NEATH 24 points TREBANOS nil
Neath eased into the second round of the WRU National Cup with a 4-try victory over Trebanos whom they had beaten 23-7 away in the League just a week earlier.
In delightful September sunshine, the day’s biggest Cup crowd gathered at The Gnoll. The Blacks made nine changes in their starting line-up but, despite the re-shuffle, the home forwards picked up where they left off at Trebanos and were well on top throughout.
Neath were soon in front – off Jacob Blackmore’s line-out take, a neatly-worked move saw Neath drive their way to the line where No.8 Tomi Antozzi got his second try in successive weeks, Luke Griffiths converting. On 15 minutes, Neath repeated the trick and this time flanker David Griggs was the beneficiary as he claimed his fifth try of the season.
Trebanos fought hard to repel Neath but, under pressure, their penalty count was rising and outside-half Tom Dew was yellow-carded. As half-time approached, Neath bagged a third try when good running by the Neath backs and more grand forward work produced its reward in a third try for hooker Sion Crocker which winger Griffiths converted to make it 19-nil at the interval.
Trebanos started the second-half well but the Neath defence was up to the mark with prop Gareth Wyn Lloyd and flanker Ben Lukes making telling interventions. Having weathered the storm, Neath put together some threatening movements and should have added at least a couple more tries but that last pass eluded them.
As the replacements flowed, play became untidy with a lot of offside offences. Despite that, Neath tried to play and Griggs lost the ball with the line at his mercy while Luke Griffiths came desperately close too. Trebanos’ best opportunity came when a hopelessly off-side interception saw Callum Hall chase back for a last-gasp tackle but, eventually, the Blacks scored the best try of the game, splendid inter-passing paving the way for scrum-half Macauley Griffiths to glide over for Neath’s fourth try to complete the scoring for a well-deserved fifth consecutive victory.
The Neath pack once again took the honours, their heavy scrum presence, bolstered late on by a season’s debut for Ben Uphill, did them proud. Locks Jacob Blackmore and Rhys Morgan generated plenty of drive from the second row, the former’s line-out work being particularly effective, while it was good to see teenage open-sides Ben Lukes and Jon Hill getting a run and contributing to a strong forward performance. Behind them, Nicky Griffiths prompted well from scrum-half and, if the outer backs did not get too many opportunities, centre Matthew Pearce was a tower of strength, repeatedly making good ground and supplying a few of his trademark thumping tackles.
Obdurate Trebanos, well coached and full of spirit, were again well served by the hard-working Iwan Davies and Rhydian George in the back row, skipper Rhys Thomas also caught the eye while Tom Dew and Steff Lewis are accomplished performers behind.
For Neath, nilling the opposition in the Cup is not to be sniffed at and, on a weekend when Premiership sides Bridgend, Newport, Pontypridd, RGC and Swansea bit the dust, the Blacks will be hoping for a favourable draw in the second round. But first it is Ystrad Rhondda at The Gnoll in the League next Saturday (kick off 2.30pm)
NEATH – A.Bramwell (capt); L.Griffiths, B.Atkins (Jordan Rees), M.Pearce, S.Summers; C.Hall, N.Griffiths (M.Griffiths); G.W.Lloyd (B.Uphill), S.Crocker (Iestyn Jones), S.Jones (I.James); J.Blackmore (Ioan Jones), R.Morgan; D.Griggs, T.Antozzi (S.Malone), B.Lukes (J.Hill)
TREBANOS – J.Ferriman; K.Weightman, D.Skone, S.Lewis, R.Brunton; T.Dew, J.Weaver; C,Forshaw, R.Thomas (capt), D.Worth; E.Morgan, C.Michael; C.Warlow, I.Davies, R.George Repl. S.Griffiths, Rhodri Jones, A.Humphries, Robert Jones, G.Spalding, T.Wright, A.Macnamara, E.Gully
Referee – Mr. A.Parry (Pontypool)
Neath and Trebanos face the unusual prospect of squaring up to one another on two successive Saturdays when the Blacks play the Swansea Valley club in the National Cup at The Gnoll on Saturday (kick off – 2.30pm).
Last week, Neath won the League opener 23-7 but Neath are at pains to rule out any hint of complacency ahead of the Cup.
“The Cup is a one-off,” said forwards coach Andrew Howell, “and we need to be fully switched on for the challenge. Trebanos showed enough last week for us to realise that we will be punished if we do not perform.
“We controlled the game reasonably well but as a Team Management group we did not feel that it was anything like a good enough performance and we need to be sharper and more focussed on the task in hand.”
Coaches Patrick Horgan, Andrew Howell and Matthew Jones have shuffled their cards against a Trebanos side hell-bent on improving themselves too. Pat Horgan said, “We have made changes as 15 players will not see us through the season so it is important that we employ the full squad.
“Be clear, we are not giving people games – last week was probably not our strongest selection in any case – and the players who come in have earned their chance following the pre-season successes.
“The boys are aware of where we felt we under-performed last week and where we need to improve. Playing for Neath brings with it expectations and responsibilities and we need this squad to live up to them. Freshening up the side should give us the dynamism and explosiveness we need.”
Neath v Trebanos (Home) 2.30pm
15 Aaron Bramwell (captain); 14 Luke Griffiths, 13 Ben Atkins, 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 Sion Summers; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Nicky Griffiths; 1 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Jacob Blackmore, 5 Rhys Morgan; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements – 16 Ifan James, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Liam Tobias, 19 Ioan Jones, 20 Scott Malone, 21 Jon Hill, 22 Macauley Griffiths, 23 Jordan Rees, 24 Dan Guarneri