MATCH REPORT: NEATH 28 TREBANOS 12 – SATURDAY MARCH 25th 2023.
NEATH 28 points TREBANOS 12 points
NEATH recorded their 15th bonus point win in the league this season but, having settled the result five minutes into the second-half, they flattered to deceive against a game Trebanos side who never gave up and finished stronger.
Neath pressed the re-set button making 10 changes in the starting line-up for this game – second from top against second from bottom – and, playing with a blustery wind behind them, the All Blacks took an early lead.
Switching play from side to side with strong, direct interventions by centre Sion Wilcox and No.8 Morgan Kneath, scrum-half Macauley Griffiths dummied his way over for the opening try which outside-half Steff Williams improved upon for 7-nil.
The home side remained on top and powerful driving work by the Neath eight frequently had Trebanos back-pedalling. The All Blacks retained possession through the phases and, just as hooker Sion Crocker was poised to add to his impressive season’s try tally, the referee went under the posts for a penalty try and Neath’s lead was doubled to 14-nil.
Trebanos lost prop Jordan Walters, one of two Aberavon men on permit, to a yellow card but their back row of Cellan Michael, Cameron Loveys and Casey Williams got through a tremendous amount of work as Neath made most of the running.
Any away threats were soon extinguished by the “Black Wall” of defenders and, as half-time approached, Neath bagged their third try when a loose kick out of defence was gathered by safe full back Lewis Evans, the Blacks kept the ball with some good straight running before centre Ben Atkins broke and popped the ball up for winger Jon Bayliss to cross.
Steff Williams added the conversion points so it was 21-nil at the interval – one more try was needed for the bonus and Neath wasted little time in getting it !
The writing was on the wall for Trebanos once Neath established an attacking position on the 22. Sustained work by all the forwards softened up a determined defence, the ball was re-cycled repeatedly and eventually the All Blacks isolated a defender and Steff Williams was over for the fourth try which he converted himself to reach 198 points for the season.
At 28-nil it was almost game over but Neath disappointed in not pressing home. A nasty-looking injury to Crocker did not help although his replacement Evan Kneath played very well and Steff Williams also went off with as facial injury to be replaced by Rhys Harris who joined Neath from Trebanos.
It was not the young outside-half’s fault that for much of the rest of the game Neath lacked lustre. As the rain got heavier, both sides continued to show plenty of effort but there was little precision.
Neath had taken their foot off the gas and, as the game stuttered towards its conclusion, Trebanos made all the late running and their never-say-die enterprise brought them two well-deserved late scores by winger Iestyn Lewis – this a particularly fine score which earned generous applause from the home crowd – and hooker Connor Thomas, Willis Wood converting one.
In between, Neath lock Jon Barley was given a yellow card for off-side and his partner Ioan Jones was rewarded for an afternoon of productive lineout work and solid endeavour on a rare appearance with the Supporters’ Club man-of-the match award.
There was still time for visiting replacement Rhodri Jones to collect a red-card before one touch later the final whistle was sounded.
It was another five points in the bag for Neath which keeps them level with Pontypool and 11 points ahead of Bargoed – for now.
Next Saturday sees the semi-final of the WRU Championship Cup against Pontypool at Ebbw Vale RFC (2.30pm) … and the Blacks know that their game will need to go up several gears against the red-hot favourites.
NEATH – L.Evans; J.Bayliss (L.Jones), S.Wilcox, B.Atkins, R.Griffiths; S.Williams (R.Harris), M.Griffiths (L.Jones); J.Powell, S.Crocker (E.Kneath), T.Ryan (G.W. Lloyd); I.Jones, J.Barley; O.Morgan, M.Kneath (D.Griggs), C.Sion
TREBANOS – J.Ferriman; G.Sheppard, L.Jenkins (W.Wood), S.Lewis (capt), I.Lewis; F.Jones, Robert Jones (S.Hawkins); J.Walters (A.Humphreys), C.Thomas (J.McCarthy), A.Morgan; J.Evans, C.Arnold; C.Michael (Rhodri Jones), C.Loveys, C.Williams
Referee – Mr. A.Moule (Port Talbot)
Images courtesy of Len Kowalski www.lensworkphotography.co.uk