Match Report: Bedwas 19-24 Neath

(Match report by Phill Lawrence)

Neath Rugby Supporters ClubOn the 100th Year Anniversay of World War I breaking out, it was appropriate that the men in Black, led forward by Generals Lee ‘Duck’ Evans and Gareth ‘Gravs’ Gravell, put a massive shift in the trenches of Bridge Field, Bedwas, to hold on where lesser sides would have folded – Like the Whites the week before, despite them leading 17-0 at one point.

It wasn’t all blood and guts and last ditch defending however, as Leon Ward and Tom James crossed to give the Gnoll Men a deserved 18-12 HT lead.

James Thomas, back at Fly Half, with his old mucker TJ inside him, gave Neath the lead with an early penalty against the wind on 6 minutes, but the disciplinary problems that have cost Neath points came about again, with the deadly Richard Powell landing penalties on 10, 20 and 24 minutes, for a 3-9 lead to the home side.

Then came a blast from the past, as on 29 minutes a flash back to the Lyn Jones days – A line out 30 metres out to Calum Davies at the back, caught then thrown to Tom James to burst through a gaping hole and nearly making it, before a deft off load to a grateful Leon Ward – the move took supporters back to those early ‘Duncan Dashes’ (Barry Williams to Gareth Llewellyn thrown down to Duncan Jones who scores! Simples!).

James Thomas was unlucky this time, but the weather had started to come in, and a well kicked penalty gave the men in black an 11-9 lead

Virtually straight from the kick off and another lineout thirty metres out – yet another break from Tom James – this time skirting around the back of the line out before straightening and sliding over in sheer delight. JT improved this one to give the Blacks a handy 18-9 lead, before Bedwas hauled in some of the deficit – Another 3 pointer from Dead-Eyed Powell, giving a Half Time Score of Bedwas 12-18 Neath

The Second Half got under way, but was punctuated with a lot of handling errors and frustration on both sides at getting good position, but making errors – knock ons, forward passes – the conditions beginning to deteriorate. James Thomas added another 3 pointer to stretch the lead back to 9 points at 12-21.

Bedwas then showed they could not be counted out, as former Neath back Elliot Jones ran from near his own 5 yard line and created space for Rory Budina – the Blues Academy product evading some weak tackling before dotting down and the ever reliable Powell adding the extras on the hour.

Then came the herculean defensive effort from Neath. With Mike Bermingham already on the sidelines nursing a three week injury to his shoulder, but battled on as long as he could, Roy Jones battled through, along with big Marc Jones, ‘Gezzy’ Gerwyn Price and Sion Crocker. The last ten minutes was a literal battle of the brawn up front but a couple of crucial knock-on’s by the Bridge Field men, allied to an inexplicable not straight put in at the scrum led ultimately to their downfall.

Referee Kelvin Shorte’s interpretation of the scrum was, by now being loudly questioned by the baying home support, and when the scrum went down again the natives begged for a penalty try, but a slip was ruled. Roy Jones stayed down for seemingly endless minutes with what looked a serious shoulder strain . At this point Referee Shorte called for uncontested scrums, as Gerwyn Price had to rejoin the fray – and health and safety dictates that you cannot run competitive scrums with two hookers and only one prop.

The locals were naturally furious as Tom James passed to a grateful James Thomas who walked the ball out of play to end a thriller.

Tempers flared at the end, and accusations of cheating from the home support were batted away with replies of ‘2 injured props – think of their safety’.

It may have been an unsatisfactory end to the game for some, but for the men in Black from the Gnoll, a lifeline in their fight for survival – especially given that Swansea missed a last gasp penalty to snatch a win over Bridgend, instead losing 13-14 – the winning Bridgend score coming from Ashleigh James – Former Neath hooker.

It is no onto back-to-back games against Pontypridd for Neath, this Wednesday and next Tuesday. They will no doubt still be ecstatic over winning their British and Irish Cup Quarter Final over the Cornish Pirates away from home, but let’s hope they have one eye on their SWALEC Cup Semi Final against Aberavon, as they seem to be clear at the top of the Table.

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