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Neath RFC

NEATH 16 points RGC 30 points

The loss of two key players – one a very serious leg injury to influential flanker Alun Jones – in the first five minutes marred Neath’s home match against RGC who ran out deserved winners at The Gnoll.

Both sides came into the game having won their opening encounters but, after Jones and centre Gavin Evans had been rendered hors de combat in the opening exchanges and Neath conceded two penalties for midfield offside, they fell behind to two kicks by visiting goal-kicker Jacob Botica – chip off the old block if ever there was one.

With two replacements on within five minutes, Neath struggled to get their game together. They countered midway through the half with a penalty of their own by outside-half Iwan Evans but RGC claimed the only try of the first 40 minutes when former Wales Under-20’s full back Afon Bagshaw slipped through a tackle to score at the posts for Botica to convert.

The Blacks enjoyed more than their share of the territory but they spilled the ball too often and could make little impression on a well-organised RGC defence. Neath fell further behind when they contrived to give away a penalty at a maul which they seemed to be controlling and the metronomic Botica stepped up to land his third penalty of the half.

It was 6-16 at half-time and things worsened in the second-half when hooker Sion Crocker (who had only just come on as a replacement for the ever-industrious Aled Morris) was yellow carded and RGC used the extra man to work winger Carwyn ap Myrddin free on the left, Botica converting, but Neath began to assert themselves and pulled back a dropped goal by Iwan Evans.

With a mightily improved scrum, Neath suddenly started to play as the teenage tear-aways Charlie Davies and Aled Cockwell began to make an impression alongside their equally as young centres Matthew Pearce and Keiran Williams.

Concerted pressure led to a try by replacement scrum-half Josh Guy which Ed Howley converted. At 16-23 Neath were back in it and, with visiting flanker Tim Gray in the bin, only last-ditch defence kept out the Blacks. Home hopes were briefly raised of at least a bonus point.

But it was not to be as Neath lost possession, RGC kicked through and Howley lost out in a chase to the line to Bagshaw who just about dabbed down short of the dead-ball line, Botica adding the points to settle it.

Coach Gareth Llewellyn did not dwell on the early injury disruptions, pointing to the fact that both young replacements did well in their stead. He said, “One win at Bargoed does not mean we are world-beaters all of a sudden. We are improving but it will take time and patience. We did not play well enough overall to deserve victory but it was pleasing to see a 100{2b3e04ec0b6eb92b9cdf5819b8d96bd58008016c6476931d41c44421e1531fdb} line-out return and the scrum getting stronger as the game went on and don’t forget we had five teenagers there today. We have big challenges ahead of us but that’s what it’s about at this level.”

Neath open their home season with a first-ever Welsh Premiership game against RGC 1404 at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).

The Welsh All Blacks opened their campaign – and upset the bookmakers’ odds – last week with a 13-10 win in a monsoon at Bargoed while the North Walians made their mark with a 20-3 success at Bridgend and sit atop the table on tries after the first week.

Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We were delighted to win at Bargoed and the score-line should probably have favoured us more. But one win does not make us super-heroes – we must follow it up with another. We are a young, developing group – there is a lot more to come and a win over RGC will mean a lot.

“This is the first opportunity for Neath to play at The Gnoll this season as our pre-season fixtures were geared to our opening league programme of 3 away matches in 4. We are expecting a big crowd with the Fair in Town too.

“RGC have some familiar names and are obviously no mugs having beaten Bridgend last week and last year they beat Aberavon in the Cup. We can take confidence from last week’s win – a repeat will set us up nicely.”

Scrum-half Chris Morgans had a splendid game last week and he will make his 100th appearances. Changes see Gareth Morris in at full back allowing Ed Howley to switch to wing while Neil White and Aled Morris are in the front row.

RGC are coached by former Wales wing Mark Jones who lives in Neath and their team has the much-travelled former Blacks prop Ross Davies in their ranks.

Neath v RGC (Home)
15 Gareth Morris; 14 Ed Howley, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Alec Jenkins; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Neil White, 2 Aled Morris, 3 Geraint James; 4 Leon Ward, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Charlie Davies, 7 Alun Jones

Replacements – 16 Matt Jeffreys, 17 Sion Crocker, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 Lyndon Bateman, 20 Aled Cockwell, 21 Josh Guy, 22 Dan Guarneri, 23 Matthew Pearce