NEATH 8 points EBBW VALE 14 points
Another battling performance by Jordan Collier and his men; another narrow reversal – but Neath’s improvement continues and the signs are that the Welsh All Blacks’ fortunes are about to turn.
The evidence is there for all to see not least from the forwards – and it is up front that the foundations of any revival will surely be based. The Neath scrummage, neglected and about as effective as a Labour leadership coup for so long, is beginning to assert itself again – the front-row trio of Ben Uphill, Aled Morris and Geraint James tamed the vaunted Vale scrum and, with front-row depth added over the summer and more hard work in training ahead, Neath’s scrum can be a weapon again.
As at Bedwas, locks Jon Barley and Lyndon Bateman used their bulk to good effect and Vale’s proven force of captain Hudd and the Dragon Sweet had a far from comfortable afternoon. Behind an emerging front five, Neath have a tireless back-row led by skipper Collier and both Leon Ward and the young try-scorer Charlie Davies as ever gave their all.
Behind the scrum, Neath’s back division is looking decidedly nifty. The Welsh All Blacks now have two pairs of clever half-backs and in midfield the experienced Gavin Evans is bringing the best out of 18 year old co-centre Keiran Williams.
The pair were a constant threat, splitting the Vale defence on several occasions and, early in the second-half, Williams was denied a certain try after being recalled for a forward pass. With pace aplenty on the wings and Dan Guarneri turning in a very sound performance at full back, Neath took the champions all the way.
Ebbw Vale though are a seasoned, well-proven unit, their solid teamwork has been honed over several seasons during which they have progressed from Championship to Premiership champions and, after losing their opening game at Llanelli to the last kick of the game, they have powered past Newport (33-17) and Bridgend (32-nil).
On a pitch as perfect as could be despite the morning storms, Vale started strongly – and they needed to against a Neath side right up for the battle – but it took fully 15 minutes before they took the lead through a try by flanker Dawid Rubasniac. Neath felt that winger Kristian Corbisiero had been illegally wiped out in the build-up but the score was allowed to stand and Josh Lewis added to Neath’s pain by adding the conversion.
Neath stormed back to seize the initiative and, after outside-half Luke Price pulled back 3 points with a well-struck penalty for off-side, the home side enjoyed the better of the rest of the first-half although the nearest they came to scoring was a long-range penalty miss so it was 3-7 at half-time – a scoreline which reflected the closely-fought battle.
The Blacks started the second-half in determined mood as Keiran Williams was denied a try but, as both sides fought to establish mastery during the third quarter, play eventually switched to the other end where Vale turned the screw through their famous maul – Leon Ward was yellow-carded and Ronnie Kynes got the try, Lewis converting.
Neath were far from done though and the 14-men hit back immediately with a try by No.8 Charlie Davies after more good work by Keiran Williams on the back of a replacement Jonny Griffiths line-out take for which Vale might easily have lost a player too – such are refereeing perceptions !
Neath rang the changes in a last attempt to find the winning score but, although the champions had been distinctly rocked, Vale controlled the territory and held firm for victory.
TEAM NEWS: NEATH v EBBW VALE (HOME) – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1st, 2016
Neath play only their second home game of the season when they host Premiership champions Ebbw Vale at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
The Welsh All Blacks will be looking to go one better than last week when they were a little unluckily edged out at buoyant Bedwas 25-31.
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Ebbw Vale are very direct and will present their usual physical challenge and we need to front up to like we did in the second-half at Bedwas last week. After going behind early on, we fought our way back into the game but, good as our rally was, it only the minimum standard we expect.
“The second half was the best we’ve played until now and I know our supporters were pleased. We kept our focus, kept possession and everybody saw that we have pace to burn and are a real footballing side.”
There are five changes in the Neath line-up with Dan Guarneri replacing Ed Howley at full back, Josh Guy taking over at scrum-half from Chris Morgans. Up front, Aled Morris and Geraint James come into the front row with Charlie Davies returning for namesake Calum in the back row.
Neath v Ebbw Vale (Home)
15 Dan Guarneri; 14 Aaron Grabham, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Kristian Corbisiero; 10 Luke Price, 9 Josh Guy; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Aled Morris, 3 Geraint James; 4 Lyndon Bateman, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Charlie Davies, 7 Jordan Collier (captain)
Replacements – 16 Neil White/Ryan Thomas, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Callum Jones, 19 Jonny Griffiths, 20 Calum Davies, 21 Iwan Evans, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 Ed Howley
PREVIEW: NEATH v EBBW VALE (Home) – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1st, 2016
Neath play only their second home game of the season on Saturday when Welsh Premiership champions Ebbw Vale visit The Gnoll (kick off 2.30pm).
The Welsh All Blacks lost their only home game to date against the Premiership’s new sensations RGC but The Gnoll faithful will be looking for an all-out effort against the champions on Saturday.
Coach Gareth Llewellyn says, “Last week’s second-half blast is the absolute minimum standard we expect yet it all but brought us victory at Bedwas. We nearly overtook a first-half deficit but need to play at the top of our game for 80 minutes.
“Ebbw Vale will pose their usual direct, physical approach. Their team has been together for a few years now and they know how they want to play – honest endeavour is called for and we need to meet them head on.”
The Gwent side lost their season’s opener 22-24 at Llanelli but normal service has resumed for Ebbw Vale with home victories over Newport 33-17 and Bridgend 32-nil.
With the annual Neath Food and Drink Festival on this weekend, there is double reason for visitors to come to Neath – sample the best of local produce then go to the rugby !.
And don’t forget there is ample car-parking available just across from the ground at the new Multi-Storey Car Park.
Remember too that admission for all Under-16’s is free.
So join our growing band of Neath supporters and make it a great Family Day out.
PLEASE COME ALONG AND SUPPORT THE BLACKS !