A barn-storming finish saw Bridgend take the spoils in this clash between the Welsh Premiership’s bottom two clubs.
It was not a distinguished enough display to describe it as a classic game of two halves but Neath certainly had the better of the first and Bridgend were the better after the break.
Neath opened strongly and went into the lead on 5 minutes through a penalty by rookie outside-half Joel Matavesi who shortly afterwards added the conversion points to a sparkling try by man-of-the-match Cameron Morris.
On the half hour, Bridgend came back via a driving-maul try by No.8 Ashton Evans which was converted by their young outside-half Joe Scrivens before Neath went further ahead with a well-worked try by centre Gareth MCarthy who registered his 50th Premiership try.
Matavesi’s conversion made it 18-8 but Scrivens landed a penalty before Neath’s outside-half hit the woodwork with a short-range penalty and, right on half-time another chance went begging when a flowing passing movement by Neath ended with a scoring pass being dropped on the line.
Bridgend wasted no time in levelling after the interval when winger Michael Powell went over for a try which Scrivens converted and ominously they were coming more and more into the game.
Neath had a golden chance to take command when they lost a lineout on the Bridgend line but a second Matavesi penalty edged them ahead at 20-18. That was as good as it got for the Blacks though as Bridgend countered strongly.
Neath’s lineout had disintegrated and the malaise spread to other areas and Bridgend, assisted it must be said by some refereeing inconsistencies, stole the lead for the first time with a corner try David Evans which Scrivens converted superbly and the visitors’ joy was complete when poor Neath tackling – a weakness throughout – allowed Mark Bennett to cross for a bonus-point-clinching try by which Scrivens again goaled.
The result leaves Neath at the foot of the Premiership with everything to play for against champions Pontypridd when it will take a mighty effort from all.
Neath v Bridgend
15 Ashley Evans; 14 Ian Ellis, 13 Cameron Morris, 12 Gareth McCarthy, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Joel Matavesi, 9 Tom James (captain); 1 Aaron Coundley, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Jonny Griffiths, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Calum Davies, 8 Craig Price, 7 Alun Jones
Replacements (16-23) – Nicky Downs, Ieuan Dobbs, Owen Jordan, Rhys Jones, Gareth Beer, Chris Morgans, Ryan Evans, Josh Jones
Referee – Mr. Martin Lewis (Swansea), AR1 – Mr. Jason Bessant (Pencoed), AR2 – Mr. Matthew Davies (Baglan)