NEATH 15 points CROSS KEYS 41 points
Neath showed all the effects of their long month’s lay-off with a sub-standard display on a cold night at The Gnoll.
The Blacks made the early running and opened the scoring with a try by lively scrum half Scott Gibson but lax play by Neath allowed Keys in for tries by prop Scott Evans and centre Leon Andrews, full back Josh Prosser converting both.
Winger Geraint Llewellyn brought Neath back into the game, touching down on the end of an accurate kick by outside-half Gavin Evans and Ed Howley converted superbly but Neath’s concentration lapsed again as they let in keys hooker Darren Hughes and it was 12-19 at half-time.
Howley’s penalty cut the arrears as Neath started the second-half promisingly but Keys centre Phil Williams crossed for their fourth try converted by Proosser who then kicked a penalty.
It was all over for Neath who had introduced a host of young replacements from their injury-hit bench and Keys kept it tight for lineout-drive tries by flanker Scott Matthews and Hughes, Prosser converting one.
NEATH – E.Howley; J.Roberts (J.Condon), M.Evans, M.Pearce, G.Llewellyn; G.Evans (capt) (C.Bricknell), S.Gibson (D.Brown); B.Uphill (N.White), S.Crocker (J.Lewis), R.Thomas (G.James); R.Jones (M.Davies), J.Barley; E.Hopkins, L.Ward (R.Bean), A.Cockwell
CROSS KEYS – J.Prosser; M.Powell, L.Andrews, P.Williams, N.Trowbridge; C.Shepherd, J.Leadbetter (R.Pritchard); G.Carpenter (C.Hewlett), D.Hughes (capt), S.Evans (R.Cornock); T.Lampard, L.Dyckhoff; J.Skinner, A.Powell, S.Matthews
Referee – Mr. B.Whitehouse (Gower)
Neath return to Premiership action for the first time in five weeks and welcome back half a dozen players for their home game at The Gnoll against Cross Keys on Thursday evening (kick off 7.30pm).
Returning to the fold are wing Geraint Llewellyn, centre Matthew Pearce, prop Ryan Thomas, hooker Sion Crocker, lock Rhys Jones and back rower Elis Hopkins.
Tondu hooker Jake Lewis, Neath Athletic scrum-half Dalton Brown, Tata outside-half Callum Bricknell and Aberavon Quins winger Jordan Condon figure on the bench,
But captain Jordan Collier has suffered another blow in his comeback plans as, having recovered from the broken leg suffered against RGC back in September, the unfortunate back-rower has now broken his thumb in training. Also added to the injury-list is outside-half Iwan Evans.
Team manager Martyn Morris said, “It is nice to pick from something like a squad again as the last three months have been a numbers game. Now we must start putting together the performances which The Gnoll crowd deserve.”
Neath v Cross Keys (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 James Roberts, 13 Mike Evans, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Gavin Evans (captain), 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Elis Hopkins, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Neil White, 17 Jake Lewis, 18 Geraint James, 19 Matthew Davies, 20 Ryan Bean, 21 Dalton Brown, 22 Callum Bricknell, 22 Jordan Condon