MATCH REPORT: LLANDOVERY 29 NEATH 15 – (16-09-2017)

LLANDOVERY 29 points NEATH 15 points

A disputed last play try yielded a bonus point for Llandovery – and deprived Neath of one just when the never-say-die All Blacks had threatened to turn the game on its head.

Many Neath followers claimed touch-in-goal on that point-determining score by prop Berian Watkins but the touch judge thought otherwise and Jack Maynard converted to ensure that Llandovery maintained their 100{2b3e04ec0b6eb92b9cdf5819b8d96bd58008016c6476931d41c44421e1531fdb} record at the top of the Premiership West – but the game was much closer than the score suggests.

In fact, take away the concession of three scores to the final play of the first-half, the first play of the second-half and the final play of all and there was a lot less in it. But Llandovery deserved their victory – for their superior concentration and discipline as, again, Neath gave away far too many penalties and, in that respect, they were architects of their own downfall as too many were of the silly variety and cost them dear.

MUCH TO COMMEND
Nevertheless, overall there was much to commend in both side’s play. The forwards gave as good as they got with hooker Ifan Phillips showing great leadership qualities – he was everywhere tackling, carrying and supporting – and flankers Ryan Bean and Leon Ward ran themselves into the ground too while the speedy Neath backs were every bit as dangerous as the home team’s excellent set.

From the first whistle, these two most enterprising teams were evidently full of running and it was something of a surprise that it took 15 minutes before the first score was registered – a penalty by Neath’s Ed Howley. However, ten minutes later the home side took a lead they would never surrender when promising full back Tomi Lewis crossed and outside-half Kristian Jones converted. As the exchanges warmed, a player from each side was sin-binned as home hooker Ricky Guest was followed by Neath’s Neil White.

COSTLY DISMISSAL
White’s dismissal proved extremely costly to Neath who suffered a double attack of the Joneses. With the final play of the half, Llandovery struck inventively with a wonderful try by Kristian of that ilk and then with the first play of the second-half they bagged another through his namesake Jack, Kristian adding the conversion points.

At 19-3 up, the League leaders were in command and many a lesser side may have folded but Neath stuck to their guns and retaliated when Ward was halted just short of the line and centre Keiran Williams was on hand to steal over for a try.

NIP AND TUCK
It was nip and tuck for 20 minutes as play switched from end to end. Neath probably had the better chances but Llandovery put the points on the board when replacement Jack Maynard landed a penalty.

Spirited Neath were far from done though and rampaging No.8 Scott Hicks ought to have passed with the try-line beckoning and prop Geraint James went close too. Having bombed three attacking line-outs earlier, as the final whistle neared Neath finally got it right and big lock Matthew Davies ploughed over for his second try in successive weeks. Full back Howley’s conversion made it 15-22 and the Blacks were in bonus point territory.

LAST PLAY CONTROVERSY
However, they failed to clear their lines as they gamely, if optimistically, kept the ball alive in pursuit of another score. And, after being denied claims for a penalty try, Llandovery struck with that last-play try and Maynard’s conversion made the final score a little hard on Neath.

NEATH – E.Howley; R.Smith, K.Williams, G. Evans (capt), A.Jenkins (M.Pearce); I.Evans (M.Evans), S.Gibson (C.Morgans); N.White, I.Phillips, G.James; R.Jones, M.Davies (C.White); L.Ward, S.Hicks (S.Crocker), R.Bean LLANDOVERY – T.Lewis; L.Williams, R.Wall (R.Evans), R.Jones, A.Warren (A.Davies); K.Jones (J.Maynard), L.Rees; D.Evans, R.Guest (M.Moore) G.Cunniffe (B.Watkins); J.Jones J.Powell (B.Griffiths); S.Worrall, E.Price (R.Brooks), D.Eagar

Referee – Mr. B.Brakespeare


MATCH PREVIEW
Neath head to Llandovery to meet the only unbeaten team in the Premiership West on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

The Blacks lost their own unbeaten tag last week to RGC and suffered a couple of injuries in the process most notably to skipper Jordan Collier who now faces a lengthy lay-off with a broken leg.

Centre Gavin Evans takes over the captaincy for the first time while the promising pairing of Iwan Evans and Scott Gibson team up at half-back. Neil White, Ifan Phillips and Geraint James form the front row and Ryan Bean comes into the back row.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We will miss Jordan who was in top form but Gavin is a strong on-field leader too and has all the attributes and experience we could wish for. Llandovery have been going well so it will be a good contest.”

Neath v Llandovery
15 Ed Howley; 14 Richard Smith, 13 Keiran Williams, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Neil White, 2 Ifan Phillips, 3 Geraint James; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Matthew Davies; 6 Leon Ward, 8 Scott Hicks, 7
Replacements :- 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Ceri White, 19 Elis Hopkins, 20 Jon Barley, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 Mike Evans

** COMING UP NEXT AT THE GNOLL ! – September 23 fixture against Llanelli – Season Tickets are still available and cover all home Premiership matches – details on website.