By: Paul Hopkins
Swansea’s miserable first phase of the Premiership concluded with a 13-17 defeat at Neath in a dour match at The Gnoll.
The result condemns the All Whites to bottom place before the league splits in two after Bargoed sneaked a win at home to Newport.
Swansea fly half Jac Wilson was handed a penalty chance in the opening five minutes when a mini break by scrum half Martin Luckwell forced the All Blacks’ defence to hold onto the man after the tackle. However, he missed his effort at goal.
When flanker Jack Perkins was penalised for diving over the top of a ruck, fly half Rory Morgan-Williams found touch on the twenty-two, but a forward pass by scrum half Josh Guy brought an end to the move.
Hooker Paul John ripped the ball out of the hands of flanker Aled Morris to send lock Tudor Hughes powering through the middle. Wilson attempted a drop goal, but referee Wayne Davies brought play back for a penalty after prop Neil White dived into a ruck off his feet. A long pause ensued while Davies spoke to the players of both teams, but finally Wilson kicked to the corner.
Perkins collected the lineout to send John charging forward, but Hughes was held up over the line.
Swansea were back on the attack when winger Andrew Claypole fielded a loose kick and sent Hughes charging upfield. Centre Ryan Evans found space out wide, but the home side repelled the attack. Then Wilson threw a clever inside pass to Claypole, who raced up to within five metres of the try line, but he became isolated and was turned over.
The visitors took the lead after 24 minutes through a Wilson penalty goal after Neath were guilty of a high tackle at the maul.
Winger Ed Howley was handed an opportunity to tie the score moments later after obstruction by the Whites at the restart, but his effort at goal drifted wide of the posts.
Lock John Barley took good lineout ball and sent centre Gavin Evans charging forward, catching the Swansea defence offside in midfield. This time Howley made no mistake with his effort at goal.
On the stroke of half time number eight Rory Gallagher peeled off a scrum and the Blacks’ pack were penalised for diving over the top of a ruck. Wilson added the three points.
Half-time:- Neath 3 Swansea 6
Swansea continued to stay on top after half time and Gallagher made a break, forcing Howley to hack the ball into touch. From the lineout, a superb delayed pass by Wilson found centre Jedd Evans, but he lost possession.
Neath winger Kristian Corbisiero made a break over half way and found White in support, but hooker Sion Crocker stepped into touch.
Luckwell threw a well-timed long pass out to Claypole, who raced deep inside the Neath twenty-two, with White forced offside at the breakdown. However, Wilson hit the post with the penalty.
Replacement flanker Adam Thresher charged down a poor clearance kick by substitute scrum half Chris Morgans, but the supporting full back Josh Jones was crowded out into touch.
Centre Matthew Pearce threatened to break through the Swansea defence but he failed to spot an overlap out wide.
Morris stole a lineout for the All Blacks and full back Dan Guarneri chipped ahead only for Jedd Evans to spill the ball forward. Jones managed to track back though to save a try.
A clever grubber kick by Morgans caught replacement scrum half Rhodri Wells behind his own line, forcing him to touch down. The visitors’ scrum was then forced to retreat and Morgans fired a simple pass to Pearce, who touched down under the posts. Howley converted.
The home side claimed their second try of the match when an attempted clearance was charged down by Howley, who regathered to score. He also converted.
With three minutes of normal time remaining, flanker Jordan Collier was shown a yellow card for preventing Wells from taking a quick penalty.
The Whites gave themselves a chance when Ryan Evans made a break into the twenty-two, with lock Gavin Ronan helping to create an attacking platform. Wilson dummied his way up to the line, before the backs got the ball out wide for Ryan Evans to score. Wilson converted.
It was too little too late though as the Neath pack managed to control the remaining minutes to claim only their fourth victory of the season, condemning the All Whites to bottom place.
Next up for Neath is a home match against Aberavon, while Swansea host Llanelli – both in the Fosters Cup.
Full-time:- Neath 17 Swansea 13
Tries:- Matthew Pearce (70), Ed Howley (74)
Cons:- Ed Howley (71, 75)
Pens:- Ed Howley (30)
Yellow cards:- Jordan Collier (78)
Tries:- Ryan Evans (80+1)
Cons:- Jac Wilson (80+2)
Pens:- Jac Wilson (24, 40+2)
Venue:- The Gnoll, Neath
Referee:- Wayne Davies
Weather:- Cloudy, 10C
Man of the match:- Matthew Pearce
15 Dan Guarneri
14 Ed Howley
13 Matthew Pearce
12 Gavin Evans
11 Kristian Corbisiero (rep: Geraint Llewellyn 80)
10 Rory Morgan-Williams
9 Josh Guy (rep: Chris Morgans 45)
1 Neil White (rep: Ben Uphill 51)
2 Sion Crocker (rep: Ifan Phillips 59)
3 Ryan Thomas (rep: Geraint James 59)
4 Rhys Jones (rep: Lyndon Bateman 51)
5 John Barley
6 Jordan Collier ©
7 Aled Morris
8 Leon Ward (rep: Tom Hayward 75)
16 Ifan Phillips
17 Ben Uphill
18 Geraint James
19 Lyndon Bateman
20 Tom Hayward
21 Elis Hopkins
22 Chris Morgans
23 Geraint Llewellyn
15 Josh Jones
14 Andrew Claypole
13 Ryan Evans
12 Jedd Evans
11 Richard Williams (rep: Ewan Gully 78)
10 Jac Wilson
9 Martin Luckwell (rep: Rhodri Wells 59)
1 Richard Murphy
2 Paul John (rep: Ricky Guest 30)
3 Mitchell Walsh (rep: Sam Martin 62)
4 Jay Williams (rep: Gavin Ronan 71)
5 Tudor Hughes
6 Jon Vaughan © (rep: Adam Thresher 41)
7 Jack Perkins
8 Rory Gallagher
16 Ricky Guest
17 Lewys Jonathan
18 Sam Martin
19 Gavin Ronan
20 Adam Thresher
21 Rhodri Wells
22 Rory Garrett
23 Ewan Gully