NEATH 6 MERTHYR 34
Battling Neath gave it their all but were ultimately well beaten by high-riding Merthyr who led 17-3 at half-time, a score they were a little fortunate to double in the second-half when the Blacks held them in check for long periods.
Neath took first use of a strong wind but Merthyr took the lead with a try by wing Kyle Evans which full back Jarvis converted and Neath outside-half Callum Hall pegged them back with a penalty before another Merthyr try made it 12-3.
The Blacks then enjoyed a good period but, as the interval approached, captain Craig Locke used his considerable weight to barge over and, after the sin-binning of two errant props, it was 17-3 to the visitors with wind advantage to come.
Merthyr may well have expected to pull away in the second-half but they were held at bay by a dogged Neath effort. Once again, skipper Jordan Collier led by example, rocketing into tackles throughout, hooker Sion Crocker was as lively as ever and again the Neath scrum held up well.
Behind the scrum, full back Dan Guarneri and winger Ian Ellis were sound with the latter delivering one crunching tackle which warmed the crowd if not the recipient while Scott Gibson was a lively scrum-half.
The Blacks came close to scoring on a couple of occasions but had only a second Hall penalty to show for their efforts as the referee gave the visitors considerable leeway at tackles and scrums – such tolerance was not extended to Neath.
Merthyr added to their tally with tries by and flanker Perkins, replacement Williams and finally a break out try from a Neath attack which saw Baker score at the opposite end for the off-form Jarvis to convert,
Neath’s defeat by champions Merthyr was no big surprise but it was an improved, brave performance and now the Blacks move on to Llandovery on Friday when there will be no hiding place from the Scrum V cameras.
Neath ring the changes behind for the visit of Merthyr to The Gnoll on Saturday. The final place on a strong bench is subject to a fitness test :-
Neath v Merthyr (Home)
15 Dan Guarneri; 14 Ian Ellis, 13 Regan King, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Ryan Pugh; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Luke Garrett, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Scott Andrews; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 7 Lloyd Evans, 8 Leon Ward
Replacements: 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Darren Hughes, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Ryan Bean, 20 Elis Hopkins, 21 Ieuan Jones; 22 Owen Nesbitt, 23 A.N.Other
Referee – Mr. Rhys Jones (Pencoed)
MATCHDAY HOSPITALITY IS AVAILABLE: