NEATH 32 LLANDOVERY 40
For the second week running unlucky Neath were squeezed out late on in another high-scoring, fast-paced affair played in ideal conditions.
The Gnoll was a picture of perfection in the glorious sunshine and offered an idyllic stage for running rugby – and Llandovery were delighted to see it after losing out on a very heavy Pandy Park in midweek.
Image courtesy of Len Kowalski of www.lensworkphotography.co.uk @neathtog
Ed Howley fired Neath ahead with an early penalty but Llandovery retaliated with a try by prop Jamie Hughes which centre Jack Maynard converted. But this was the signal for Neath to click smoothly into action with their young forwards Garin Lloyd, Liam Tobias and Ryan Bean carrying enthusiastically and it was Bean who profited from a line-out take by fellow lock Matthew Davies to register Neath’s first try which brought a smile from former Neath and Wales prop Paul James who has been helping with coaching the forwards recently.
Howley converted and added his second penalty before wing James Roberts finished off a fine movement featuring a diagonal run by Mike Evans off the opposite flank. Neath’s second score was well deserved for their enterprise and Howley converted. Although Llandovery always looked dangerous, Neath’s in-form full back added a third penalty just before half-time to give Neath a commanding 23-7 lead.
The second-half was equally as compelling as Llandovery fought back. Their off-loading tactics came into their own as they gradually over-hauled Neath. The Blacks stayed with them but whereas Neath’s visits to Llandovery territory yielded penalties – three of which Howley goaled, making six in all, to advance his match-tally to 22 points. However, Llandovery’s attacking forays produced tries by centre Rhodri Jones (2), hooker Darren Hughes, captain Richard Brooks and wing Lee Williams with Maynard converting all bar one.
Neath’s lead had been over-turned and with minutes remaining they trailed 32-40. Yet on an energy-sapping afternoon, they showed their spirit and threw everything at the visitors; one last rally saw replacement prop Stefan Bond denied a debut try at the posts but his touchdown was unseen by the referee who promptly blew his final blast just when it seemed that the Blacks might retrieve the bonus point they richly deserved.
Although the game ended in yet another defeat, Neath do not look like a bottom of the table side at the moment and, with several signings announced and still to come, things will surely improve next year after this year’s injury-wrecked campaign.
NEATH – E.Howley; M.Evans, I.Evans (G.Llewellyn), M.Pearce (D.Guarneri), J.Roberts; L.Scully, S.Gibson (C.Morgans); L.Tobias (S.Bond), G.Lloyd (S.Crocker), R.Thomas (G.James); M.Davies, R.Bean (J.Barley); J.Collier (capt), L.Ward, A.Cockwell (A.Morris)
LLANDOVERY – K.Jones; L.Williams, R.Jones, J.Maynard, A.Warren; J.Hammett, L.Rees (S.Maynard); J.Hughes (L.Green), D.Hughes (R.Guest), D.Thomas (B.Watkins); J.Jones (B.Griffiths), J.Powell (J.Baker), L.Ellis-Jones (D.Eager), R.Brooks (capt), S.Worrall
Referee – Mr. S.Allsop (Caldicot)
Neath play Llandovery in their penultimate home game of the Premiership season on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
The Blacks were a little unlucky to lose out 36-41 in an 11-try spectacular at Llanelli on Saturday last and they make a number of changes to the starting line-up.
Winger James Roberts and centre Matthew Pearce return while Luke Scully and Scott Gibson team up at half-back. Up front, Liam Tobias, Garin Lloyd and Ryan Thomas form the front row with Ryan Bean and Jon Barley packing behind.
Jordan Collier leads the team from the back-row alongside Leon Ward and Aled Cockwell with Skewen’s Stefan Bond figuring on the replacements’ bench for the first time.
Neath v Llandovery (Home)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Iwan Evans, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Luke Scully, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Liam Tobias, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Ryan Bean, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Leon Ward, 7 Aled Cockwell
Replacements – 16 Stefan Bond, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Geraint James, 19 Matthew Davies 20 Aled Morris, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Dan Guarneri, 23 Geraint Llewellyn