MATCH REPORT: GLAMORGAN WANDERERS 17 points NEATH 45 points – SAT’ 6TH MAY 2023
NEATH took a significant step towards their season’s goal with a comfortable, if somewhat untidy, 7-try success at Glamorgan Wanderers.
The Blacks have occasionally come unstuck at the Memorial Ground which was in excellent condition despite the downpours beforehand and the Blacks were soon into their stride, retaining and re-cycling possession from the first whistle.
The rains had given way to regal sunshine – weather fit for a new King’s coronation – and, just four minutes in, the visitors took the lead when a series of forward surges saw flying flanker Fergus Kneath flash over at the posts for outside-half Steff Williams to convert and the Blacks were on their way at 7-nil.
But the home side responded immediately – as would be expected from a side coached by ex-Neath and Wales legend Gareth Llewellyn, they have an organised lineout and, hitting the corner from a penalty, prop Max Surry drove over and it was 7-5.
Such effrontery provoked the Neath pack to flex their muscles and, in the 19th minute, a devastating driving maul took them from the 22 metre line to the try-line where fit-again hooker Sion Crocker dabbed down – appropriately for his 19th try of the season.
Wanderers missed a penalty but five minutes later Neath were at it again, captain and centre Ryan Evans taking full advantage of a Wanderers’ spillage in midfield to notch Neath’s third try which Steff Williams converted and it was 19-5.
As the afternoon sunshine warmed up so did Neath and, on the half-hour mark, flanker Owain Morgan won line-out possession and the Black pack surged onwards in search of another score.
Crocker was again the beneficiary as he pounced for his 20th try of the season which brought the bonus point and Steff Williams added the two points to make it 26-5.
Wanderers continued to attempt to play but they fell further behind when Neath used their forwards to execute the “softening-up” before spreading the ball, Williams’ long pass finding wing Ryan Griffiths who touched down for Neath’s fifth score which made it 31-5 at the interval – not perfect but good enough, reflected Gnoll supporters.
Neath started the second-half with a bang as they kept the oval and spread play right, left and, after a sally at the posts, right again where 18 year old winger Llewellyn Hawkes wrong-footed his man to score in the corner and Steff Williams converted superbly from the touchline.
The score was now 38-5 and both sides started to use their replacements. With the game in the bag, Neath took their foot off the gas and, instead, it was Wanderers who seized the initiative.
Neath appeared to have stolen possession only for the home side to come away via alert scrum-half Gruff Tough and he fed on to outside-half Tom Taylor who raced away to score and it was 38-10.
Five minutes later, Wanderers repeated the dose – Neath appeared to have stood up a maul but play continued and prop Surry burst away untouched for his second try, Wanderers’ third, and Taylor’s conversion made it 38-17.
In an untidy final quarter, not helped by the Wanderers’ 15-men going to uncontested scrums, Neath were rarely troubled but could not find their rhythm and centre Sean Wilcox in particular excelled in sweeping up others’ slackness.
Neath had opportunities but their ball-placement and clearing out at the tackle was often poor and consequently they lacked continuity as home flanker Alfie Llewellyn led an always enthusiastic Wanderers defence.
It was not until the closing minutes that the Neath forwards re-asserted themselves to provide a try by replacement No.8 David Griggs which Steff Williams converted and referee Mr. Ian Davies (Porthcawl), unobtrusively in charge throughout, halted matters promptly to end an entertaining encounter.
Wanderers can take heart from restricting Neath to 14-12 in the second-half but the real value of Neath’s win came after the final whistle when news came through that Ystrad Rhondda had beaten Bargoed.
That puts Neath in second place on 99 points, 10 points behind Pontypool who are now promoted – and 10 points will be enough for Neath to be promoted too !
There will be no coronation yet ! – but the Blacks have the opportunity to take a significant step on Wednesday evening when old rivals Cross Keys visit The Gnoll (kick off 7.15pm).
GLAM. WAND – T.Weekley; I.Cooper, D.Stancombe, R.Nunes, M.Williams; T.Taylor, G.Tough; M.Surry, M.Hughes, O.Hatherill; H.Thomas, S.O’Rourke; W.Jameson, M.Wooton (vapt), A.Llewellyn Repl. (all used) – J.Beynon, W.Adams-Jones, J.Ashcroft, C.Grocutt, R.Weston
NEATH – L.Evans; L.Hawkes, R.Evans (capt), S.Wilcox, R.Griffiths; S.Williams, L.Jones (N.Griffiths); M.Thomas, S.Crocker (E.Kneath), T.Ryan (J.Powell); I.Jones, J.Barley; O.Morgan, M.Kneath (D.Griggs), F.Kneath (C.Sion)
WRU CHAMPIONSHIP LEADERS
P W D L FOR AGST POINTS
Pontypool 22 22 0 0 1073 232 109
Neath 22 19 0 3 851 316 99
Bargoed 24 20 0 4 809 378 98
IMAGES – courtesy of GWRFC Pics