MATCH SUMMARY: NICKY DOWNS’ TESTIMONIAL MATCH – Friday 6th May 2016
NICKY’S NIGHT OF NEATH NOSTALGIA
Retiring captain Nicky Downs drew the curtains on his career with an entertaining fixture between a Neath Select XV and a Former Players’ XV, the latter taking the honours 55-41 in a 16 try romp which was well controlled by referee Chris Williams (Port Talbot).
The Select XV scored 7 tries through winger Aaron Grabham (2) and Kristian Corbisiero, full back Alec Jenkins, prop Roy Jones, outside-half Laurence Howley and flanker Joe Williams with conversions by Grabham, Jenkins and hooker Rhys Cleverly.
The Former Players topped it with 9 tries from Cardiff wing Luke Ford (2), scrum-half Tom James (2), lock Peter Sidoli, Cardiff outside-half James Thomas, scrum-half Patrick Horgan, Bedwas hooker Richard Wilkes and winger David Evans with conversions kicked by Wilkes (2), Sidoli, James and Horgan.
In the post-match function, Nicky Downs thanked all who had participated, saying, “My family and I have enjoyed a wonderful time at Neath and from the time I joined I never wanted to play anywhere else. I am certain the Club will soon be back up where it belongs and I would like to thank all the players and their clubs as well as the supporters for making tonight so special.”
(MATCH PREVIEW) – NICKY DOWNS RETIRES
Neath captain Nicky Downs has decided to hang up his boots at the end of this season after completing what he describes as “10 wonderful years with the Welsh All Blacks.”
He led the team out in the final home game of the season against Cross Keys at The Gnoll and, when he was replaced by Aaron Coundley 10 minutes into the second-half, he received an appreciative salute from the crowd.
Nicky’s competitive debut for Neath came on September 2nd, 2006 at Glamorgan Wanderers and in that first season he shared loose-head duties with ex-skipper Paul Jones but gradually he took over the No.1 shirt as his own.
In that first 2006/07 season, Nicky was part of the Neath team which won the Premiership, the title being sealed with Arwel Thomas’ memorable left-footed dropped goal to secure a 20-18 win at Sardis Road.
Nicky was there again in 2007/08 when Neath won their fourth consecutive title and did the double by beating Pontypridd 28-22 in the Welsh Cup final and he earned another Cup-winners’ medal in 2008/09 when Neath beat Llanelli 27-21 and Nicky’s third championship win came in 2009/10.
On February 22nd, 2013 Nicky suffered a leg injury when Neath won 20-17 on Cardiff RFC’s new pitch. Unfortunately, what at the time seemed a pretty straightforward wound turned nasty – so nasty, in fact, that it necessitated emergency lifesaving hospital treatment.
It was feared he may never play again but, typically, Nicky battled his way back through an extensive period of rehabilitation and, such was his determination to resume, that he was able to resume last season.
Although he has probably never been quite the same – indeed, he was contemplating retirement this time last season – coach Pat Horgan persuaded him to give it one more go this season when he was honoured with the captaincy.
However, like many of Neath’s senior players this season, the injury-jinx struck again and another operation restricted him to only six starts. But Nicky has carried his number of appearances to 210 making him by far the senior player in the Neath squad.
Everybody at Neath Rugby will wish him well for the future and Gnoll supporters will have one final chance to see him in action when the Present Neath XV take on a Past XV in a special benefit match for Nicky on Friday, May 6th (kick off 7.00pm).
PROVISIONAL CURRENT / “FORMER PLAYERS” TEAMSHEET
We have heard on the grapevine that most of the following players have agreed to play
(SUBJECT TO THE NECESSARY PERMITS BEING FORTHCOMING FROM THEIR CURRENT CLUBS):
Gerwyn Gezzy Price
John Mc Phail