Preview: Neath v Aberavon

Aberavon (6th – 78 points) travel to the Gnoll to take on Neath (16th – 3 points) in the Principality Premiership this Bank Holiday Monday, kick off 2:30pm.

The Welsh All Blacks have had a very difficult season and will be relegated from the Premiership at the end of this season. They have won just one of their twenty-six games, with that win coming at home against Bargoed.

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.

Then followed their 30 – 12 win over Bargoed in the middle of November.

Since then, the Gnoll side have lost fifteen straight, losing to Cardiff, Llanelli, Bridgend, Aberavon (17 – 36), Cross Keys, Swansea, Pontypridd, Merthyr, Bedwas (twice), Llandovery, Newport, RGC 1404, Carmarthen Quins and Bargoed. They’ve not picked up any bonus points during this period.

Looking at the Premiership, in “attack”, Neath have scored 14.1 points on average per game (ranked 16th) and 1.8 tries (ranked 16th). In “defence” they have conceded 39.5 points on average per game (ranked 16th) and 5.6 tries (ranked 16th). Aberavon have scored 22.8 points per game (ranked 8th) and 3.1 tries (ranked 7th), and conceded 19.1 points (ranked 5th) and 2.6 tries (ranked 7th).

Head-to-head, Aberavon and Neath have met each other 39 times in the Welsh National League with the All Blacks leading the series 25 – 13 with 1 game drawn. At the Gnoll, Neath lead 13 – 5 with 1 game drawn, but Aberavon have won the last two clashes at the ground.

Looking back to when the sides met at the ground four years ago, Aberavon won 20 – 15 but had to survive a final hectic last five minutes as Neath threw everything at them. Wizards outside half Cameron Clement opened the scoring with a penalty but Neath levelled from the boot of Clement’s opposite number James Thomas just two minutes later. The first try came after 17 minutes when left wing Stef Andrews crossed in the right corner with Clement converting. Clement added a drop goal before the interval to make the score 13 – 3 to the Wizards.

Joe Tomalin-Reeves had five minutes off with a bloodied nose early in the second half but after 51 minutes Neath scrum half Tom James made a superb run for hooker Sion Crocker, aided by his pack, to score with Thomas converting. Although Neath were defending well, Aberavon scrum half David Pritchard took possession behind his pack and sped over in the 74th minute and Clement added the conversion. The home side put in a storming finish and two minutes from time replacement centre Dean Howells scored as they went flat out for another try, but despite a fine effort to score, the Aberavon defence hung on to take the win with Pritchard kicking the ball safely to touch.

The Wizards team that day was: Joe Gage; Richard Carter, Will Price, David Evans (rep Morgan Williams), Stef Andrews; Cameron Clement, David Pritchard; Rowan Jenkins, Ieuan Davies, Andrew Clatworthy (rep Nicky Thomas), Ian Moore (capt), Ben Davies (rep Andrew Gwynne), Rob Dudley-Jones, Ben Thomas, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (rep Chris Davies).

The referee for Monday’s game is Aaron Parry, aided by Ben Breakspear and Colin Kirkhouse.

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