NEWPORT 48 points NEATH 10 points
Neath face RGC at The Gnoll on Friday evening (kick off 7.30pm) in the last of their floodlit games for 2018/19 and will be hoping for better luck than on their visit to Newport.
The game very nearly did not take place as the Rodney Parade groundsman feared for his pitch following heavy afternoon rain but both teams were keen to play, the Neath diehards were already in the ground and, thanks to the best efforts of home secretary Dennis Bennett, common sense prevailed.
Neath made 9 changes – mostly enforced – for this game and, with 13 players in their 23 on permit, they were always going to be up against it. However, the only debutant was Ospreys centre Lesley Klim who became the first Namibian international to play for Neath on this his first appearance in Wales having arrived last August.
He obviously needs more match practice but showed well enough in his 45 minutes of action and nearly got on the receiving end of a break by co-centre Jarrad Rees which would have spelled a first-half try for Neath.
As the rain eased, it was very much Newport’s night though and, after Neath lost prop Steffan Jones with injured ankle ligaments in the first five minutes, they steadily built up a 19-nil lead through first half tries by hooker, Henry Palmer, wing Andrew Evans and scrum-half Tom Lucas, outside-half Haydn Simons converting two.
Neath had chances of their own : Klim was nearly through and there were two kick and chase efforts by wing Gareth Hopkins and scrum-half Nicky Griffiths which might have brought better reward but the cover defence just got across in time.
Right on the stroke of half-time, Neath were awarded an eminently kickable penalty but, bravely opting for the line-out instead, the forwards drove on and flanker Lee Evans dabbed down for a try which Callum Hall converted to make it 7-19.
The Blacks started the second-half promisingly enough as Hall struck a good penalty but thereafter, gamely as Neath battled, it was virtually one-way traffic as they gave away a couple of soft tries from a charge-down and an interception.
The home side levied second-half scores by Morgan Burgess, replacement Chris Williams, Chay Smith, Elliot Frewen and on time winger Duan Thomas with Simons converting two.
There were errors galore on a greasy surface but the decision to play the game was fully vindicated and a word of praise is due too to referee Mr. Carwyn Williams (Ystalyfera), in charge of his first Premiership game, who kept things going.
So Neath must dust themselves down and prepare for Friday’s re-arranged home game against RGC. The team needs support at the moment and a good home crowd might just make a difference.
NEATH – Aaron Bramwell (captain); James Roberts, Jarrad Rees, Lesley Klim (Caine Woolerton), Gareth Hopkins; Callum Hall (Jordan Rees), Nicky Griffiths (Macauley Griffiths); Steffan Jones (Callum Jones, Lloyd Jenkins), Garin Lloyd (Sion Crocker), Tyla Murvai; Scott Davies (Rhys Morgan), Ioan Jones; Lee Evans (Ben Davies), Leon Ward, Jake Blackmore
Neath ring the changes when they travel to play Newport at Rodney Parade on Friday evening (kick off 7.15pm). Ospreys’ Namibian international Lesley Klim comes in at centre for his debut while several players return. Gareth Hopkins is on the wing while Callum Hall and Nicky Griffiths team up at half-back. Up front, Steffan Jones and Tyla Murvai will prop alongside hooker Garin Lloyd with Ioan Jones in the second row and Trebanos’ Jake Blackmore slots in to the back row.
Neath v Newport (Away)
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 James Roberts, 13 Jarrad Rees, 12 Lesley Klim, 11 Gareth Hopkins; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Steffan Jones, 2 Garin Lloyd, 3 Tyla Murvai; 4 Scott Davies, 5 Ioan Jones; 6 Lee Evans, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Jake Blackmore
Replacements – 16 Sion Crocker, 17 Callum Jones, 18 Lloyd Jenkins, 19 Rhys Morgan, 20 Ben Davies, 21 Macauley Griffiths, 22 Jordan Rees, 23 Caine Woolerton