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Neath RFC

Hard as Neath fought, the sending-off of prop Jack Powell after 23 minutes was possibly the deciding factor in this keen and entertaining clash at a blustery Gnoll.

Friends and rivals for many years, these two great clubs share many similar values and Neath and Pontypool have served up some excellent cuisine in recent years.

Neath opened strongly and took the lead after just two minutes when full back Steff Williams kicked a penalty after Pontypool strayed off-side but the visitors soon took the lead when their patient build-up produced a try for centre Joel Mahoney and outside-half Matthew Jarvis converted.

Neath roared back onto the attack with flanker Jordan Evans impressing again but two penalty chances went amiss, the second striking an upright, but on the quarter of an hour straight-running centre Keiran Charles burst through in midfield and raced to score under the posts, Williams converting to put Neath back in front at 10-7.

Pontypool had a decided advantage at the scrums and, when the All Blacks yielded on their own line, the referee rightly gave a penalty try – worse still for the Blacks, after consultation with his assistant, he also red-carded Neath prop Jack Powell for what appeared to be an angry push which sparked a minor rumpus amongst the packs.

Powell’s departure led Neath to replace winger Jon Bayliss who had looked in fine form with Mason Morgan who loaned much to the forward effort but Pontypool wasted no time in making their numerical advantage count and a line-out drive led to flanker Mike Herbert scoring and Jarvis added the points to make it 10-21.

Still, Neath are nothing if not resilient and on the half-hour the Blacks struck back with a splendid run buy No.8 Taine Morgan who blazed away for a try at the posts which Williams converted to bring the score back to 17-21.

Neath kept up the pressure and Pontypool were suddenly all of a fluster as skipper Scott Matthews was sin-binned for returning slowly and doing a “Llanelli” by deliberately getting in the way of a Neath attack.

With parity of numbers, the Blacks struck when good handling freed sharp winger Ryan Griffiths who went over in the corner for the home side’s third try which Williams converted, this time the upright assisting his cause.

As half-time approached, Neath gained numerical superiority when Mahoney joined Matthews on the side-lines after he held down a player but there was no further score before the interval and three tries each reflected an excellent half of rugby.


Half-time – Neath 24 pts Pontypool 21 pts


The second half was perhaps not quite as evenly-contested but was nevertheless compelling. Pontypool had the greater share of possession and territory but Neath battled away and the defence was heroic on times.

Ten minutes in Mahoney gave the visitors a bonus point try when Neath’s defence was, for once, found wanting and Jarvis (naturally) added the points for 24-28.

The hour had passed when the extra man told and Pontypool claimed their fifth try by replacement wing Marcus Jones, Jarvis again converting to extend Pooler’s lead to 24-35.

In the final quarter, Neath introduced a flurry of young players from the bench including hooker Dylan Kelly (Neath Athletic), lock Ioan Jones and flanker Gethin Tremlett and to a man they contributed as the Blacks stayed in the fight to the end.

However, whenever Neath managed to fight their way downfield, they were unable to sustain possession and a scrum on the half-way line led to the very harsh sin-binning of teenage tight-head prop Tarik Dabeh who had only just arrived – yes, the scrum went down but not it seemed with any malice aforethought.

So Neath were reduced further to 13 men and, in the fifth minute of injury-time, Pooler were able to out-flank Neath and replacement hooker Sam Scarfe dabbed down to make the score-line 24-40 – a well-merited victory for Pooler but probably a worse margin than the gallant All Blacks deserved it to be on the receiving end of.

In the end, the Pontypudlians went away happy that they still have an outside chance of reaching the play-offs while Neath can take consolation from another competitive showing. Unquenchable All Black spirits remain strong, the majority of the squad have already re-committed for next season and the squad is being augmented and strengthened by new arrivals.

NEATH – S.Williams; J.Bayliss (M.Morgan), S.Wilcox (K.Al Muflahi), K.Charles, R.Griffiths (L.Rees); K.Jones, G.Williams (E.Lewis); J.Powell, E.Kneath (D.Kelly), E.Hopkins (T.Dabeh); M.Davies, C.Arnold (I.Jones); J.Blackmore, T.Morgan, J.Evans (G.Tremlett)

PONTYPOOL – M.Bancroft; A.Nove (M.Jones), P.Lewis, J.Mahoney, M.Powell; M.Jarvis, O.Leonard (M.Flanagan); D.Kelleher-Griffiths (S.Cochrane), P.Lloyd (S.Scarfe), K.Williams (M.Thomas); L.Johnson (D.Hill), A.Sweet; M.Herbert (A.Stratton), S.Matthews (capt), C.Davies (B.Moa)

Referee – Mr. G.Newman (Abergavenny)


Many thanks to Neil for providing the Match Day Images:

Images courtesy of Neil Charles Roberts @NCRPhotography