NARBERTH 7 pts NEATH 38 pts
Neath continued their steady progress and made it a hat-trick of warm-up victories with this 6-try success at Narberth.
But the Blacks were made to work hard for the spoils before finally overcoming a determined home side who never gave up the chase.
Narberth have been the king-pins of Pembrokeshire rugby for many years. They finished runners-up to Pontypool in the Championship last year and should challenge again this year.
An appreciative crowd with a healthy All Black contingent greeted the teams on a windy afternoon and both sides enjoyed spells of early possession with the home back-row of Richie Rees, Sean Jenkins and Steff Phillips already tackling hard.
Neath opened the scoring by expertly using turnover ball for a fine try by centre Richard Smith carved out by full back Ed Howley who converted.
Neath’s scrum, although not as dominant as it was against Moseley, yielded the next try by No.8 Scott Hicks but Howley’s well struck kick was caught by the wind.
The All Blacks went further ahead when Smith took advantage of a huge hole in the home side’s defence to score at the posts and Howley converted for a 19-nil half-time lead.
Neath continued their merry advance in the second-half when they doubled their tally and the fourth try came after the ball was passed through several hands for scrum-half Scott Gibson to cross, Howley converting.
Both sides used their replacements and Narberth hit back with a deserved try by lock Jake Simm which Ianto Griffiths converted to bring it back to 26-7 and they might have scored again were it not for an unfortunate habit of passing into touch instead of to the wing.
But Neath soon re-established command – captain Jordan Collier was held up over the line, Smith was denied the hat-trick he deserved for a foot in touch-in-goal before Elis Hopkins smashed over, the assertive Iwan Evans adding the goal-points with a well-judged kick.
To cap things off Ystalyfera winger Luc Caines bagged the sixth ensuring that Neath can be satisfied with another sound team display although with more control the side can still improve.
The speedy back-line handled well and often with centre Matthew Pearce again putting in a full shift.
The forwards were eager and industrious and Neath seem to have unearthed two second rows of potential – Ryan Bean was everywhere and Matthew Davies produced another solid performance while young flankers Ceri White and Elis Hopkins showed to advantage.
Head Coach Gareth Llewellyn pronounced himself reasonably happy with the way things have gone so far for the Welsh All Blacks.
“We are re-establishing a hard, winning mentality and winning all three prep games was very gratifying in that regard.” he said, “But the serious stuff starts now. New recruits have come in and settled well and we need to be firing next week.”
Now Neath have a week of intensive preparation before next Saturday’s big Premier kick off against Swansea at The Gnoll (7.30pm).
NEATH – E.Howley; L.Caines, R.Smith, M.Pearce, G.Llewellyn (B.Atkins); G.Evans (I.Evans), C.Morgans (S.Gibson); N.White (B.Uphill), A.Morris (J.Davies), R.Thomas (G.James); R.Jones, R.Bean (M.Davies); J.Collier (capt), S.Hicks, C.White (E.Hopkins)
NARBERTH – J.Stephenson (J.Jenkins); L.Hutchings, K.Griffiths, D.Beech, G.Gibby; I.Griffiths, J.Rogers; B.Davies (L.Davies), D.Smith, D.Hobbs (Ryan Rees); J.Simm, R.Banner; Richie Rees, S.Jenkins, S.Phillips (D.Williams)
Referee – Mr. D. Phillips (Aberystwyth)
Neath visit Narberth on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm) for their third and final warm-up fixture.
Neath welcome back “late starters” full back Ed Howley, scrum half Chris Morgans, props Neil White and Ryan Thomas and No.8 Scott Hicks.
Also included is Ystalyfera wing Luc Caines who impressed against Neath a fortnight ago and who has made one Foster’s Cup appearance for the Club before.
Neath coach Gareth Llewellyn said, “Narberth will be another good tester for us – possibly the toughest – and another important step in our preparations before the Premiership kicks off.
“We were pleased with most areas of our win against Moseley last week and it is good to see the new players settling in. But we need to continue driving up our standards and perform consistently.”
Neath v Narberth
15 Ed Howley; 14 Luc Caines, 13 Richard Smith, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Geraint Llewellyn; 10 Gavin Evans, 9 Chris Morgans; 1 Neil White, 2 Aled Morris, 3 Ryan Thomas; 4 Rhys Jones, 5 Ryan Bean; 6 Jordan Collier (captain), 8 Scott Hicks, 7 Ceri White
Replacements From :- Ben Uphill, Joe Davies, Geraint James, Matthew Davies, Elis Hopkins, Scott Gibson, Iwan Evans, Ben Atkins, Dan Guarneri
** NEATH’s PREMIERSHIP season kicks off on Saturday August 26th at 7:30pm at The Gnoll vs Swansea RFC with further home games scheduled for September against RGC (9th) and Llanelli (23rd). Season tickets are still available and cover all home Premiership matches