Neath RFC took on Plymouth Albion RFC last night at the Gnoll for Neath’s second pre-season game. Neath last played Plymouth Albion at the Gnoll back in December 2011 where Plymouth took the win 6-24, as a similar game commenced yesterday evening.
Minutes into the first half, Plymouth battled on Neath’s 5m line as they pounded into the Welsh all blacks defence as Aled Mogford put in a big tackle. However, Aled’s efforts were not enough as Plymouth were quick to put the first score on the board, as Jake Henry burst through the black defensive line. Decklan Cusack successfully converted taking the score to 0-7.
The second Plymouth try by wing Mark Kohler, followed a lot of pressure on the Neath scrum and the conversion made the score 0-12.
Further set piece pressure, allowed Plymouth’s number eight, Ali Bone, to make good yards towards the Neath’s 5m line. Although Neath held firm in the resultant scrum, Plymouth got the ball out to Declan Cusack who dived over the line, scoring Plymouths third try. Conversion unsuccessful 0-17.
Neath’s first piece of quality possession allowed scrum half Rhodri Cole to kick to touch, taking the team into Plymouths half. Neath gained further possession and when they held onto the ball looked sharp and dangerous but coming up against a physical and organised defence took its toll on the attacks. Outside half, Dale Ford, looked the most potent attacker and managed to makes a break, quickly passing it to Lloyd Phillips as he pushed his way through the Plymouth defence getting over the gain line, but the Neath attack filtered out as the ball ran dead.
Following further scrum pressure the Neath front row were replaced by Lloyd Elliot, Ieuan Dobbs and Mark Jones in order to strengthen their set piece.
From a Plymouth over throw at a line out, they were quick to regain possession with Mark Kohler storming up the field, putting Neath under pressure as Jake Henry scored. Another unsuccessful conversion took the score to 0-22.
The game then started to get messy after a lot of substitutions were made but Steffan Stone managed to make a break, gaining a few yards down the outside, but Plymouth tackled him into touch.
As the second half commenced, Neath throw themselves into Plymouths half as the welsh all blacks battled against the wall of red and white. But Plymouth were quick to gain possession allowing some great phases of play leading to Mark Kohler crossing the line as Neath’s defence failed once more allowing Plymouth to add more points to the board. Try successfully converted by Lawrence Rayner 0-29.
Soon after, Neath turn the tables as Josh Leyshon broke through, shepherded by three other players as Lloyd Phillips shows strength and determination as he scores the first try for Neath, successfully converted by Dale Ford 7-29.
Plymouth then battled the Welsh all blacks defensive line as Gerwyn Davies put in a huge hit, pummelling Plymouth to the ground as Neath turn the ball over. But Plymouth are quick to regain possession as number 10 Declan Cusack makes a quick break taking them back into Neath’s half. Plymouth battled once more inches from the try line as Neath put up a hard fight. Tackle after tackle Plymouth number 15 Lewis Warner dives across the line. With another unsuccessful conversion the score is 7-34.
Neath had looked to have scored a second try from an interception by Dale Ford but the ref called the play back for an earlier offence.
The referee blew up on the 75th minute when Dale Ford suffered an injury, drawing the match to an early close.
Neath captain Aaron Coundley stated ‘I’m proud of the boys for digging in against a very good Plymouth team. We will use this result as a stepping stone to bounce on to the next game and take us into the premiership season. We will learn from our mistakes and even though we suffered a loss to a well organised professional outfit, we all have the belief and trust in each other that we are still heading in the right direction.
We have been focusing on our defence and fitness at the moment in training. But i’m sure now we are coming o the business end we will sort out set piece which then allow us to play to our full potential.
Neath Director of Rugby, Rowland Phillips, stated ‘although the score board at the end of the game doesn’t make for pretty reading, today was very much about the bigger picture. Over the past two weeks we have exposed a lot of players to the highest standard of opposition that they will likely play this season and we needed that to assess where players are before we head into the Ospreys and Trebanos fixtures, which should set us up nicely for Aberavon on the 30th August.’