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Neath RFC

Neath were well beaten at Llandovery by last season’s Indigo Premiership champions who were intent upon regaining the leadership of this year’s table from Ebbw Vale – and did so with relative comfort.

Fortunately for the players and spectators including a healthy Neath following (now that really is ‘elite’ !), Zeus, the Greek god of rain, winds, thunder and lightening, took an afternoon nap, so this game went ahead in dry overhead conditions but the sward itself was wet and greasy.

Llandovery, champions last year, have been strengthened this by a bevy of Scarlets and ex-Llanelli men – Tomi Lewis, Gabriel McDonald, Macs Page, Harry Thomas and Edward Scragg are all full-time employees of their region while recruits like Harry Doel, Tailor Davies, Chris Long and Nathan Hart are no Premiership slouches either.

Having such an injection of regional talent will be the expectation of all clubs entering the new ‘elite’ concept planned for Welsh rugby and Llandovery were among the first to come out in favour of it – quite what it does for club independence, let alone financial viability and supporter attraction, is another matter.

Anyway, the game itself was scrappy on times and the result was never in doubt after home tries by flanker Jordan Evans and prop Berian Davies, both converted by outside-half Jack Maynard, had given Llandovery a 14-nil lead in as many minutes.

Neath scrapped hard again without ever winning enough ball to truly threaten and once more scorned the first of three highly kickable penalties in pursuit of tries – an admirable enough intention in itself but …

Still the Blacks did enough to keep Llandovery at bay until after the half hour when No.8 Joe Powell scored and Maynard converted to make it a comfortable 21-nil to the home side at the interval.

Half-time – Llandovery 21 points, Neath nil

The Blacks improved a little after the break and applied considerable pressure in the Llandovery 22 with some good close-knit driving.

Just when it seemed that the Llandovery defence would hold firm, the home side scrambled behind their own line and, from the resultant 5-metre scrum, Neath carved out an opportunity for captain Ryan Evans to slice through under the posts for outside-half Steff Williams to convert and make it 7-21.

Had those penalties been taken, the home side’s composure may have been shaken some more but, showing the hallmark of champions with their strong bench to the fore, Llandovery pounced for three more tries from centre Macs Page, a second for Neath man Jordan Evans and replacement Gabriel McDonald, Maynard converting the first.

They were back at the top of the table, Neath are at the other end – and simply must do better against RGC back at The Gnoll next week in a game which will kick off at  the usual 2.30pm.

LLANDOVERY – T.Lewis; H.Doel, M.Page, R.Jones, Aaron Warren; J.Maynard, D.Land; D.Dallavalle, H.Thomas, B.Watkins; J.Jones, E.Scragg; O.Davies, J.Powell, J.Evans  Repl. G.MacDonald, I.Hughes, L.Rees, J.Hughes, T.Davies, L.Green, C.Long, N.Hart

NEATH – L.Evans; L.Hawkes, R.Evans (capt), K.Jones, J.Roberts (S.Wilcox); S.Williams, C.Morgans (B.Wood); J.Powell (T.Ryan), C.Morris (S.Crocker), E.Hopkins (G.W.Lloyd); T.John (J.Blackmore), C.Arnold; O.Morgan, D.Griggs (M.Kneath), B.Williams (D.Ceredig)

Referee – Mr. E.Williams (Cardiff)

Images courtesy of Len Kowalski