NEATH rarely got out of first gear but reached the semi-final stage of the WRU Championship Cup with a 4-try win over Trebanos at The Gnoll.
The Gnoll was in tip-top condition after the previous week’s frosts and the home coaches had freshened up the team with some ten changes to that which started at Bargoed.
Although Trebanos showed intermittent glances of their capabilities, Neath were firmly on top throughout but there was far too much fudging and fumbling from the home side who scored two tries in each half.
After five minutes, hooker Josh Clark went over for the first try after a lineout drive but outside-half Steff Williams’ conversion attempt just missed.
The Blacks’ forwards were dominant against an over-worked Trebanos defence who conceded penalties rather than tries and they tested the tolerance of new referee Mr. Keith David (Cefn Cribbwr) before he sin-binned visiting hooker Jamie McCarthy.
Neath’s unrehearsed short penalty moves came to nothing but the pressure told when prop Jack Powell crossed for his first try of the season and Steff Williams converted.
Powell turned villain when he gave away a silly penalty on the stroke of halftime and Trebanos full back Willis Wood added the points to make it 12-3.
Play followed the same pattern in the second-half, Neath dominant in terms of territory and possession but unable to translate it into scoreboard points.
Flanker Elis Hopkins added Neath’s third try which Williams converted and, after a flurry of replacements including the welcome re-appearance of scrum-half Luc Jones, the game rather meandered towards its inevitable conclusion.
Replacement hooker Sion Crocker added his customary try – his 13th of the season – and young replacement outside-half Rhys Harris converted against his former club.
Crocker might have added another try – as should others have – as Neath squandered several chances against a Trebanos side who never gave up in an admirable defensive effort.
It was all rather subdued though – not cup rugby in its truest sense – and Neath know that the semi-final against Pontypool on March 25 will be a much more full-blooded affair and will of necessity demand a much more accurate and incisive approach.
Trebanos played to the very end and enhanced their popularity with knowledgeable Gnoll followers who look forward to their return for the league encounter.
Neath were well below par but can relax in the certainty that they are in that last four although any Cup thoughts must be set aside for now.
Next Friday there is an eve-of-international game against centenary-celebrating Penybanc in which the Blacks will look to test the rhythm of the squad … then the Blacks can concentrate fully on the Championship.
NEATH – J.Bayliss (A.Brew); J.Roberts, R.Evans (capt), S.Wilcox, L.Rees; S.Williams (R.Harris), M.Griffiths (L.Jones); J.Powell, J.Clark (S.Crocker), J.Thomas (G.W.Lloyd); J.Blackmore (S.Langford), M.Davies; E.Hopkins (D.Griggs), M.Kneath, O.Morgan
TREBANOS – W.Wood; J.Ferryman, G.Shepard, S.Lewis (capt), I.Lewis, S.Davies, Robert Jones; T.Crockett, J.McCarthy, D.Owens C.Arnold, J.Evans; Rhodri Jones, C.Loveys, C.Williams Repl. A.Humphreys, C.Thomas, I.Hildrup, K.Powell J.Jones, L.Jenkins, C.Quinn, S.Hawkins
Referee – Mr. K.David (Bridgend)
Images of Jack Powell courtesy of Len Kowalski www.lensworkphotography.co.uk