NEATH 27 TATA STEEL 12
On a chilly afternoon at The Gnoll, Neath overcame Tata Steel in an entertaining, often untidy game to claim a fifth successive victory.
From the outset, both sides looked eager to move the ball on the perfect Gnoll surface. Neath opened the scoring when Jon Barley’s clean line-out take set up a forward drive from which fellow lock Jacob Blackmore powered over for the opening try. Outside-half Callum Hall converted but Tata were soon level when ex-Neath full back Geraint Llewellyn, playing on permit from Carmarthen Quins, crossed for a fine try for the visitors and outside half Mitchell Jones converted.
Gradually Neath put their game together and another strong forward surge produced a second try for prop Liam Tobias, Hall’s second conversion making it 14-7. With hooker Sion Crocker leading a good forward effort and the back row prominent, Neath were doing a lot of good work only to spoil it through lack of precision.
Tata Steel were working hard in defence and showing a readiness to counter but on 38 minutes the Blacks clicked and extended their lead with a splendid, well-constructed try by right winger Ben Atkins and shortly afterwards excellent late replacement referee Mr. Tom Spurrier (Barry) brought to an end an exciting first-half.
Leading 19-7, a series of errors made for a frustrating start to the second-half for Neath. Wrong options were taken, passes were spilled and it was all too inaccurate – in more forgiving days, it would probably have been put down to cold hands. Even when Tata were reduced to 14 men after scrum-half Macauley Griffiths was tripped off the ball as he supported a try-likely James Roberts run, the Blacks failed to add to their lead.
Indeed, Tata’s 14 men retained possession and produced some good attacks themselves before Neath made their pressure count. No.8 David Griggs made the running with a quickly taken penalty and lively flanker Jordan Coxley supported brilliantly before handing on to hungry winger James Roberts who sped over for the bonus point try.
Prop Gareth Wyn Lloyd joined the fray as replacement but was almost immediately returned to the touchline for killing the ball and the visitors cut the deficit to 26-12 when a good build-up and sure handling put winger Ryan Griffiths in at the corner.
But the Blacks were not to be denied and they launched another strong assault on the Tata line which held firm – illegally – and, to make the game absolutely safe, up stepped 18 year old outside-half Iestyn Morgan to register his first points for Neath with a penalty from in front of the posts.
That made it 27-12 which was a fair reflection of Neath’s authority but the team will not be entirely happy with their display as it was a bit of a “curate’s egg” – not all good – and they can and will need to improve when Narberth visit The Gnoll on December 28 as the Pembrokeshire club are breathing down their necks in the table.
Neath – A.Bramwell (capt); B.Atkins, Jarrad Rees, M.Pearce, J.Roberts; C.Hall (I.Morgan), M.Griffiths (N.Griffiths); B.Uphill (G.W.Lloyd), S.Crocker, (Iestyn Jones) L.Tobias; J.Blackmore, J.Barley; T.Antozzi, D.Griggs, J.Coxley (B.Lukes)
Tata Steel – G.Llewellyn; S.Pridgeon (I.Richards), A. Jiwa Walji, M.Williams, R.Griffiths; M.Jones (L.Humphreys), S.W.Davies; J.Powell (C.Jones), J.Kay (M.Lewis), N.Elworthy; O.Thompson (E.Budge), E.Herbert; O.Phillips, H.Thomas (capt), R.Lerwell
Referee – Mr. T.Spurrier (Cardiff)
We @neathsupporters would just like to thank everyone including Players, Officials and Supporters of @tatarugby who donated to the bring a toy charity.
These toys will go to children less fortunate than many at Christmas. Below is a quickly taken snap at the @NeathRugby v @tatarugby game.
Neath will be seeking their fifth consecutive win when they host Tata Steel at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm).
Tata Steel lost 10-45 at home to Cardiff Metropolitan but Neath are expecting a reaction as they are a better side than that one-off result suggests and have several quality players including many who have worn the Neath shirt in the past.
The Blacks starting line-up shows four changes with Ben Atkins, Macauley Griffiths, Sion Crocker and Jordan Coxleyreturning.
Neath v Tata Steel (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Ben Uphill, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Liam Tobias; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Jordan Coxley
Replacements : 16 Gareth Lloyd, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Ben Lukes, 19 Nicky Griffiths, 20 Iestyn Morgan