NEATH 14 points SWANSEA 17 points
A terrific late onslaught by Neath was not quite enough to overcome Swansea’s lead in a game which matched the bright, sunny conditions at The Gnoll.
Neath-Swansea is the oldest recorded club fixture in Wales, first played the small matter of 150 years ago, and, if the attendance of around 750 paled in comparison with those of old, the home crowd rose in support of Neath’s second-half effort and made plenty of noise at the atmospheric old ground.
In the first half, Neath seemed to be suffering a hangover from the controversial ending to their previous game and what can only be described as soft defence allowed Swansea in for two tries through hooker Owen Thomas (this before most people had taken their seats) and captain Jay Williams – both ought to have been stopped !
Outside-half James Davies converted them and Swansea had much the better of the first half when Neath’s best chances came from a couple of Horgan breaks and then when Neath contrived to lose the ball at a line-out on the Swansea line. Much work remains to be done on this facet as Neath’s lineout – and aftermath – is better but still far too loose.
Generally though Neath were on the defensive and flankers Alun Jones, despite being hampered by a dead leg, and Owain Morgan again impressed in the unsung department.
Neath started the second-half more brightly with lively replacement Jacob Blackmore soon freeing wing James Roberts on a promising run out of their own half. Running harder and straighter, Neath were looking far more threatening; Steff Williams missed a penalty but, when Swansea had a similar award on Neath’s 10 metre line, Davies goaled.
Neath were anything but done though and fresh legs from the bench aided a stirring recovery. The Blacks dominated territorially and, after a couple of scoring chances went abegging, No.8 David Griggs careered over for Neath’s first try which Steff Williams converted.
Griggs might soon have had another as centre Ryan Evans split the defence and looked like going in under the posts but his footing was not assured and his pass to the No.8 went astray. Neath continued to attack furiously and were held up just short of the line, then a Steff Williams drop-shot hit the upright and unluckily eluded the Neath chasers.
Another Neath attack ended in a frank exchange of pleasantries between the forwards on the Swansea try-line and the visitors escaped briefly but time was running out for Neath who had the last word when Griggs broke the line, charged through and handed on to Ryan Evans who had been a thorn in Swansea’s side and had caused plenty of problems for the visitors’ defence.
The centre’s try was converted by Steff Williams but the spoils were Swansea’s at the end of an entertaining game which was very well handled by referee Mr. Elgan Williams and his team – their work contributed to a good exhibition and the exciting climax kept supporters’ attentions until the end.
It was a classic “game of two halves” and Neath will take a lot of heart from their second half display. The young recruits showed up well with Morgan Thomas and new man Ross O’Connor having their moments in the overdue revival; but most games are won over the full 80 minutes and Neath must reflect – and improve – upon their lack-lustre first half.
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); I.Ellis (J.Bayliss), R.Evans, B.Atkins, J.Roberts (L.Griffiths); S.Williams, E.Horgan; G.Lloyd (M.Thomas), J.Clark (S.Vokes), T.Ryan; C.Comerford (S.Langford), J.Barley (R.O’Connor); A.Jones (J.Blackmore), D.Griggs, O.Morgan (D.Ceredig)
SWANSEA – L.Popham; H.Houston, G.Rees, K.Charles (D.Armstrong), Curtis Davies; J.Davies (G.Parks), C.Tantum (L.Seaward); T.Northey (T.Sloane), O.Thomas (A.James), J.Pritchard (A.Dew); O.Morgan (G.Lloyd), M.Dodd; J.Williams (capt), Chas. Davies, C.Bowden (W.Barraclough)
Referee – Mr. E.Williams (Cardiff)
Images courtesy of Len Kowalski @neathtog www.lensworkphotography.co.uk