RESOLUTE BLACKS HOLD FIRM AS BRIDGEND FAIL TO BREACH
NEATH finally got a W on the board after outstanding defence during the last quarter, plus ten minutes of injury time.
Their first win of the Premiership season came at the tenth time of asking, as they battled back from a half-time deficit to defeat the battling Ravens, and in doing so, they lifted themselves off the foot of the table, to be replaced by Swansea. The rejuvenated Blacks are now just a spot behind Aberavon, albeit on points difference — and they face each other at The Gnoll on Boxing Day. Both Clubs have two games in hand on Bridgend.
The Home Club’s win was the perfect welcome back to the ground for coach Patrick Horgan, who left the club in the summer but is now working together with Neil Edwards in a bid to change the playing fortunes.
Despite playing into a strong wind, Neath went in front on 7 minutes when No. 8 Lee Evans sent wing Alec Jenkins over the line, following some slick handling from the home team.
With the wind at their backs, the visitors gradually began to get on top and took a narrow lead thanks to the boot of Ross Jones, who landed a drop-goal and a penalty, giving the Brewery Field Club a slender 5-6 advantage at the turn around.
After the break lead changed hands early in the second period, with Neath fly-half Dai Langdon kicking a penalty on 42 minutes, before Bridgend went back in front thanks to a try by scrum-half Chris Williams. The conversion was missed, but the lead proved to be short-lived.
Neath went in front again when, after a storming break, including runs from Newbridge product Aaron Pinches and Jenkins on the left wing, Centre Luke Williams crossed at the posts, on debut, for a try that Langdon converted.
The fly-half added another crucial penalty — the last score of the game – And not even a late yellow card to Josh Davies, coupled with the length of injury time that left everyone scratching their heads, could derail the Blacks as they held off surge after surge of Ravens attacks, and a knock on by Jamie Murphy, who ironically used to play with the South Wales Scorpions at The Gnoll, signaled the end of proceedings.
Neath now face a tough task against their old bitter rivals of Aberavon, and will hope to build on the positivity of Saturday.
(Match Report – Phil Lawrence)