MATCH REPORT: Neath 19 Bridgend 26 – Thursday 9th November 2023.
Former Neath outside-half Luke Price bagged 16 points as Bridgend delivered Neath’s eighth successive league defeat of the season in front of the S4C cameras at The Lextan Gnoll on Thursday evening.
Despite the week’s heavy rains, The Lextan Gnoll was in good condition and pre-match there was a very poignant minute’s silence in honour of the late Dennis Gethin and Mike Messenger and, given the fixture’s proximity to Remembrance Day the team’s took the field to a “guard of honour” comprising young forces’ cadets and the two captains carried wreaths before the “Last Post” was sounded.
Neath attacked from the outset but Bridgend stole the ball metres out from their own line and, a couple of hefty shunts later, former Neath full back Ed Howley slithered in to score at the other end for outside-half Luke Price to convert.
The Blacks were soon back on the offensive and outside-half Steff Williams opened their account with a penalty which Price immediately cancelled out.
In deteriorating conditions, Neath were giving it a real go and two penalties by Steff Williams put them in front at 9-7 before Luke Price made it 9-10 with a penalty.
Neath were reduced to 14 men following the sin-binning of Steff Williams for a deliberate knock down.
Bridgend made their advantage tell when they countered from halfway and scrum-half Chris Williams was rewarded for his backing-up with the visitors’ second try which Price converted and it was 9-17 at the interval.
Half-time – Neath 9 points, Bridgend 17 points
Neath made the early running in the second-half and five minutes in Williams banged over his fourth penalty to cut the arrears to a single score at 12-17.
The Blacks were building up a head of steam and they took the lead again following a charge-down when centre Kristian Jones backed up a break winger Dafydd Howells and Williams’ conversion made it 19-17 but Price fired Bridgend ahead again with his second penalty.
The game was there for the taking by whichever side finished stronger but Neath incurred a string of penalties which prevented them from maintaining any momentum and Price, one of four former Neath regulars in the Bridgend ranks, nudged Bridgend further ahead with his third penalty.
At 19-23 going into the last few minutes, there was still only four points in it but Bridgend kept Neath pinned back and the home side engaged in their own downfall as three high kicks were spilled and Luke Price supplied the coup de grace with a final kick dropped goal.
There was no disguising the disappointment in the Neath camp afterwards as yet another opportunity passed them by and a bonus point was scant consolation as they head into two visits to Gwent to play Pontypool then Newport.
FINAL – Neath 19 points, Bridgend 26 points
* The full match recording is still available on S4C’s Clic service.
NEATH – A.Bramwell; D.Howells, R.Evans (capt), K.Jones (S.Wilcox), R.Griffiths (L.Rees); S.Williams, C.Morgans (G.Williams); J.Powell (G.W.Lloyd), C.Morris (S.Crocker), T.Ryan; J.Blackmore, C.Arnold; M.Kneath (F.Barry), D.Griggs, O.Morgan
BRIDGEND – E.Howley (capt); S.Floyd-Ellis, J.Gatt, T.Morgan, M.Powell; L.Price, C.Williams (C.Tantum) ; A.George (H.Olding), G.Harvey (E.Yardley), L.Tobias (M. Iorweth-Scott); B.Thomas (D.Burrows), J.Pope (H.Barnes); A.Llewellyn, J.Collier, I.Merriman (Z.O’Driscoll)
Referee – Mr. E. Mayor (Cardiff)
Images courtesy of Len Kowalski www.lensworkphotography.co.uk