MATCH REPORT: NEATH 39 points YSTALYFERA 10 points
Three tries in each half steered Neath to a comfortable enough double over Ystalyfera who enjoyed rather more of the game than the scoreline suggests.
Neath seized the initiative early on through a fine try by Aled Brew, playing at full back, but Ystalyfera, paying their first league visit to Neath, hit back with some impressive driving by their forwards and levelled through prop James Williams.
Ystalyfera were giving as good as they got and former Neath men Craig Price and Steffan Jones formed a competitive back row with skipper Ben Williams but, just short of the half-hour mark, Neath went back in front after several strong individual drives with a 14th try of the season from hooker Sion Crocker, outside-half Steff Williams converting.
Neath’s 12-5 advantage ought to have been extended when lock Jon Barley galloped away from halfway – “like a runaway giraffe” as the great Bill McLaren once said of the late Doddie Weir – but he looked for support when he could probably have scored himself.
The Blacks were beginning to get on top though and, when Crocker charged down an Ystalyfera defensive kick, there was a quick transfer and there was wing Louis Rees dammit on hand to flash over for Neath’s third try and it was 17-5 at halftime.
Whatever coach Patrick Horgan said at halftime had the desired effect as Neath stormed onto the attack and Williams kicked a penalty before Neath produced a magnificent score – nearly the whole team handled in easily the best of the night.
Morgan Kneath ran strongly from the re-start and linked with Brew, the ball was swung left where centres Ben Atkins and Ryan Evans made headway up the middle, Neath hit the right touchline before switching left again where No.8 Kneath finished off in style to make it 25-5 and give Neath the bonus point.
Ystalyfera replacement prop Cori Phillips was sin-binned and Neath struck again when flanker Elis Hopkins, in a rich vein of try-scoring form, powered over for the home team’s fifth try and Steff Williams’ conversion made it 32-5.
Both sides used their replacements’ benches to the full and No.8 David Griggs made a particularly strong impression with a couple of trademark charges for Neath while Ystalyfera centre Gareth Drewson was often a threat with his powerful running.
The result was now beyond doubt but to their credit Ystalyfera struck back with their second try, accredited variously to Williams and Glenn Owens, before Neath signed off with a sixth try when prop Gareth Lloyd surged over and replacement outside-half Rhys Harris converted.
Preparations can now begin in earnest for next Saturday’s game (kick off 2.30pm) against the table-toppers who lead Neath by seven points with the Blacks currently ten points ahead of third-placed Bargoed who have a game in hand. Pooler’s 7 point cushion makes them nailed on for promotion – can Neath join them ?
NEATH – A.Brew; J.Roberts, R.Evans (capt), B.Atkins, L.Rees; S.Williams (R.Harris), N.Griffiths (M.Griffiths); J.Powell, S.Crocker (J.Clark), G.W.Lloyd (J.Thomas); S.Langford, J.Barley; E.Hopkins (D.Griggs), M.Kneath, O.Morgan
YSTALYFERA – C.Tomsa; W.Mahoney (S.Down), T.Powell, G.Drewson, J.Congreve; A.Jones, Z.Beynon (L.Evans); I.Haldrup, K.Mackey (J.Mort), J.Williams (C.Phillips); S.Mahoney, G.Owens; C.Price, S.Jones, B.Williams (capt) (M.Olding)
Referee – Mr. S.Mills (Llanelli)
Images courtesy of Len Kowalski www.lensworkphotography.co.uk