LLANDOVERY 54 points NEATH 12 points
As mid-winter beckons and temperatures fall, Neath’s ability to blow hot and cold certainly came home to haunt them in this game.
Going into the game, it was obvious that it would take a “hot” Neath display to match Llandovery, the best footballing side in the Division who are chasing a place in the top half and who were reinforced for the hunt by the inclusion of two senior Scarlet props in Dylan Evans and Peter Edwards – if only the Ospreys would do the same occasionally !
But Neath’s performance was more of the icy nature – warmed only by the odd hot flush.
From the outset there were too many mistakes; and far too many missed tackles. The individuals concerned will know it – they are costing Neath dear – but shining beacons, notably lock Lyndon Bateman and centre Keiran Williams, did their share of the heavy work and more more.
Llandovery’s three first-half tries were all too easy – they were registered by hooker Darren Hughes, centre Rhodri Jones and man-of-the-match scrum-half Rhodri Davies with excellent outside-half Jack Maynard converting all three.
Neath found it in themselves to hit back with a second try in successive games by Keiran Williams after a keen chase and they did have other chances only for two attacking line-outs and three scrums to see them leave the “red zone” empty-handed so Llandovery’s lead remained intact.
Trailing 21-7, Neath needed to do something quickly; instead Llandovery maintained possession expertly from the re-start and launched the second half with a bonus-point try by outstanding scrum-half Rhodri Davies who was back from a Blues sabbatical and pulling all the strings.
Davies is widely-recognised as the best scrum-half in the Premiership and, on this evidence he deserves a chance at regional level – certainly ahead of some of the mediocre imports currently plying their trades in Wales – and he made the running too for Llandovery’s fifth try scored by centre Craig Woodall.
Neath at least had the satisfaction of scoring the best try of the game – not a hand was laid upon a Neath runner as, from a midfield scrum, the backs handled the ball intricately and expertly for Howley to send in winger Aaron Grabham for his eighth Premiership try of the season. It was a copybook try which merely served to intensify Neath’s disappointment – capable of so much more. But that was the end of Neath “warmth” for the afternoon.
The replacements had made some impact and Neath did carve out a couple more chances including a near-repeat of Grabham’s try but Llandovery showed how it should be done and pulled away with further tries by Davies, Maynard and Woodall with Maynard, after impeccably landing seven conversions, confounding all by missing the last.
Neath are licking their wounds and it is now imperative that they restore their battered pride in non-League games this week against Cardiff (Wednesday) and Maesteg (Saturday) or it will be a Black Christmas at the Gnoll.
Neath visit Llandovery on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) in the Principality Premiership with the Welsh All Blacks seeking immediate improvement after last week’s home defeat by Llanelli (22-31).
Coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We were not at our best against Llanelli last week. We gifted them 14 points in the first-half and we cannot afford to do that at this level.
“Llandovery are a quality side with the ability to attack from all areas so a big improvement is called for.”
Fit-again skipper Jordan Collier and Jon Barley are among several players returning.
Neath v Llandovery (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Aaron Grabham, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Kristian Corbisiero; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Neil White, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Jon Barley, 5 Lyndon Bateman; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Charlie Davies, 7 Calum Davies
Replacements – 16 Ifan Phillips, 17 Ben Uphill, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Rhys Jones, 20 Leon Ward, 21 Josh Guy, 22 Luke Price, 23 Dan Guarneri