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Neath RFC

Two games down and Neath can be under no illusions about just how tough this season is going to be back in the Premiership.

For Carmarthen Quins hit Neath with a first-half salvo of five converted tries although things improved slightly after that and there was a glimmer of hope in that the second-half was shared with two converted tries each.

 The Gnoll was in immaculate condition and the pitch more akin to an end-of-season Transvaal rather than Wales at the start. The ‘African Summer’ – the Indian version will come later ! – saw players swelter and supporters were not much better off even under the commodious cover of the Neath stands.

 Quins have been fortified greatly by the sorry demise of Llanelli RFC and had five current Scarlets and several other immediate-past regional men in their ranks. They were impressive in all facets : defending strongly on the few occasions they had to and attacking with rapier-like elan – would that Neath were donated a swathe of such talents …

 The Blacks were in deep trouble from the start when scrum-half Efan Jones (brought down from RGC) crossed for Quins’ first try which full back Jac Wilson, proud owner of a 100 per cent goal-kicking record this season, converted and that set the pattern for the first-half.

Battered at the scrums, hard as they tried in other phases, Neath made little headway and Quins crossed for four further pre-interval scores from excellent skipper Tom Phillips, centre Josh Batcup, wing Kalum Evans and Jones again although their tally was directly assisted by a couple of strange decisions by the officials which aggrieved the home crowd.

 The immaculate boot of Wilson made it an embarrassing nil-35 at half-time and, if proof of Neath’s plight were needed, then a glance at the home bench would have revealed that the bulk of last year’s promotion-winning pack are not in action.

 Injuries and ‘retirements’ have hit Neath heavily and Sion Crocker, Tim Ryan (until he emerged as a second-half replacement second-row), Jon Barley, Owain Morgan and David Griggs were in residence spectating in the hot sunshine; several others were engaged elsewhere while Josh Clark and Matthew Davies have stood down.

Still, Neath came out in the second-half and at least showed more of a fight. The Blacks earned early reward when bustling centre Kieran Charles, often a threat, crossed and outside-half Kristian Jones converted. But Neath ambitiously over-played from the re-start leading to a try for the visitors by No.8 Lewys Millin.

 Neath continued to play though and, winning a greater share of the ball, they doubled their score when replacement Llewellyn Hawkes, on as an emergency full back, finished off a fine movement and Kristian Jones again converted.

 There was plenty of effort from all the forwards although they were generally out-gunned and Quins got another before the end when replacement hooker Sion Jones dabbed down for Wilson to make it seven out of seven.

 A hard day for all and Neath must lick their wounds and re-group ahead of Merthyr on Thursday in a televised fixture.

NEATH – A.Bramwell (L.Hawkes); J.Congreve, R.Evans (capt), K.Charles, J.Hutchings; K.Jones, E.Horgan (M.Griffiths); J.Powell (E.Hopkins), C.Morris (E.Kneath), G.W.Lloyd;

C.Arnold (T.Ryan), J.Blackmore (I.Jones); F.Barry (F.Kneath), M.Kneath, B.Williams (C.Sion)

CARMARTHEN QUINS –J.Wilson; C.Nott (I.Gwilliam), R.Davies, J.Batcup (H.Williams), K.Evans; C.Titcombe, E.Jones (R.Davies); S.O’Connor (I.James), T.Myhill (S.Jones), C.Allen (B.Leung); R.Bean, J.Helps; T.Phillips (capt) (C.Salmon), L.Millin (W.Icke), E.Leatherbarrow

Referee – Mr. G.Newman (Abergavenny)

Images courtesy of Dan Minto