YSTRAD RHONDDA 20 NEATH 13
Neath paid the full penalty for wasting their chances and went down to defeat at Gelligaled Park to Ystrad Rhondda whose second-half turnaround proved enough for victory.
A century and more ago, Neath had many a difficult day in this neck of the woods against the likes of Ferndale, Llwynypia and Treorchy and the Blacks had this one marked down as one of their toughest away challenges of the season.
Despite the rains, the pitch was in surprisingly good condition and Neath opened strongly, excellent handling by backs and forwards paved the way for No.8 David Griggs to power over at the posts for Callum Hall to convert to give the visitors a lead which Hall soon extended to 10-nil with a penalty.
Ystrad hit back with a penalty of their own by outside-half Rhys Truelove but Neath, with their powerful scrum in the ascendancy and the back row of Griggs, Tomi Antozzi and Ben Lukes on the front foot, were going well and they really ought to have scored again but a woeful pass hit the deck rather than the player and cost them a score in the right corner – it was a decisive moment as it would have put the Blacks firmly in control.
A second Hall penalty nudged Neath further ahead at 13-3 but at least two further opportunities were wasted as the Blacks did not make the most of a lot of good approach work and they now had to face the gusting wind in the second-half.
Neath had enjoyed much the better of the first-half but Ystrad came out determined to make amends. Five minutes in, they cut the arrears when good hands created an overlap for Sion Summers, who played for Neath earlier in the season, to run in for a try which Truelove converted.
The Blacks went back on the attack but solid scrum ball was wasted on the 22 and Ystrad came away with some excellent play by forwards and backs and they got their reward when Neath’s defence went missing and man of the match Truelove crossed at the posts for their second try which he converted to put the home side in front for the first time.
Neath responded positively but lacked cohesion and Truelove’s second penalty made it 13-20. The Blacks threw the kitchen sink at Ystrad in the last five minutes but it came to nothing as the home defence held firm to take the honours from a hard-fought, evenly contested game played in ever-increasing rain.
Things don’t get easier for Neath next week as they entertain Pontypool who are very much in form if their 77-8 demolition of Ystalyfera is anything to go by. Kick off at The Gnoll is 2.30pm.and it will take a real backs to the wall effort from Neath if they are to compete with the League leaders.
NEATH – Jordan Rees; I.Morgan, A.Bramwell (capt), M.Pearce, J.Roberts; C.Hall (S.Court), M.Griffiths (N.Griffiths); G.W.Lloyd (B.Uphill), S.Crocker, S.Jones; R.Morgan, J.Barley; T. Antozzi, D.Griggs, B.Lukes (S.Malone)
YSTRAD RHONDDA – L.Dunning; C.Williams, A.Lewis, R.Howells (capt), S.Summers, R.Truelove, T.Davies (J.Foulkes); T.Foulkes, L.Wiggins, I.Hankins; M.Auger, L.Morris; M.Roderick, H.Connolly, T.Jevons
Referee -Mr. B.Porte (Cardiff)
Neath visit Ystrad Rhondda for the first time since 1989/90 at Gelligaled Park on Saturday (kick off 2.30pm)
Ystrad come into the game on the back of two fine away wins at Beddau (34-7) and Ystalyfera (12-8) and will be seeking to avenge Neath’s 29-19 win in an entertaining game at The Gnoll back in September.
Neath have earmarked this as one of their toughest challenges and the Blacks field a slightly more experienced side than that which defeated Trebanos 27-nil last weekend.
In the back division, skipper Aaron Bramwell fills in at centre for Sam Court who drops to the bench while Macauley Griffiths returns at scrum-half in place of Elis Horgan who had such a fine debut last week.
Forward changes see recalls for prop Gareth Wyn Lloyd and lock Jon Barley with Ben Uphill joining Iestyn Jones and Scott Malone on the bench.
Neath v Ystrad Rhondda (Away) 2.30pm
15 Jordan Rees; 14 Iestyn Morgan, 13 Aaron Bramwell (captain), 12 Matthew Pearce, 11 James Roberts; 10 Callum Hall, 9 Macauley Griffiths; 1 Gareth Wyn Lloyd, 2 Sion Crocker, 3 Steffan Jones; 4 Rhys Morgan, 5 Jon Barley; 6 Tomi Antozzi, 8 David Griggs, 7 Ben Lukes
Replacements – 16 Ben Uphill, 17 Iestyn Jones, 18 Scott Malone, 19 Nicky Griffiths, 20 Sam Court
Referee – Mr. Ben Porte (Cardiff)