NEATH 33 LONDON WELSH 5
Neath opened the 2019/20 season by resuming links with London Welsh and ran out deserved five tries to one winners in a highly entertaining game at The Gnoll.
A healthy crowd was present to see the two “fallen giants” stir again and launch the new campaign with Neath’s new-look team expected to be fully extended by London Welsh who have gone unbeaten over two successive League promotions since they struck their own particular difficulties.
An enthralling game ensued with the Blacks generally on top although the Exiles often looked dangerous and it took last-ditch efforts to keep the visitors out. It is early to draw conclusions but Neath’s strong set piece got even better as the game went on while the rapidity of midfield passing was impressive if not always accurate. A solid front five will grow in vigour and evidently Neath have options in the back-row and in midfield.
Neath started purposefully and right wing Luke Griffiths nearly got in at the corner. The Blacks got turned over twice early on but, after three line-outs and three scrums on the visitors’ line, No.8 Scott Malone dabbed down for a pushover try to open the scoring.
Good work wide out by back rowers Blackmore and Malone set up a maul on the Exiles’ line and Outside Half Jordan Rees crossed for the second try which Luke Griffiths converted and, on the half hour, the winger added the points to a try of his own after he caught a perfectly-placed cross lick by outside half Jordan Rees. Before the break, the Exiles came close following a kick and chase but Luke Griffiths just got back in time to minor and Neath went in leading 19-nil.
Neath turned around to attack the Union End and, seven minutes after the re-start, Neath scrum strength saw Malone get his second try, replacement Dan Guarneri goaling.
A flurry of replacements saw Neath lose momentum and the Exiles hit back with a deserved try of their own by centre Ben Phillips after the Blacks twice over-ambitiously tried to run the ball out from behind their own try-line – such foibles are all very well for summer warm-ups but they will hopefully not be seen once the League starts !
Amidst more replacements, David Griggs who quickly distinguished himself with a couple of strong carries stretched to touch down from a scrum and Guarneri converted. That concluded the scoring but there were chances at either end, Jarrad Rees and Guarneri earning plaudits for their cover tackles – the kind of defensive resolution Neath will need… and expect.
Unusually, the Neath team was “serenaded” off the pitch by their opponents whose rendition of “Bread of Heaven” was appreciated by all and it rounded off a useful first outing for the Blacks who will realise that one win does not a winter make.
Starting line-ups :-
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths, B.Atkins, M.Pearce, S.Summers; J.Rees, M.Griffiths; I.James, S.Crocker, L.Tobias; R.Morgan, J.Barley; J.Blackmore, S.Malone, J.Hill
LONDON WELSH – R.Dawes; O.Neme, R.Howells, B.Phillips, R. Tudor-Davies; L.Davies, E.Staines; M.Griffiths, A.Evans, J.Ringer; T.Baldwin, J.Williams; G.Morgan (capt), A.Black, R.Pixley
Referee – Mr. B. Breakspear (Abercynon) replaced by Mr. A.Cox
Saturday is high noon for Neath who kick off the new season with an attractive home tie against London Welsh at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off – midday).
Coaches Pat Horgan, Matthew Jones and Andrew Howell have named the side to take on the Exiles and it features many of those players who fought a backs to the wall mission last season when ownership woes derailed Neath’s season.
Two new wings figure in Luke Griffiths (Kenfig Hill) and South Wales Policeman Sion Summers who played for Newport last year. In the centre, there are welcome returns for Seven Sisters product Ben Atkins and Neath cricketer Matthew Pearce. The only newcomer in the pack will be at No.8 which is left vacant until the morning of the match.
Pat Horgan said, “We have had 30-40 players training regularly with us all summer and everyone has worked hard. We have another game against Resolven next Tuesday so we will have the opportunity to see most players in action over these two games.
“The boys are raring to go, itching for game action and it has been a question of holding some of them back a bit. Consolidation is the key but we hope we can challenge too as we need to get back to the high standards expected of Neath RFC.”
Neath v London Welsh (Home) 12 Noon
15 Aaron Bramwell; 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Sion Summers; 10 Jordan Rees, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ifan James, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jacob Blackmore, 8 A.N. Other, 7 Jon Hill
LONDON WELSH LINE-UP AS FOLLOWS: