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Neath RFC

Neath concluded their series of pre-season warm-up games with a second loss when they played near-neighbours Swansea in front of a healthy assembly of over 700 at The Lextan Gnoll on Thursday evening.

The Blacks, still experimenting especially up front where experienced regulars are missing for various reasons, produced an encouraging performance but there was no doubt that Swansea deserved the spoils.

Swansea took the lead with a try by hooker Jamie Cox which outside-half Rhys Jones converted and, after a good spell of play by Neath, the visitors doubled their lead when winger Will Mahoney crossed and the former Dragons outside-half Jones again converted.

Neath were hampered by the early loss of lock Ross O’Connor but the home pack began to knit together and two driving mauls off a line-out take by his replacement Jacob Blackmore led to a try by flanker Fergus Kneath and outside-half Kristian Jones added the conversion.

Neath continued to set the pace and had Swansea back-pedalling; full back Lewis Evans took a quick penalty, the forwards sustained the momentum and their close driving set up a second score for Fergus Kneath, Kristian Jones’ second conversion bringing the scores level at 14-14.

As half-time neared, Neath drove again as flanker Ben Williams – already looking like a Neath forward – made ground before Kristian Jones reacted quickest to a rebound and good handling freed winger Josh Congreve who burst through the last defenders to score wide out and it was 19-14 to Neath.

Half-time : Neath 19pts Swansea 14pts

Neath rather set the tone for the second-half when they failed to collect the re-start and their task was made all the more difficult when Blackmore rightly received a yellow-card for wilful obstruction from excellent referee Mr. Simon Mills.

Somehow, Neath continued to press and the Blacks extended their lead when Kristian Jones landed a penalty to make it 22-14 before visiting captain Callum Bowden pulled back a try which Rhys Jones converted and there was only a point in it at 22-21.

Both sides summoned their replacements and Swansea’s more experienced bench had the greater impact as they regained the lead via Mahoney’s second try to make it 22-26.

Neath were largely on the defensive and many a defiant tackle was put in but by now Swansea had too much fire-power and they struck for two late tries in the final three minutes, ex-regional man Matthew Aubrey converting the last two, his final kick signalling full time and the end of a very entertaining evening’s rugby.

The Blacks were cheered by the display of lively scrum-half Gruff Williams on his debut and several others did their prospects no harm at all as the coaches knuckle down to the task of settling the squad ahead of next week’s league opener at Aberavon (kick off 5.00pm).

NEATH – L.Evans; J.Congreve, J.Hutchings, B.Atkins, T.Weekley; K.Jones (capt), Gruff Williams; E.Hopkins, E.Kneath, T.Ryan; C.Arnold, R.O’Connor; B.Williams, F.Barry, F.Kneath   Repl. D.Howells, L.Rees, R.Evans, K.Charles, R.Griffiths, B.Wood, J.Powell, Garan Williams, C.Morris, C.Phillips, S.Langford, J.Blackmore, M.Kneath, G.Tremlett

SWANSEA – B.Wood; G.O.Rees, O.Knott, C.Woodall, W.Mahoney; R.Jones, G.J.Rees; E.Thompson, J.Cox, S.Jenkins; J.Baker, M.Dodd; D.Francis, J.Greaves, C.Bowden (capt)  Repl. H.James, M.Brown, M.Aubrey, B.Ley, F.Chapman, O.Thomas, K.Hire, L.Ashley, S.Richards

Referee – Mr. S.Mills (Llanelli)

Images courtesy of Len Kowalski