 5 minutes through a penalty by rookie outside-half Joel Matavesi who shortly afterwards added the conversion points to a sparkling try by man-of-the-match Cameron Morris.

On the half hour, Bridgend came back via a driving-maul try by No.8 Ashton Evans which was converted by their young outside-half Joe Scrivens before Neath went further ahead with a well-worked try by centre Gareth MCarthy who registered his 50th Premiership try.

Matavesi’s conversion made it 18-8 but Scrivens landed a penalty before Neath’s outside-half hit the woodwork with a short-range penalty and, right on half-time another chance went begging when a flowing passing movement by Neath ended with a scoring pass being dropped on the line.

Bridgend wasted no time in levelling after the interval when winger Michael Powell went over for a try which Scrivens converted and ominously they were coming more and more into the game.

Neath had a golden chance to take command when they lost a lineout on the Bridgend line but a second Matavesi penalty edged them ahead at 20-18. That was as good as it got for the Blacks though as Bridgend countered strongly.

Neath’s lineout had disintegrated and the malaise spread to other areas and Bridgend, assisted it must be said by some refereeing inconsistencies, stole the lead for the first time with a corner try David Evans which Scrivens converted superbly and the visitors’ joy was complete when poor Neath tackling – a weakness throughout – allowed Mark Bennett to cross for a bonus-point-clinching try by which Scrivens again goaled.

The result leaves Neath at the foot of the Premiership with everything to play for against champions Pontypridd when it will take a mighty effort from all.

Neath v Bridgend

15 Ashley Evans; 14 Ian Ellis, 13 Cameron Morris, 12 Gareth McCarthy, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Joel Matavesi, 9 Tom James (captain); 1 Aaron Coundley, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Jonny Griffiths, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Calum Davies, 8 Craig Price, 7 Alun Jones

Replacements (16-23) – Nicky Downs, Ieuan Dobbs, Owen Jordan, Rhys Jones, Gareth Beer, Chris Morgans, Ryan Evans, Josh Jones

Referee – Mr. Martin Lewis (Swansea), AR1 – Mr. Jason Bessant (Pencoed), AR2 – Mr. Matthew Davies (Baglan)

MATCH REPORT: LLANELLI 58 NEATH 22 – 10th October 2015

There can be no hiding the fact that this was Neath’s worst display of the season.

Neath have found wins at Parc-y-Scarlets hard to come by since the stadium was built – and success never looked like coming their way this time around as the Blacks conceded some very soft scores on the way to their sixth defeat in a row.

Teenage outside-half Billy McBryde (son of Wales forwards coach Robyn) gave Llanelli the lead after just six minutes when he took advantage of poor Neath tackling to score at the posts and convert.

Neath hit back with a well-worked try by flanker Jordan Collier but the writing was on the wall when poor defending allowed first full back Jordan Williams and then scrum-half Justin James to cross in quick succession, McBryde converting both, before emergency outside-half Chris Morgans landed a penalty.

But Neath slipped further behind when Jordan James helped himself to a blind-side try against the wheel – it ought really to have been stopped by the Neath back row – and the immaculate McBryde converted before the Blacks enjoyed the satisfaction of scoring the best individual try of the afternoon.

It came from full back Ashleigh Evans who gathered a Llanelli kick, chipped the first defensive line, re-gathered and sped over under the posts for Morgans to convert and at half-time it was 32-16

Neath’s problems were compounded on the re-start when prop Aaron Coundley found his way into the sin-bin for a midfield off-side and McBryde kicked a penalty but, when the home side lost lock Chris Long to the bin, Neath hit back with their third try from a lineout drive by replacement hooker Ieuan Dobbs.

It briefly raised Neath hopes but that was as good as it got as they conceded second-half tries to Justin James who seized on a loose ball to scamper away for his hat-trick and then replacements Declan Smith and Matthew Owen took advantage of more slack defence to score, McBryde completing a full house of conversions to finish with a personal tally of 22 points.

For perhaps the first time this season the healthy Neath contingent in the sparse crowd felt let down and, like everyone associated with the Club, they will be looking for something much better next Saturday when Bridgend come to The Gnoll.

Neath must re-gather their energy and re-focus for that challenge in the knowledge that Bridgend who also have yet to win are struggling every bit as much as Neath – so something has to give!

Neath v Llanelli

15 Ashley Evans; 14 Ian Ellis, 13 Cameron Morris, 12 Ryan Evans, 11 Josh Jones; 10 Chris Morgans, 9 Tom James; 1 Aaron Coundley, 2 Aled Morris, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Craig Price, 7 Josh Cole

Replacements (16-23) – A.N. Other, Ieuan Dobbs, Owen Jordan, Leon Ward, Calum Davies, Gareth McCarthy, Dean Howell, Joel Matavesi

Referee – Mr. R. Price (WRU)

MATCH REPORT: BEDWAS 26 NEATH 16 – 3rd October 2015

Neath were left kicking themselves after a last minute penalty attempt by unrecognised kicker Chris Morgans sailed wide and denied them a point at Bedwas.

Despite a dreadful opening quarter during which they conceded 12 points and being under pressure at the scrums, Neath somehow stayed with Bedwas for the rest of the game and, in the end, can count themselves a little unlucky to go home empty-handed.

Indeed, had the touchline and corner-flag not denied flying winger Josh Jones two tries – one in each half – and, had Neath not spurned other simple penalty chances smack in front of the posts, it may have been a very different story indeed.

Bedwas started strongly and two penalties by ace-kicker Richard Powell soon had the scoreboard moving and, when full back Alec Jenkins was closed down and possession turned over, the home side struck for the opening try through Dragons Academy centre Conor Edwards which Powell goaled.

However, Neath upped their game and responded boldly to spend much of the remainder of the half in Bedwas territory. Twice they were awarded close-range penalties when advantage might have been played but, looking for tries, the goal-kicks were ignored.

Instead, Bedwas broke out and the Neath cover was not up to its task as winger Rory Budina claimed a try, Powell again converting for a 20-nil advantage, Josh Jones was denied a try in the corner (a decision which mystified Neath supporters on the spot !) but Neath’s spirit was finally rewarded when outside-half Joel Matavesi kicked a penalty and Neath’s resurgence brought a close-range try from scrum-half Tom James on the interval.

On the re-start, Bedwas took full advantage of a needless Neath forward pass for Budina to claim his second try and it all seemed over. But Neath were far from done and played a lot of enterprising rugby. When they were called on to defend their try-line, the effort was nothing short of superb and, with 10 minutes remaining, Neath staged a strong finish.

Only a brave fall by Conor Edwards saved an almost certain Neath try and, for the second time, Josh Jones was denied (seemingly a foot in touch) before a booming reverse pass from James found emergency outside-half Chris Morgans whose inside-pass sent replacement Ian Ellis flying to the posts for Morgans to drop kick the conversion.

As Neath kept up the attack, Bedwas conceded a penalty in the shadow of their posts and Neath’s ambition was such that they ignored what would have been a bonus-point clinching penalty but the move faltered. Bedwas stormed towards the Neath line and their forward advantage might have brought a fourth home try but Neath again defended magnificently and, running the ball from behind their own line, sped downfield. With the last play of the game, Neath were awarded a penalty 30 metres out but Morgans, in fairness an irregular goal-kicker, failed and the chance was lost.

Neath team manager Martyn Morris expressed mixed emotions, “We can be very proud of the attitude and adventure shown throughout,” he said. “After going behind early on, many a side would have cracked but we countered well and, although it was tough to come away with nothing, there was a lot more encouragement for us.

“Really, we could have scored another 20-points – twice Josh Jones could not have got any closer to scoring and we ignored three very kickable penalties which, in the end, would have made the difference.

”Everybody stuck to their guns and we are getting there. This is a young squad, we have a long-term development plan and I think some of the newcomers we have introduced this year – Cameron Morris, Ian Ellis, Geraint James and young Josh Cole among them – will pretty soon be making a real impact on this Division.”

Next, it is on to Parc-y-Scarlets (kick off 1.30pm) and, although they will be lacking a few regulars attending Aaron Bramwell’s wedding, Neath are hoping that their new spirit of adventure will soon start paying dividends.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 24 CARDIFF 28 – 26th September 2015

GETTING NEARER ?

NEATH 24 points CARDIFF 28 points

The chilling statistic is that Neath suffered their fourth defeat in four when Cardiff edged this entertaining encounter but Gnoll supporters took some cheer from another fighting effort that suggests the All Blacks’ first win might be getting closer.

In a free-flowing game of rugby that matched the late September sunshine, Neath gave Cardiff plenty to think about before the Welsh Metropolitans sneaked ahead in the last quarter then closed down the win.

The visitors will have rued making so many mistakes in the first-half when Neath took full advantage to establish a 16-point lead with Gareth McCarthy adding the conversion points to two tries by livewire flanker Alun Jones. There was a remarkable similarity about both scores as the Seven Sisters dynamo twice took advantage of slack Cardiff defence around the tackle area to claim two touchdowns which earned him the Supporters’ Club man-of-the-match award.

But Cardiff settled into their patterns and drew level by the interval through two tries by lock Macaulay Cook, one of a handful of players in the Cardiff side with regional experience. The first was converted by young outside-half Gareth Hall who also kicked a penalty in between the two tries.

In the second-half, the Blacks surged onto the attack and the deft hands of prop Geraint James, revealing the passing skills of a top-class centre, freed winger Josh Jones who eagerly made it to the try-line.

McCarthy’s splendid touchline conversion was his final act of the afternoon and it gave Neath the lead but their advantage proved short-lived. For once, Neath’ scrum exerted the squeeze on their opponents only for fleet-footed winger Chris Knight, a Wales Sevens star, to break out and set up a try for flanker and captain Johnathan Edwards.

Cardiff then took control with a try by giant winger Harry Davies and, after that, the visitors were content to keep Neath at bay and, although new centre Cameron Morris threatened on his debut, the visitors held on relatively comfortably at the end.

Another defeat tells its own story but there were some encouraging signs that Neath’s graph is on the rise. With visits to Bedwas and Llanelli in the offing, rise it must and the set-pieces – although improving – remain a priority area.

MATCH REPORT: EBBW VALE 22 NEATH 0 – 19th September 2015

As anticipated, battling Neath were on the back foot for most of this match but to their credit they stayed in touch with the home team until the curse of the yellow card struck in the last 10 minutes when the home side finally nailed down the result.

Under pressure for most of the game, Neath did well to concede but three scores to the high-riding Gwent club whose play is based solidly around an experienced pack which has been together for five seasons or so.

In contrast, Neath handed first starts to two young players – outside-half Iwan Evans (Ystradgynlais) who had starred briefly as a replacement at Carmarthen Quins a week earlier and prop Geraint James (Gorseinon).

Young Evans had the misfortune to suffer an ankle injury early on and had to be replaced by Gareth McCarthy and, while Neath conceded a lot of weight at the scrums, Geraint James impressed not least with his high tackle count. In the second-half, Craig Price came off the bench for the first time since returning from the Scarlets and he will be an asset once he gets into the swing of things.

But, as silver linings go, there was precious little else for Neath supporters to cling to as the experienced, battle-hardened home pack exerted a firm grip on proceedings.

Vale scored the game’s opening try after 18 minutes when wing Steffan Jones juggled with the ball prior to crossing wide out for outside-half Ian Smerdon to convert. But Neath stuck to their task and somehow managed to keep at bay Vale’s much-vaunted, not to say over-done, lineout drives.

The second-half was much the same story : Vale on top but Neath scrambling to keep them out and just occasionally threatening at the other end. As time ticked by, Vale resorted to a long-range penalty attempt by Smerdon which never endangered the posts and Neath had centre Dean Howell carded for not rolling away at the tackle.

Neath survived until the final minute of Howell’s absence when Vale finally took advantage of their numerical superiority for Jones to claim his second try and, as the game entered its dying moments, Neath conceded a third – again, they were down to 14 men as replacement hooker Ieuan Dobbs had found his way into the sin-bin and fis opposite number Joe Franchi got the touchdown.

Neath showed plenty of heart and a whole lot of effort but they could have few complaints and Vale were worthy winners at Eugene Cross Park where few visiting sides will triumph this winter.

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 22 CARMARTHEN QUINS 40 – 12th September 2015

Neath visit Carmarthen Quins on Saturday hoping to put last week’s opening-day defeat by Newport firmly behind them.

The Welsh All Blacks make several changes with Marc Jones coming in at prop, Jon Barley at lock and Leon Ward and Lee Beach in the back-row.

Behind the scrum, Aaron Bramwell switches to full back and Gareth McCarthy to centre with Joel Matavesi at outside-half and Ian Ellis on the wing. The team is :-

15 Aaron Bramwell; 14 Ashley Evans, 13 Ryan Evans, 12 Gareth McCarthy, 11 Ian Ellis; 10 Joel Matavesi, 9 Tom James; 1 Aaron Coundley, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Marc Jones; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Lee Beach, 7 Jordan Collier

Replacements (16-23) – Nicky Downs, Ieuan Dobbs, Roy Jones, Calum Davies, Alun Jones, Chris Morgans, Iwan Evans, Dean Howell

(NO MATCH REPORT AVAILABLE FOR THIS FIXTURE)

MATCH REPORT: NEATH 18 NEWPORT 22 – 5th September 2015

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn summed it up when he said, “There is obviously a lot of work to be done” after the Welsh All Blacks disappointed in losing the season’s opener against Newport at The Gnoll on Saturday.

In an untidy game that rarely scaled the heights, the two teams seemed a little bit apprehensive, both of each other and of the experimental laws which saw to it that there was not a single penalty attempt at goal – and that has not happened for longer than anyone can remember at The Gnoll!

Neath started strongly into the breeze and had the better of the opening exchanges and they took the lead when all-action hooker Sion Crocker crossed for the first 6-point try after outside-half Gareth McCarthy’s quickly taken penalty.

Neath’s back-row of skipper Jordan Collier, Calum Davies and Alun Jones got through a mountain of work as Neath strove to keep at bay the heavier Newport pack. Neither side lacked for effort but there was a distinct air of early-season rustiness about proceedings.

The home side enjoyed territorial advantage in the first-half but the Black and Ambers levelled through a try by centre Barney Nightingale before the interval after full back Alec Jenkins was closed down in defence.

Newport stepped up the pressure in the second-half and extended their lead to 18-6 through tries by centre Haydn Palmer and replacement flanker Craig Attwell, one of which Matt O’Brien converted.

The curse of the yellow card intervened and Neath fought back through tries by replacement back rower Steffan Jones and a sparkling effort of combined team play which was finished by scrum-half Tom James.

Replacement outside-half Joel Matavesi converted both and suddenly Neath were back in front at 22-16 and were attacking again when Newport broke out and a speculative kick ahead led to them being awarded a penalty try, the eight points giving them the lead again.

As Neath threw everything at Newport in a bid to gain the win, referee Gwyn Morris (Cardiff), his patience exhausted, sent off visiting skipper Adam Brown (who had earlier been yellow carded) and Neath’s Nicky Downs for fighting.

While there was not a lot in it at the end, Neath’s bonus point was of little consolation but they can have few complaints as they gave second best to the Newport pack and made too many mistakes to have had a genuine claim to victory – lessons need to be heeded quickly.