GETTING NEARER ?
NEATH 24 points CARDIFF 28 points
The chilling statistic is that Neath suffered their fourth defeat in four when Cardiff edged this entertaining encounter but Gnoll supporters took some cheer from another fighting effort that suggests the All Blacks’ first win might be getting closer.
In a free-flowing game of rugby that matched the late September sunshine, Neath gave Cardiff plenty to think about before the Welsh Metropolitans sneaked ahead in the last quarter then closed down the win.
The visitors will have rued making so many mistakes in the first-half when Neath took full advantage to establish a 16-point lead with Gareth McCarthy adding the conversion points to two tries by livewire flanker Alun Jones. There was a remarkable similarity about both scores as the Seven Sisters dynamo twice took advantage of slack Cardiff defence around the tackle area to claim two touchdowns which earned him the Supporters’ Club man-of-the-match award.
But Cardiff settled into their patterns and drew level by the interval through two tries by lock Macaulay Cook, one of a handful of players in the Cardiff side with regional experience. The first was converted by young outside-half Gareth Hall who also kicked a penalty in between the two tries.
In the second-half, the Blacks surged onto the attack and the deft hands of prop Geraint James, revealing the passing skills of a top-class centre, freed winger Josh Jones who eagerly made it to the try-line.
McCarthy’s splendid touchline conversion was his final act of the afternoon and it gave Neath the lead but their advantage proved short-lived. For once, Neath’ scrum exerted the squeeze on their opponents only for fleet-footed winger Chris Knight, a Wales Sevens star, to break out and set up a try for flanker and captain Johnathan Edwards.
Cardiff then took control with a try by giant winger Harry Davies and, after that, the visitors were content to keep Neath at bay and, although new centre Cameron Morris threatened on his debut, the visitors held on relatively comfortably at the end.
Another defeat tells its own story but there were some encouraging signs that Neath’s graph is on the rise. With visits to Bedwas and Llanelli in the offing, rise it must and the set-pieces – although improving – remain a priority area.