MATCH REPORT – NEATH 52 BUILTH WELLS 14 – FRIDAY 11th AUGUST 2023.
Neath opened their 2023/24 account with a sound first performance against a hard-working Builth Wells side at The Gnoll on Friday evening.
Centre Ryan Evans, newly returned from South Africa with Ystalyfera school, led Neath out onto the lush Gnoll meadow which looked in splendid order after its summer makeover.
Neath, minus many regulars for various reasons, paraded only two newcomers in their starting line-up – Ystalyfera wing Josh Congreve and Rumney flanker Fletcher Barry; others emerged from the replacements’ bench later.
The Blacks, wearing teal jerseys, were quickly into their stride and the pace of full back Louis Rees caused immediate problems for the visitors while tearaway flankers Fletcher Barry and Fergus Kneath were constantly in the thick of things.
The pair were prominent in the first score as skipper Ryan Evans stole away on a clean break and he fed winger Llewellyn Hawkes who raced 50 metres to score the opening try, Lewis Evans converting for a 7-nil lead.
Lewis Evans operated most effectively at outside-half and repeatedly brought his threes into play and, although Builth were putting up spirited resistance, Neath were looking sharp behind and hit them with two scores in quick succession.
Neath’s second score came when scrum-half Elis Horgan robbed his opposite number and Fletcher Barry crossed, then patient driving work by the forwards resulted in the third try for lock Ioan Jones, Evans converting both and it was 21-nil.
Builth summoned reinforcements but Neath, continuing to cut some pretty lines, added another two scores before half-time.
Good hands and another Ryan Evans break paved the way for flanker Fergus Kneath to add the fourth try, then another flowing move ended in centre Ben Atkins dabbing down for the fifth and Lewis Evans’ immaculate converting inflated the interval score to 35-nil (five goaled tries) to nil.
Neath rang the changes for the second-half and quick work by young scrum-half Brychan Wood saw them attack the narrow side for impressive outside-half Kristian Jones to score the sixth try wide out.
Jones just missed the conversion but he calmly added the points to Neath’s seventh try when the Blacks again hit the short side and another young flanker Gethin Tremlett, supporting like a good ‘un, dabbed down.
Neath’s lead had advanced to 47-nil but, amidst a flurry of changes, their forward effort faltered and Builth Wells showed admirable hunger and hit back splendidly with two excellent close-range tries by skipper Ash Mills which outside-half Jason Griffiths converted – the scores were generously cheered by the sporting Neath crowd.
The home side had the last word though when winger Josh Congreve used his strength to touch down in the corner for Neath’s eighth try which sealed victory at 52-14.
As the score-line suggests, Neath were deserved winners but Builth headed home to mid-Wales with heads held high and the match provided ample entertainment for a healthy crowd of over 600 including a high number of junior supporters which augurs well.
A similar turnout next week would greatly encourage Neath when they move onto their second warm-up match which will be a testing affair against the famous London club Richmond as two of the oldest clubs in the world lock horns for the first time in over 30 years.
The game will be at The Gnoll on Saturday evening (kick off 7.00pm) – a time which suits cricket “next door” and avoids the Wales-South Africa international which kicks off at 3.15pm. – plenty of time to wind your way to the new-look “blacker than ever” Gnoll – admission £5 with Under-16’s FREE.
NEATH – L.Rees; L.Hawkes, R.Evans (capt), B.Atkins, J.Congreve; L.Evans, E.Horgan; J.Powell, C.Morris, T.Dabeh; I.Jones, J.Blackmore; F.Barry, C.Sion, F.Kneath Replacements – T.Weekley, R.Griffiths, J.Hutchings, K.Jones, B.Wood; E.Hopkins, G.Williams, G.W. Lloyd, S.Langford, D.Millard; G.Tremlett
BUILTH WELLS – D.Jones; C.Price, J.Heale, A.Williams, L.Botha; J.Griffiths, R.Dixon; S.Boore, B.Pugh, A.Parry; H.Price, L.Evans; C.Davies, I.Coyle, A.Mills (capt) Replacements – M.Duggan, R.Hughes, S.Coyle, I.Mills, T.Davies, N.Jerman, D.Witcomb, P.Eckley, R.Jones, L.Offa. K.Heatlie, G.Lewis
Referee – Mr. R.Jones (Pencoed)
OTHER WEEKEND RESULTS OF INTEREST
Bargoed 24 Porth Harlequins 21, Cambrian Welfare 28 Cross Keys 12, Chosen Hill 24 Bonymaen 19, Dings Crusaders14 Newport 17, Ebbw Vale 40 Newbridge 7, Newcastle Emlyn 33 Ystrad Rhondda 70, Penygroes12 Tonna 33, Pontypridd 28 Pontypool 21, Rams 38 Aberavon 19, Resolven 31 Pontarddulais 5, RGC 35 Sale 17, Seven Sisters 17 Bryncoch 12, Skewen 0 Trebanos 5, Swansea 35 Bedford 45, Tonmawr 19 Fleur De Lys 17, Treorchy 0 Narberth 12
Images courtesy of Len Kowalski www.lensworkphotography.co.uk