Neath set up a showdown with London Welsh after scraping to a 15-12 victory over local rivals Swansea. Despite a promising start the Welsh champions struggled in the second half against a spirited All Whites side.
The visitors enjoyed a perfect start to the match when a simple lineout move created a fluid backs move involving David Langdon, Gareth McCarthy and Luke Ford, who combined to send winger Kevin James over in the corner. Langdon missed with his conversion attempt. The opening 20 minutes were evenly fought with plenty of handling errors by both sides on a very slippery surface.
Breaks out of defence by McCarthy and Tom James were followed by an excellent touch finding kick by Langdon but Ben Fox took the resulting lineout and his side were able to clear. The visitors’ second try came after Langdon found Ford on an angled run with the centre powering through the middle to score. Langdon converted.
Swansea hit back when Phillip Tucker broke a tackle and sent Nicky Thomas on a run down the wing. The Neath defence crept offside and a quick tap penalty saw Paul John crash over for a try. Lloyd Thomas failed to convert. Failure to roll away in the tackle saw Luke Ford kick a simple three points for the visitors. Rhys Jones was given a warning for persistent offside and Langdon chipped to touch with the penalty only for his side to be turned over at the breakdown.
Half-time:- Swansea 5 Neath 15
The Whites started the second half on top and flanker David Blyth had a try disallowed after he was judged to be in front of replacement James Garland’s cross field kick. Rory Pitman was lucky to get away with a high tackle as referee Chris Sharp waved play on.
Pitman and Tucker sparked a dangerous attack for the home side but the ball was lost forward and Langdon was able to clear. The Swansea forwards began to dominate and mauled their way towards the try line only for ill-discipline to allow Neath some breathing space.
Rhys Jones and Pitman caused mayhem in the Neath defence but Garland dropped a pass close to the line. Moments later replacement prop Nicky Downs was sent to the sin-bin when he crept offside at the ruck.
With a man advantage the Whites pinned Neath inside their own twenty-two and the pressure soon told when Chris Shelmerdine fired out a scoring pass to Lloyd Thomas. Garland converted. However it was not to be for the Whites as Neath defended well in the closing stages to secure the victory that keeps their British and Irish Cup hopes alive.
Next up for Swansea is a home Swalec Cup tie against Bedwas while Neath travel to Sardis Road to take on league leaders Pontypridd.
Full time:- Swansea 12 Neath 15
Referee:- Chris Sharp
Tries:- John (32), L Thomas (69)
Cons:- Garland (70)
Tries:- K James (8), Ford (29)
Cons:- Langdon (30)
Pens:- Ford (36)
Man of the match:- Luke Ford
Swansea team:- 15 N Thomas (rep: J Garland 41) 14 Rhys Jones 13 L Hathaway 12 C Shelmerdine 11 N Harwood 10 L Thomas 9 P Tucker 1 Roy Jones (rep: L May 72) 2 P John (rep: A Rees 75) 3 W Taylor 4 B Fox 5 P Arnold 6 D Blyth (rep: B Lewis 48) 7 J Bija (rep: T Morgan 60) 8 R Pitman (rep: S Kiley 80)
Neath team:- 15 A Bramwell 14 K James 13 L Ford 12 G McCarthy 11 A Jenkins 10 D Langdon (rep: J Thomas 72) 9 T James (rep: C Morgans 64) 1 A Lott (rep: N Downs 53) 2 R Clancy (rep: G Price 53) 3 R Davies (rep: M Jones 77) 4 P Sidoli 5 M Collins 6 L Evans 7 A Whitney (rep: E Uzoigwe 64) 8 A Powell
By Paul Hopkins