Neath edge out Wanderers in thriller
“Common sense prevailed and credit to Neath and the referee for making sure the game went ahead and the crowd were thoroughly entertained” commented head of Rugby Tony Murphy “players want to play, rugby was the winner today”.
“We fully understand where we are in our development. It’s a side full of youngsters but we showed today what the future could be if we stick together and get behind what everyone at the club is trying for. Neath weren’t going full tilt at the game but we certainly made them work for the victory” Added Martyn Fowler.
“Once again a makeshift back division showed so much potential with some impressive tries” backs coach Darren Gibbon added.
On a bright breezy afternoon at the Gnoll the home side were straight out of the blocks. Moving the ball wide they stretched the Wanderers defence and after a little grubber kick they caught the visitors a little flat footed and crossed for their first try 7-0. It appeared that some of the Wanderers were still getting off the bus when a lineout deep in the visitor’s territory resulted in the Neath second try after a well-executed catch and drive 14-0. It appeared the Wanderers faithful might be in for a long afternoon but the first scrum of the day changed things. As the set piece back peddled number 8 Mackenzie Martin picked up and broke blind. He fed fullback Amir Saleh who set off downfield. A lovely executed dummy bypassed the Neath defence and he raced away to score. Alex Lloyd slotted a touchline conversion and it was game on at 14-7. The visitors started to get into their stride relishing the chance to move the ball wide when possession allowed it. Tom Richards made huge ground into the home side 22 but despite decent recycling Neath defence held firm. The Wanderers were certainly getting dividends from the wide channels and they reduced the arrears even more from a break wide out. Richards raced away and managed to shrug off the attention of several defenders and despite being hauled down just short he wriggled clear and stretched out to score the Wanderers second try 14-12. Neath, stung by the threat now being posed, galvanised themselves reverting to a forward based approach where their advantage clearly sat. Establishing good field position, they drove hard at the Wanderers line but the defence dug deep and the young visitors kept them at bay. As the half entered its last quarter the Wanderers surprised the home faithful by taking the lead. Neath were on the attack but good midfield tackling resulted in the ball being spilled. Jamie Murray hacked the ball downfield and quickest on the chase was centre Josh Male. He gathered the ball just short of the line and, despite the close attention of the defenders, his momentum and power took him over. Score 14-17. The home side responded well. Taking the game back to the Wanderers they forced a penalty from the defence. Electing to take a lineout deep in Wanderers territory they went on a long and protracted close quarter drive which eventually crashed over for the Neath 3rd try and the side went into the break at 19-17.
The Wanderers made a few changes at the break and the early second half exchanges were all in favour of the home side. Chance after chance went begging as three unforced errors, when scores seemed inevitable, denied Neath a score and against the run of play the Wanderers struck. Another spilled ball gave the visitors a scrum and they sent the ball out wide to Murray. There seemed little room to manoeuvre but some lovely footwork and a wonderful sidestep put Murray away and once clear nothing could prevent him racing away to score the Wanderers 4th try. Lloyd added a touchline conversion 19-24. Once again Neath were forced to respond and once again their forwards provided the necessary score. A 4TH try put them back ahead 26-24 as they continued to dominate territory without putting the game to bed. A game which had already had plenty of surprises then threw in another. As Neath attacked out wide on the left Saleh intercepted a pass. As he raced clear the Wanderers faithful held their breath hoping the hamstring would hold out but their fears were unfounded as he galloped clear to score and the visitors were ahead again 24-31. The crowd were on the edge of their seats as the final minutes of the game played out. Neath reverted to what served them well all game and another drive from the forwards levelled the game up at 31-31. The Wanderers looked for one more chance but when a scrum ball was turned over on the visitors 22 Neath struck. A quickly taken penalty provided the chance and they crashed over for the winning try 38-31. The Wanderers did have one last chance to level it but the home side defence held on and Neath took an entertaining and deserved win 38-31.
Tries: Amir Saleh (2), Tom Richards, Jamie Murray, Josh Male
Cons: Alex Lloyd (3)
Management MOM: Alfie Llewellyn
Massiv MOM: Max Wootton