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Neath RFC

“Poor despised little Neath” served a timely reminder of the folly of the WRU’s ways with this fine win at the lavishly-provided base of the North Wales region.

Rain did not deter Neath and two tries by replacement hooker Chris Morris were the highlight as Neath cocked a snook at those who would do the Club down with victory over RGC on the long trek to Colwyn Bay.

In a closely-fought encounter, there was not much in it and RGC might have claimed it when the Blacks conceded a late penalty on the half-way line.

Fortunately home outside-half Dion Jones’ kick failed and justice was done as Neath held on to show that there is a lot of life in Wales’ oldest Club yet – no matter what WRU elitists might think.

Neath started well and saw plenty of ball in the opening quarter when only a knock on thwarted an early score.

Thankfully, they had a more than competent replacement available in Chris Morris and it was he who put Neath ahead with the afternoon’s opening try after a strong line-out drive and outside-half Steff Williams converted to pass his century of points of the season.

Williams and his opposite number Dion Jones, the ex-Scarlets man, both missed kicks at goal but RGC built their way back into the game and a try by prop Gareth Parry from a quick tap and outside-half Dion Jones’ conversion saw the scores levelled.

Neath were scrapping hard but the home side’s enterprise saw them take the lead when centre Delwyn Jones dabbed down and it was 12-7 at half-time.

The second-half was evenly fought as the Neath forwards stuck in the battle although they lost skipper Ryan Evans to a rare yellow card. But the Blacks were in determined mood – in the conditions, it would be unfair to single out any of the team and that goes for the replacements who played their full part too.

RGC had their chances but Neath’s defence was rock-solid and the Blacks turned the tables and regained the lead when their set-piece again produced the goods and school-teacher Chris Morris handed the home side a lesson in efficiency as he went over for his second try, this time replacement Kristian Jones adding the points and Neath were 14-12 in front.

However, RGC immediately countered when Dion Jones kicked a penalty to make it 14-15 before Neath’s strong scrummage helped produce a penalty which Kristian Jones calmly struck to put Neath in front again at 17-15.

As the excitement mounted, Neath supporters held their breath as RGC had one last chance when Neath, attempting to retain possession, held on and were penalised on half-way but the distance was too great and the Blacks emerged victorious for their first league success on the road this season.

Delighted skipper Ryan Evans was quick to praise his team-mates. He said, “We dug in for this one and it shows that when our set-piece works we are always in with a shout.”

In some ways, it was the perfect riposte to WRU meanderings and, with Merthyr reaching the Cup final at the expense of Swansea, it was certainly a day when the underdogs bit back.

New WRU chief executive Abi Tierney is apparently promising yet another “full strategic review” of the Game in Wales this summer. Honesty is called for and she should visit Neath for some down to earth opinions on where the Game has gone wrong and continues to err.

Leaving the Premiership’s most successful clubs outside in the cold does not bode well and most discerning Welsh rugby supporters – not only from Neath – would suggest she start by reversing the bizarre EDC decision.

Whatsoever, Neath will continue to knock down doors and next Saturday the Blacks make the far shorter trip to Bridgend (kick off 2.30pm).

RGC – C.Parry; A.Bagshaw, L.Williams, Delwyn Jones, D.Williams; Dion Jones, T.Ellis; G.Parry, J.Liney, J.Scott; R.McQueeney, I.Evans; D.Owen, S.Williams, E.Fackrell Repl. R.King, C.Hone, E.Say, T.Taylor, C.Probert, C.Francis-Roberts, S.Stoddard, S.Earl-Jones

NEATH – A.Bramwell; L.Rees, R.Evans (capt) (S.Wilcox), K.Charles, R.Griffiths; S.Williams (K.Jones), E.Lewis (G.Williams); J.Powell (M.Morgan), S.Crocker (C.Morris), T.Ryan; M.Davies, C.Arnold (E.Hopkins); J.Blackmore, M.Kneath, B.Williams (T.Morgan)

Images courtesy of Alan Skeates photography – click link below: