MATCH REPORT: NEATH v MAESTEG QUINS – 18th April 2023
NEATH 70 points MAESTEG HARLEQUINS nil
NEATH went back to joint top of the WRU Championship level on 89 points with Pontypool with a 10 converted tries to nil victory over Maesteg Quins at The Gnoll.
This was the third time of trying for this fixture following two postponements – the first falling to pre-Christmas frost and last week Storm Noah caused the delay.
This time there was another deluge – but of tries rather than precipitation.
Maesteg Quins have caused Neath more problems than most and had won both their previous encounters at The Gnoll but, fielding four permit-players due to injuries, they never looked like making it a treble as the Welsh All Blacks put them to the sword.
The Blacks were slow out of the blocks and it took them a quarter of an hour to register their first points but once they got started there was no stopping them.
Playing with the wind, Quins enjoyed an even opening and there was little sign of what was to come but, from the 15th minute when Neath loose head prop Gareth Lloyd popped over for the first try, Steff Williams (who did well in the build-up) converted and the stage was set at 7-nil.
Neath doubled their lead when Quins lost possession and quick hands and fine support running by fireman-flanker Fergus Kneath and scrum-half Luc Jones saw captain Ryan Evans cross on the right, Williams again converting for 14-nil.
Neath stepped up the pace and, with the home forwards driving towards the line, Quins flanker Jack Goodridge tried to stop the unstoppable and was yellow-carded as sound referee Mr. Simon Mills awarded a penalty try and it was 21-nil.
On the half-hour, Neath secured the bonus point when Steff Williams made a clean break to the posts and prop Tim Ryan steamed up in support and crashed over for the fourth try, Williams converting superbly into the wind.
It remained 28-nil at half-time with Neath in control but few could have expected such an explosive start to the second period.
Quins’ restart failed to go the distance; a scrum was set in the centre of the field and Steff Williams broke clean away, flanker Fergus Kneath was on hand and he raced 35 metres to score at the posts, Williams adding the points for 35-nil.
Spectacular as that score was, it had nothing on the next; from the kick-off, lock Matthew Davies gathered expertly, fed Fergus Kneath on his 10-metre line and, like the fireman he is racing to a blaze, the young flanker tore away to the posts again for an outrageous quick-fire double which Williams improved for 42-nil.
All it needed was an accompaniment of flashing blue lights and inevitably, Neath’s sixth score inspired the chants from the home crowd of “Neath, Neath, Neath” or was it “Kneath, Kneath, Kneath” ?
A flurry of replacements on both sides interrupted the flow and Quins, competitive at the tackle throughout, bravely put together a couple of promising attacks but the Neath defence was determined to repel them.
When Neath attacked, they were more clinical and the forwards continued to put in the hard graft in carving out tries for flanker Owain Morgan, converted by replacement outside-half Rhys Harris to make it 49-nil and then a popular score for fit-again hooker replacement Chris Morris who raised the half-century, young Harris converting and it was 56-nil.
To their credit, Quins forced a lineout near the Neath line but the throw was crooked, Neath had the scrum and excellent work off the back of it by No.8 Morgan Kneath sent winger James Roberts away and the speedster flew 65-metres along the right touchline to score at the other end, Harris goaling for 63-nil.
As the final whistle neared, Neath again opened up from deep and super combined play saw left winger Louis Rees scissors in for the tenth try and Rhys Harris converted to make it 70-nil.
All told, it was a pretty compelling display by Neath full of praiseworthy pace and commendable continuity; however, it was not without error amid quiet spells and Quins’ input was not rewarded on the scoreboard as they had the misfortune to run into a well focussed Neath team.
* Neath are without a game on Saturday which will give some of their injured men time to recover – backs Lewis Evans, Jon Bayliss, Llewellyn Hawkes and Aaron Bramwell and forwards Sion Crocker, Josh Clark, Jon Barley, Elis Hopkins, David Griggs and Carwyn Sion have realistic hopes of a speedy return… they will be needed as the season edges its way to its climax.
NEATH – A.Brew; J.Roberts, R.Evans (capt), S.Wilcox, L.Rees; S.Williams (R.Harris), L.Jones (N.Griffiths); G.W.Lloyd, E.Kneath (C.Morris), T.Ryan (J.Powell); I.Jones, M.Davies (J.Blackmore); O.Morgan, M.Kneath, F.Kneath
MAESTEG QUINS – O.Howe; A.Griffiths, B.Huntley, K.Jenkins, G.Evans; T.McGuckin, M.Roach; D.Milton-Harris, B.Baker-Rees, D.Ronan; S.Williams (capt), A.Evans; R.Jones, A.Healey, J.Goodridge (L.Williams) (R.Nicholls) (L.Tutt) (H.Morgan-Grant) (J.Sands)
Referee – Mr. S.Mills (Llanelli)
Images courtesy of Len Kowalski www.lensworkphotography.co.uk