MATCH REPORT: NEATH 36 points TATA STEEL 20 points
Neath had this game – and the bonus point – wrapped up by half-time but lacked control and cohesion and were unconvincing in the second-half when the Steelmen fared better.
Cloudy but warm conditions greeted the two sides as they ran out onto a perfect Gnoll enclosure and the Blacks opened the scoring after just four minutes, flanker Owain Morgan capitalising on his own good lineout work to provide the finishing touch to the perceptive, angled running of centre David Langdon – it was Morgan’s second try of the season and the conversion points were added by outside-half Steff Williams.
But Neath, unable to sustain possession, struggled to get their game going. The forwards’ clearing out was sub-standard and a rash of silly penalties saw Steel, well led by the appropiately-surnamed Morgan Kneath, hit back with two penalties by wing Willis Wood.
This seemed to spur Neath into action and, as the half-hour approached, the Blacks hit Steel with two quick tries. Building carefully, Nicky Griffiths’ quick reaction saw him get the first and the scrum-half was involved again in the build-up to Neath’s third try of the game, finished by No.8 David Griggs and converted by Steff Williams to make it 19-6.
Steel flanker Jordan Coxley was despatched to the bin as referee Mr. Dewi Phillips, who had a sound game, lost patience with repeated infringements at the tackle area and Williams added a penalty before the Blacks crowned the half with their fourth try.
A well-placed kick by Langdon was splendidly chased down by the Neath outers who homed in on the last Steel defender like Spitfires around a Luftwaffe bomber. The eager chase and harry brought its reward as centre Ryan Evans was on hand to touch down for his fourth try of the season, Williams’ conversion making it 29-6 to Neath.
Neath threatened from the re-start and Steel flanker Huw Thomas went to the sin-bin but, when another Neath lineout drive came to nothing, play switched to the other end where Langdon infringed and he was ordered to the touchline too.
A Steel attacking lineout was initially held and driven back by Neath but the visitors’ re-grouped and ex-Neath prop Liam Tobias crossed and Wood converted before Neath hit back immediately, lively replacement hooker Morgan Thomas being denied his first try when the referee turned Neath’s fast lineout drive into a penalty try.
With the score at 36-13, there was a long break in play for treatment to visiting scrum-half Cole Quinn who was stretchered off the field after expert attention from the medical staff and removed to hospital with a serious leg injury.
After that neither side re-settled. Neath frustratingly blew hot and cold and the game rather fizzled out like the last barbeque of summer but Steel enjoyed territorial advantage and deserved the last word when centre Morgan Williams crossed, Wood again converting to complete the scoring.
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths, R.Evans, D.Langdon, J.Bayliss; S.Williams, N.Griffiths; J.Powell, J.Clark, G.W.Lloyd; S.Langford, J.Barley; D.Ceredig, D.Griggs, O.Morgan Repl. M.Thomas, T.Ryan, J.Blackmore, M.Griffiths, B.Atkins
TATA STEEL – K.Monagan; A.Sabri, S.Pryce-Griffiths, M.Wiliams, W.Wood; C.Bamford, C.Quinn; A.Debreu, J.Key, L.Tobias; J.Evans, C.Gorvett; H.Thomas, M.Kneath (capt), J.Coxley Repl. J.Bamsey, R.Davies, S.John, D.Armstrong, L.Headlam Referee – Mr. D.Phillips (Aberystwyth)
Images courtesy of Len Kowalski @neathtog www.lensworkphotography.co.uk