NEATH nil LLANDOVERY 35 points
Neath’s already depleted ranks were stretched further in this home defeat by Llandovery as both captain Aaron Bramwell and centre Keiran Williams were forced to leave the field in the second-half with nasty-looking injuries.
The neck injury to their captain incensed The Gnoll crowd as Llandovery No.8 Emyr Price was yellow carded for the incident but home supporters clearly felt the offence merited a red card. Fortunately, Bramwell was not as seriously hurt as first thought and was his usual chirpy self in the Clubhouse afterwards.
It was the only severe incident in a hard-fought game in which the Blacks once more displayed great courage but were undone by their opponents’ greater organisation and a familiarity built upon having played together for far longer than this Neath team.
The loss of centre Williams was a blow as he was as busy as ever and on top form in a stubborn Neath team although he could take some consolation from being nominated “Man of the Match” by the Supporters’ Club.
He had been at the heart of a great defensive effort by the home backs who kept a rein on the Llandovery three-quarters who ran some pretty lines behind the scrum.
It was strange therefore that all five tries – by centre Rhodri Jones (2), scrum-half Lee Rees, flanker Stuart Worrall and No.8 Price – came from close-range situations with the debut-making referee hugely influential in at least two of them.
Defensive certainty usually goes with selection continuity – something which Neath cannot be assured of at the moment. In this game, the Blacks called upon three new props in Robat White (Ystalyfera), Lloyd Jenkins (Kenfig Hill) and Will Davies (Ystalyfera) with the fourth Kieran Griffiths making only his fourth appearance.
It is difficult therefore for the coaches to achieve the necessary level of organisation to cope with a well-drilled eight like Llandovery’s and, although working hard, the home forwards generally played second-fiddle to the away octet.
For Neath, the brothers Rees, Jarrad and Jordan, did a lot of good work and outside-half Jordan would have been a close second to Keiran Williams in the award stakes while it was good to see scrum-half Reuben Morgan-Williams making just his second start of the season although he had few opportunities to show his paces.
In the back row, Ceri White and Garin Lloyd – both out of action for two months – played a half each and came through well and Lloyd in particular made some strong incursions as Neath actually enjoyed the greater territory in the second-half.
Neath are away at Newport on Friday and the next home game will be on Friday week, March 15th when RGC visit The Gnoll for the match postponed from December.
NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain) (Callum Hall); James Roberts, Jarrad Rees, Keiran Williams (Sion O’Brien), John Lumb; Jordan Rees, Reuben Morgan-Williams; Robat White (Will Davies), Sion Crocker (Connah Vaughan), Kieran Griffiths (Lloyd Jenkins); Rhys Morgan, Scott Davies; Lee Evans (Ioan Jones), Leon Ward, Ceri White (Garin Lloyd)
Reuben Morgan-Williams makes his second appearance of the season when Neath entertain Llandovery at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
Other changes see fit-again James Roberts and John Lumb back on the wings while Ystalyfera prop Robat White slots into the front row. Scott Davies returns at lock with Leon Ward and Ceri White in the back row.
Neath v Llandovery (Home)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 John Lumb; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams; 1 Robat White, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Kieran Griffiths; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Scott Davies; 6 Lee Evans, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Ceri White
Replacements – 16 Connah Vaughan, 17 Will Davies, 18 A.N.Other, 19 Garin Lloyd, 20 Ioan Jones, 21 Nicky Griffiths, 22 Callum Hall, 23 Gavin Evans