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Neath RFC

Neath battled to the end but went down to the better side as Cross Keys went top of the Premiership after this hard-fought win.

Pandy Park, the object of some criticism on BBC Radio this week, was passed fit for play and the two sides somehow managed to serve up reasonable entertainment on a swamp-like surface which suffered under torrential rains borne on a gale.

Keys had first use of the elements and dominated territorially as they made fewer mistakes than Neath. The home side took the lead ten minutes in when Dragons outside-half Geraint Rhys Jones landed a penalty but Neath withstood all else that Keys threw at them.

At least, they did until five minutes before halftime when Neath handed Keys the initiative by taking an unnecessary quick lineout throw. Keys gleefully turned over possession, retained it and the upshot was that No.8 Adam Powell drew full benefit from an advancing scrum to dab down for a try.

Trailing just nil-8 at the interval, Neath were very much in the game but, with the game inevitably confined largely to the forwards, the far heavier home pack came out on top and Keys were able to play in better areas than Neath had managed in the first-half and Jones extended their lead with his second penalty.

Every man jack in the Neath team gave everything and it was to their credit that Keys were denied a bonus point. Individuals should not be singled out for praise because everyone contributed to a dogged effort in the mud although it was good to see the first appearance of the season of lock Alex Humfrey as a second-half replacement and he soon made his presence felt.

Neath were swimming against the tide but they restricted Keys to just two second-half tries, the first a penalty try, and denied them the bonus point they would have fancied.

Indeed, Keys’ third try – a second for Powell, converted by Jones – came from the penultimate play and in between Neath scored arguably the best try of the game when winger Ian Ellis slid in on an Iwan Evans grubber which was not controlled by the home defence.

Ultimately Neath’s effort – and there was plenty of it – was not enough and the brutal fact is that, with half the League fixtures now complete, they have yet to record a Premiership win. In contrast, home supporters were celebrating at Cross Keys-on-Sea where the home side seized top spot.