Neath came agonisingly close to pulling off what would have been a shock win at Carmarthen Quins where the home side pulled the game out of the fire with an equalising try in the penultimate play.
On a night of incessant, swirling rain, both sides can be congratulated on serving up an entertaining display and, despite the alien conditions, both teams endeavoured to play rugby football.
As the score suggests, the game was pretty evenly fought throughout. The error count was surprisingly low – as was the penalty tally and referee Mr. Dewi Phillips deserves his share of praise too.
Neath surprised an experienced Quins eight with the solidity of their improving scrum as the front row of Ben Uphill, Aled Morris and Geraint James provided a stable platform. Behind them, acting-captain Jonny Griffiths and Jon Barley worked hard on a filthy night made for graft while the back-row of Alex Humfrey, Calum Davies and Craig Price were always prominent.
Snapping at their heels were the youth half-backs and it was Reuben Morgan-Williams who registered the first try after 20 minutes but the conversion attempt by his partner Iwan Evans had the misfortune to hit the woodwork.
Quins levelled before the interval with a classy try that belied the conditions. Their young outside-half Steff Rees picked the ball up off his toes and hooker Ifan Phillips made a timely intervention which ended with free-scoring centre Dylan Morgans crossing to make it 6-6.
Quins used the elements in the second-half but Neath were up to the challenge and the back three of Aaron Bramwell, Josh Jones and Cameron Morris dealt efficiently with everything thrown (or, to be more accurate, kicked) at them.
The forwards were up for the battle and with five minutes remaining Neath regained the lead when centres Keiran Williams and Dean Howell combined and, from the resultant forward exchanges on the Quins line, replacement hooker Ieuan Dobbs got the touchdown. Evans placed the ball for the conversion only for the wind to blow it over in his run-up.
The home side made one last desperate attack and wing Leiron Jones just managed to get on the end of a through-kick to dab down right in the corner on the dead ball line – which just about summed up Neath’s luck – or lack of it – this season. The conversion attempt sailed perilously close but, in the circumstances this was just, as neither side really deserved to lose.
This was a hugely encouraging display by Neath. Their diehard supporters in a paltry crowd on a filthy night were cheered by an 80-minute team performance which reflected a more solid forward performance and a generally more disciplined display all-round – probably for the first time this season Neath conceded fewer penalties than the opposition. The Blacks can take heart from an improved display – but that improvement must be continued into the Christmas fixtures … and beyond !