Preview: Aberavon v Neath

Aberavon (6th – 48 points) welcome Neath (16th – 9 points) to the Talbot Athletic Ground in the traditional local derby in the Principality Premiership this Boxing Day, kick off 2:30pm.

Neath have had a troubled season that has been covered extensively in the media over the last few months. On the pitch, the Welsh All Blacks have won just one of their fourteen games this season, with them losing all seven of their games played away from the Gnoll.

Neath lost their first ten games of the season as they went down to RGC 1404, Bridgend, Cross Keys, Swansea, Ebbw Vale, Pontypridd, Merthyr, Llandovery, Newport and Carmarthen Quins. They did pick up try bonus points in their games against Cross Keys and Pontypridd, and losing bonus points in their matches against Bridgend, Cross Keys and Newport.

In the middle of November, the Welsh All Blacks recorded their first win of the season as they beat Bargoed 30 – 12 at the Gnoll.

Since then, Neath have lost three more games as they have gone down to Cardiff, Llanelli and, last weekend, Bridgend.

Looking at the Premiership, in “attack”, Neath have scored 16.2 points on average per game (ranked bottom) and 2.1 tries (ranked bottom). In “defence” they have conceded 39.4 points on average per game (ranked bottom) and 5.4 tries (ranked bottom). Aberavon have scored 23.9 points per game (ranked 7th) and 3.3 tries (ranked 6th), and conceded 19.7 points (ranked 6th) and 2.7 tries (ranked 8th).

Head-to-head, Aberavon and Neath have met each other 38 times in the Welsh National League with the All Blacks leading the series 25 – 12 with 1 game drawn. At the Talbot Athletic Ground, Neath lead 12 – 7, but Aberavon have won the last three clashes at the ground.

Looking back at the fixture from the 2007-08 season, the Wizards, playing with a strong wind to their backs, were 19 – 0 up at the end of the first quarter with Richard Carter, James Garland and Chris Morgans all scoring tries. Jamie Davies converted two. Neath hit back with a penalty try near the half hour mark when the Wizards had a player in the sin-bin. Arwel Thomas added the extras. Aberavon had the last word of the half with Davies kicking his only penalty of the afternoon to make the score 22 – 7 to the homeside at the interval.

Despite the visitors reducing the Wizards lead to 7 points by the 52nd minute thanks to an Andy Llewellyn try and penalty by Thomas, Aberavon scored their fourth try in the final quarter by Darryl Thomas. Davies added the extras. Late in the game, the Gnoll side had a consolation score from Matthew Nuthall, converted by Howard Thomas to make the score 29 – 22 to Aberavon.

The Wizards team that day was: James Garland; Richard Carter, Paul Bamsey, Liam Gadd, Steve Davies; Jamie Davies, Chris Morgans; Neil White (rep Mike Harris), Chris Wells (rep Marc Breeze), Paul Breeze (rep Lloyd Howell), Ian Moore (capt), Andrew Fisher (rep Chris Gittins), Darryl Thomas, Richard Morris, Chris Davies.

The referee for Saturday’s game is Rhys Jones, aided by Tom Spurrier and Simon Beard.

TEAM P W D L PF PA PTS
Merthyr 30 23 0 7 885 593 117
Cardiff 30 22 1 7 991 660 111
Pontypridd 30 22 0 8 1015 580 110
Llandovery 30 21 1 8 856 551 104
Ebbw Vale 30 20 1 9 762 594 95
Aberavon 30 18 2 10 698 603 90
Newport 30 17 2 11 759 700 88
Rygbi Gogledd Cymru 1404 30 14 1 15 852 650 85
Swansea 30 16 0 14 674 594 81
Carmarthen Quins 30 13 1 16 637 584 71
Bridgend Ravens 30 12 0 18 689 714 66
Llanelli 30 12 1 17 679 723 63
Bedwas 30 12 1 17 681 830 62
Cross Keys 30 5 1 24 586 1093 36
Bargoed 30 6 0 24 576 1003 35
Neath 30 1 0 29 406 1274 3