MATCH REPORT: MERTHYR 31 NEATH 0 – 14th SEPTEMBER 2023
The presence of the S4C television cameras did not inspire Neath who slumped to their third league defeat at The Wern last Thursday.
In an error-strewn game, the bulky Merthyr forwards were always dominant and the result was decided before half-time which the home side reached 21 points to the good.
Fly-half Gareth Thompson converted tries midway through the half by centre Josh Lewis who cut through a couple of defenders and by hooker Dan Wall who applied the “Crocker” to a line-out drive.
And, on 27 minutes, they were awarded a penalty try when, having initially ordered a knock on to Neath, the referee received very poor advice from his clearly-confused assistant and mysteriously sin-binned poor Llewellyn Hawkes who was nowhere near the play … he is due an apology at least.
Cards ought only to be used in cases of absolute certainty; guessing is not good enough. Of course, reference to a TMO would have solved the mystery – the WRU provide a fourth official but oddly do not supply a TMO for such prestigious occasions !
Cases of mistaken identity do occur – for example, that time when Premier Neville Chamberlain mistook a certain Mr. Hitler for that nice chap from Berlin. Whatsoever, it was not the referee’s fault and, while nil-14 might have been retrievable (just), nil-21 was always going to be too much.
Still, despite their numerical deficiency, Neath tried to play through the mistakes and a Dafydd Howells cross-kick caused rare panic in the home defence and then on the stroke of half-time Neath were held up on the line and penalised.
Persistent precipitation on the plastic pitch posed problems for both sides but Neath challenged more in the second-half and frustrated Merthyr after Thompson had extended their lead with a penalty on 43 minutes.
Both sides had chances but lacked the finishing touch. Neath full back Lewis Evans sent back-rower Carwyn Sion heading towards the line where Merthyr offended but Neath’s penalty move retort smacked more of desperation than preparation.
Wall was denied a second “Crocker” before a cross-kick freed Dafydd Howells but his kick ahead was too heavy and it was not until the 77th minute that a relieved Merthyr clinched their bonus point when full back Ben Jones appeared from nowhere – VAR lines might have been useful ! – to latch onto a chip-kick and scored, Thompson again converting.
Lewis Evans had a fine game for Neath who again fought hard and their tackle-count was immense but, other than an improvement in the scrum where prop Christian Brook can be proud of his first game, the Blacks’ supporters had little to enthuse over.
S4C generously provided a montage of Neath mistakes post-match and it was not pretty ! Food for thought before the Blacks next see action – on Saturday, September 23 when Ebbw Vale visit in the Premiership Cup (kick off 2.30pm).
MERTHYR – B.Jones; A.Hoskins, M.Sieniawski, J.Lewis, L.Rowlands; G.Thompson, J.Soanes ((E.Lloyd); T.Hawkins (L.Jones), D.Wall (L.Wiggins), R.Lewis (D.Whiting); C.Locke, C.Bradbury; P.McBride (capt), B.Fry (S.Evans), L.Greggains (T.Davies)
NEATH – L.Evans; D.Howells, R.Evans (capt), K.Charles (J.Hutchings), L.Hawkes; K.Jones, M.Griffiths (C.Morgans); J.Powell (M.Thomas), E.Kneath (C.Morris), C.Brooke (T.Ryan); I.Jones, J.Blackmore (R.O’Connor); C.Sion, M.Kneath (B.Williams), F.Kneath (D.Ceredig)
Referee – Mr. S.Edwards (Swansea Valley)