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Neath RFC


NEATH, having played two games more, went level with Pontypool at the top of the WRU Championship, cutting loose for a 9-try victory over plucky Glamorgan Wanderers at a cold Gnoll on Friday evening.

The All Blacks changed six of the pack which powered its way to victory at Narberth and brought in young wing Llewellyn Hawkes (Neath Athletic) for his league debut against a Wanderers side still on a high after beating Maesteg Quins but who made changes themselves with star men full back Amir Saleh and lock Shaon O’Rourke on the bench.

Neath’s victory at Narberth was a triumph for the dominance of their forwards but this time the backs took centre stage and showed that they can play a bit too – and 7 of the 9 tries came from the backs.

Neath’s intent was given instant reward – straight from the start, the All Blacks were into their stride; positivity and pace were clearly on the agenda on a crisp evening.

Just two minutes in, skipper Ryan Evans crossed for the opening try after some good handling and outside-half Rhys Harris converted.

Neath were at it again immediately as No.8 Morgan Kneath ran back from the kick off, good hands sent lock Jon Barley charging away and he nearly got in at the right corner.

Centre Aaron Bramwell was held up near the posts and, when Wanderers failed to hold a scrum, excellent referee Mr. Gwyn Morris (Cardiff) had no hesitation in awarding Neath a penalty try to double the score to 14-nil.

It was all a bit much for Wanderers’ prop Owen Hatherill who had received an earlier warning and, on the award of the penalty try, he wrongly assumed that he had been sin-binned and took refuge on the touchline.

Neath raced back onto the offensive where it was quickly spotted that the Wanderers were temporarily one short and the referee summoned him back onto the field.

It brought Hatherill more punishment for no sooner had he rejoined the visiting ranks in time for a defensive lineout than home lock Matthew Davies did the necessary to secure possession, the forwards drove and prop Tim Ryan got the touchdown for 19-nil.

It was largely one-way traffic and the bonus point was nailed in the 22nd minute when a great angle cut by hooker Josh Clark (his speed in the loose supplemented that of a marauding back row) led to Neath’s fourth try by scrum-half Luc Jones which Harris again converted for 26-nil.

The wingers then took the limelight as James Roberts joined the line and split the defence, play was taken up by the forwards before the ball was switched left where Ryan Evans’ outrageous flick found left wing Llewellyn Hawkes who scored at the corner for Neath’s fifth try and Harris’ grand conversion extended the lead to 33-nil.

It was a chance to make early replacements and young prop Morgan Thomas took over from Tim Ryan, Neath showed no sign of allowiing the pace to abate. The All Blacks’ speed and incisiveness was evident throughout the half and Roberts was again involved in the sixth try, doing well what a top winger should by working in midfield to send full back Lewis Evans flying in to dab down wide out for Harris to convert and make it 40-nil.

And a half of truly captivating Neath rugby ended just as it begun when skipper Ryan Evans tore through for a virtuoso second try, Neath’s seventh, and Harris goaled to give the All Blacks a commanding 47-nil half-time lead.

The plunging temperature was made for the tugging of timeworn hamstrings though and centre Bramwell failed to re-appear on the re-start, Steff Williams making a welcome return after injury in his place.

Blitzed they might have been but Wanderers came out with renewed resolve and things evened up with a yellow card shown to home flanker Elis Hopkins amid a flurry of replacements.

The second-half did not match the precision of the first and it was not until the quarter of an hour mark that Neath added to their score and passed the half-century.

And a crowd-pleaser it was too as James Roberts, later named the Supporters’ Club man-of-the-match, was the scorer.

A Wanderers move broke down on Neath’s 10-metre line, Ryan Evans got a toe to the ball and the “Cimla Express” gathered, raced away on an angled run, left the defence for dead and touched down midway out on the left, Harris’ conversion nudging the score up to 54-nil.

Midway through the half, replacement scrum-half Macauley Griffiths engineered a kick ahead and hungry winger Llewellyn Hawkes had a lot to do but he got in front of the last defender, collected it and got his second touchdown to make it 59-nil.

A string of injuries disrupted Neath’s pattern but, to their credit, Wanderers did not crack and there was much to admire in the visitors’ play towards the end.

However, there was much to admire too in Neath’s defence for, although Wanderers gave a better account of themselves, the All Blacks refused to have their line breached and, for all the 9 tries, keeping a clean sheet was important to Neath too.

Wanderers had their moments and scrum-half and acting-captain Steff Davies impressed and young back rowers Will Jameson and Alfie Llewellyn pressed hard until the end.

In fact, had it not been for a series of crunching tackles at crucial times, they might well have scored and it was their misfortune to run into a Neath side in top gear.

Supporters will be hoping that Neath can continue this form with a testing challenge ahead of them next Friday when they visit Cardiff Metropolitan at Cyncoed.


NEATH – L.Evans; J.Roberts, R.Evans (capt), A.Bramwell (S.Williams), L.Hawkes; R.Harris, L.Jones (M.Griffiths); G.W.Lloyd (M.Thomas), J.Clark (C.Morris), T.Ryan; M.Davies (D.Griggs), J.Barley; E.Hopkins, M.Kneath, C.Sion

GLAM. WAND. – G.Tough (A.Saleh); I.Cooper, D.Harris, T.Taylor, P.Pariyo; T.Francis, S.Davies (capt) (W.Trethewney); G.Reid, J.Williams (M.Hughes), O.Hatherill (J.Vardon); T.Shinton, R.Evans; W.Jameson, A.Llewellyn, J.Ashcroft

Referee – Mr. G.Morris (Cardiff)

Images courtesy of Len Kowalski