ABERAVON 36 NEATH 17
(from Howard Evans)
Aberavon took the five points, but the plaudits go to Neath RFC for not only putting out 23 players (at least 17 on permit), but for the way they played.
Neath not only scored three second-half tries and probably deserved a losing bonus point, but they tackled splendidly and finished the final quarter at great pace.
Aberavon were certainly not out to make it easy for their opponents and when home prop Jordan Walters was sent off after 46 minutes it brought Neath back into the game.
A few of the ‘Wizards’ will have ‘Must do better’ written on their end-of-year report, but Rhodri Cole and Stef Andrews were not in that category and up front it was good to see Ieuan Davies running freely and Andrew Waite was splendid.
Aberavon took 23 minutes before getting on the scoreboard when hooker Ieuan Davies went over for Chris Banfield to convert.
Davies repeated the act just six minutes later and lively No 8 Andrew Waite touched down the third after 32 minutes.
In the second half wing Frankie Jones scored the bonus try and replacement scrum half Iwan Temblett notched another, converted by Banfield to make it 29-0.
Neath would not die though and replacement lock Ioan Jones scored before there came the try of the season as Neath ran and passed the length of the field for skipper Aaron Bramwell to cross and Callum Hall converted. Wonderful backing up by all concerned.
It was now all Neath and wing James Roberts was in at the corner with just enough time left for Aberavon replacement back-rower Jacob Blackmore to score the sixth Aberavon try and Banfield to convert.
Aberavon head coach Jason Hyatt said: “Hats off to Neath they played and tackled as their lives depended on it.
“Of course, we hope they survive and they were probably helped by the sending off. If we had won by 99 points it would make no difference as we got the five points we wanted.
“With it being Christmas we did not prepare quite in the way we wanted, but credit to Neath.
“We all wish them well.”
Ieuan Davies could possibly have scored a third try in the opening half IF he had dummied the full back. “Yes, I might have got there,” agreed the popular hooker with a smile.
Aberavon 36 – 17 Neath
Chris Banfield; Frankie Jones, Will Price, Rheon James (rep Joe Gage 57 min), Stef Andrews; James Garland (capt) (rep Liam Popham 57 min), Rhodri Cole (rep Iwan Temblett 53 min); Jordan Walters, Ieuan Davies (rep Cameron Lewis 63 min), Chris Davies (rep Geraint James half-time), Luke Joseph, Rhodri Hughes, Lee Purnell (rep Rowan Jenkins 46 min, rep Chris Davies 80+4 min), Andrew Waite (rep Ashton Evans 80 min), Jac Morgan (rep Jacob Blackmore 59 min).
Frankie Jones, Jordan Walters & Iwan Temblett appeared from the Ospreys; Cameron Lewis appeared from the Blues.
T – Ieuan Davies (2), Andrew Waite, Frankie Jones, Iwan Temblett, Jacob Blackmore
C – Chris Banfield (3)
T – Ioan Jones, Aaron Bramwell, James Roberts
C – Callum Hall
Man Of The Match:
1 – Andrew Waite
2 – Chris Banfield
3 – Luke Joseph
23 min: Aberavon – T – Ieuan Davies & C – Chris Banfield (7 – 0)
29 min: Aberavon – T – Ieuan Davies (12 – 0)
32 min: Aberavon – T – Andrew Waite (17 – 0)
40+4 min: Half Time
44 min: Aberavon – Red Card – Jordan Walters
44 min: Neath – Yellow Card – Sion Crocker
52 min: Aberavon – T – Frankie Jones (22 – 0)
62 min: Aberavon – T – Iwan Temblett & C – Chris Banfield (29 – 0)
66 min: Neath – T – Ioan Jones (29 – 5)
70 min: Neath – T – Aaron Bramwell & C – Callum Hall (29 – 12)
80+4 min: Neath – T – James Roberts (29 – 17)
80+7 min: Aberavon – T – Jacob Blackmore & C – Chris Banfield (36 – 17)
80+8 min: Full Time