LLANELLI 15 NEATH 13
Neath’s indiscipline – in a technical sense not a dirty one – cost them this game as they went down to a narrow defeat at Parc-y-Scarlets.
The tone was set early on as Neath conceded two early penalties which outside-half Billy McBryde gratefully kicked to put the home side 6-nil up.
Neath nearly carved out an opportunity running from deep but lively winger Geraint Llewellyn was recalled for a forward pass – seen by the touch-judge but by few others in the ground.
Neath gradually hauled themselves into the game as their forwards got on top, scrummaging strongly once again and full back Ed Howley pulled back a penalty for Neath.
Scrum-half Scott Gibson made a smart blind-side dash and pursuit of his own kick but Llanelli just managed to cover it. Then flanker Rhys Jones nearly scored from a charge-down.
Nearing the half-hour, Neath went in front when No.8 Leon Ward crossed from a pushover try and Howley’s conversion made it 10-6 to the Blacks but the full back missed with a long-range penalty attempt on the stroke of half-time.
Llanelli had rarely threatened the Neath line and the half-time message from the coaches must have been to cut out the penalties to win the game.
Unfortunately the message fell on deaf years because within eight minutes of the interval Llanelli were back in front at 12-10 after McBryde kicked two more penalties.
With Sion Crocker, Ryan Thomas and Matthew Davies making the yards, Neath nosed ahead again on the hour when Howley landed his second penalty of the evening only for McBryde to strike again with 15 minutes remaining.
And that was how it stayed : the Blacks looked the more likely to score but they were unable to sustain possession for long enough and Llanelli held on to win.
LLANELLI – K.Evans (J.Newman); M.Jenkins, K.Griffiths (R.Davies), O.Reyland, T.Rogers; W.McBryde, G.George (M.Flanagan); D.Phillips (C.Jenkins), C.Thomas (D.Jones), B.Leung (T.Kaijaks); C.Long (capt), B.Morgan (J.Simm); J.Davies (A.Hyndman), N.Hart, D.Davis
NEATH – E.Howley; M.Evans (J.Roberts), R.Smith, G.Evans (capt) (M.Pearce) G.Llewellyn; I.Evans, S.Gibson (C.Morgans); N.White (L.Tobias),S.Crocker, G.James (R.Thomas); M.Davies , J.Barley; R.Jones, L.Ward, R.Bean (C.White)
Referee – Mr. J.Bessant (Bridgend)
Neath travel to play Llanelli at Parc-y-Scarlets on Friday (kick off 7.15pm) seeking to build on last week’s overdue success against Llandovery.
For the first time in months, Neath did not add any fresh injury problems to their roster and consequently there is only one change in the starting line-up where Scott Gibson takes over from Chris Morgans at scrum-half while David Griggs and James Roberts return on the replacements’ bench.
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “We were pleased to get the win against Llandovery last week when we showed the tougher edge we have been seeking.
“Our attacking play has been good – we have runners who threaten from anywhere and are averaging three tries per game exactly the same as RGC and Carmarthen Quins who occupy the top two places.
“We are asking largely the same group of players to show they can do it again because consistent achievement is what it is about.
“Llanelli had a good win themselves against Bridgend and we know it will take an even bigger effort this week as wins at Parc-y-Scarlets are earned the hard way.”
Neath v Llanelli (Away)
15 Ed Howley; 14 Mike Evans, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Gavin Evans (captain), 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Iwan Evans, 9 Scott Gibson; 1 Neil White, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Geraint James; 4 Matthew Davies, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Rhys Jones, 8 Leon Ward, 7 Ryan Bean
Replacements :- 16 Liam Tobias, 17 Jordan Hawkins, 18 Ryan Thomas, 19 David Griggs, 20 Ceri White, 21 Chris Morgans, 22 Matthew Pearce, 23 James Roberts