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Match PreviewMatch Report
24 - 40 HT 24 - 21 Saturday 23rd March 2024 / 2:30pm Kick Off
Referee: Gareth Newman (Abergavenny)
Neath RFC

Neath RFC

Tries by Kieran Charles, Taine Morgan and Ryan Griffiths.

Conversions by Steff Williams (3).

Penalty by Steff Williams.

Pontypool RFC

Pontypool RFC

Tries by Joel Mahoney (2), Mike Herbert, Marcus Jones, Sam Scarfe and a penalty try.

Conversions by Matthew Jarvis (4).

24 - 40 HT 24 - 21 Saturday 23rd March 2024 / 2:30pm Kick Off
Indigo Premiership
Referee: Gareth Newman (Abergavenny)







Pooler pass tough test at Neath in securing a bonus-point victory

Neath and Pontypool have been old friends and traditional rivals for many years as matches between these two great clubs are always tough encounters and this Indigo Premiership match at The Lextan Gnoll was no exception, writes Ray Ruddick. The home side had a slender three point lead at the end of a keenly fought and tight first half but Pooler slowly got on top as the second period progressed, running out worthy winners in the end but Neath made it extremely difficult for their visitors.

Pontypool kicked off defending the clubhouse end of the ground on a fine and breezy Saturday afternoon. Neath made the better start and in the second minute Pooler were caught offside just outside their 22, 15 metres in from the home side’s left touchline and full back Steff Williams put his team into an early lead with a successful shot at goal (3-0). Four minutes later Pooler were in possession with play inside Neath’s half. Pooler went through the phases, building pressure, and the ball reached centre Joel Mahoney who went through a gap in the Neath defence and sprinted 25 metres to score a try, 10 metres in from the right corner. Outside half Matthew Jarvis converted with a fine kick (3-7). In the ninth minute Pontypool were penalised for not rolling away at a ruck, 35 metres from their goal line on Neath’s right but the kick at goal went wide. Three minutes later Pooler were again guilty of straying offside, 25 metres from their goal line in midfield and this time the attempt at goal struck an upright and bounced infield. With 16 minutes played home centre Kieran Charles cut through the Pooler defence to score a try under the posts, converted by Steff Williams to put Neath back in front (10-7).

The game changed in the 28th minute when from a powerful Pooler scrum near the Neath goal line, the home side were penalised. Pooler then opted for another scrum and the Welsh All Blacks transgressed again at a retreating scrum when the referee had no hesitation but to award Pontypool a penalty try (10-14). A melee then ensued between the two packs and, after the referee and his assistants conferred, Neath’s loose head prop Jack Powell received a straight red card for a punch to the face of an opponent. On the half hour mark Pontypool were applying pressure deep inside Neath’s 22 and, from a lineout and after several drives, visiting flanker Mike Herbert drove over, with the help of some of his fellow forwards, to score a try to the left of the posts. Matthew Jarvis added the extras (10-21).

Neath replied three minutes later when their number eight Taine Morgan went on a powerful run which split the Pooler defence and he scored a try near the posts. Steff Williams converted (17-21). In the 35th minute Pooler captain and number eight Scott Matthews was yellow carded for a deliberate offside getting in the way of a Neath attack inside Pooler’s 22. Then, shortly after and with half-time approaching, Neath went on the offensive and spread the ball left for wing Ryan Griffiths to dive over in the corner for a try which Steff Williams converted, assisted by the right upright (24-21). Just before the end of a tense and pulsating 40 minutes Joel Mahoney was sin-binned, on the advice of one of the assistant referees, for holding down a player on the ground, so Pontypool were down to 13 players. Half-time – Neath 24 Pontypool 21.

At the start of the second period, Pooler made a couple of changes when Dan Hill replaced Lewis Johnson in the second row and loose head prop Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths made way for Sam Cochrane, while in the 47th minute Marcus Jones took over from Amosa Nove on the left wing for the visitors. Three minutes later Pooler were on the attack and patiently went through the phases before the ball reached Joel Mahoney who, again found a gap in the Neath defence and glided over for the visitors’ bonus-point try near the posts. Matthew Jarvis added two points from the tee as Pooler regained the lead (24-28). In the 53rd minute Matthew Flanagan took over from Owain Leonard at scrum half for Pontypool and just after the hour mark Pooler hooker Peter Lloyd made way for Sam Scarfe.

After 65 minutes Pooler were in possession going forward in midfield on Neath’s 10-metre line. Play went left and the ball reached replacement wing Marcus Jones who had, a little earlier, taken a knock but managed to run it off, and he broke a tackle on his way to the line to touch down 5 metres in from the corner. Matthew Jarvis converted with another good kick (24-35). With just over ten minutes remaining Pontypool made a couple more replacements when tight head prop Kelvyn Williams was replaced by Marc Thomas and Adam Stratton took over from Mike Herbert in the back row. A couple of minutes later Pontypool’s final change was when Ben Moa came on for Callum Davies again in the back row. In the 78th minute there was a scrum on half-way and it went straight to ground. The referee determined that it was Neath’s tight head prop who deliberately collapsed it and was shown the yellow card so Neath finished the game with 13 players. In the fifth minute of injury time and with last play, Pooler were in possession and applying pressure deep inside Neath’s 22. Play switched to the blind side and Sam Scarfe, out on the right flank, received a pass as he scored his side’s sixth try of the afternoon close to the corner flag. The conversion attempt went wide. Final score – Neath 24 Pontypool 40.

Both sides contributed to an entertaining and enthralling encounter. It was always going to be an uphill struggle for Neath after the red card incident but they can be proud of their committed and tenacious performance. As for Pontypool, they must be happy with the win at a notoriously difficult venue but should look at their discipline, as they gave away many unforced penalties. Pooler’s defence in the first half was not good as they leaked three tries but it improved in the second period as the Welsh All Blacks failed to score after half-time. Pooler’s next game is on Easter Saturday 30 March when they welcome Bridgend to Pontypool Park, kick-off 2.30pm.

Neath: Steff Williams, Jon Bayliss, Sean Wilcox, Kieran Charles, Ryan Griffiths, Kristian Jones (captain), Gruff Williams, Jack Powell, Evan Kneath, Elis Hopkins, Matthew Davies, Cai Arnold, Jacob Blackmore, Jordan Evans and Taine Morgan. Replacements: Dylan Kelly, Mason Morgan, Tarek Dabeh, Ioan Jones, Gethin Tremlett, Ellis Lewis, Khalifa Al Muflahi and Louis Rees.

Neath scorers: Tries by Kieran Charles, Taine Morgan and Ryan Griffiths. Conversions by Steff Williams (3). Penalty by Steff Williams.

Pontypool: Matt Bancroft, Mathew Powell, Pat Lewis, Joel Mahoney, Amosa Nove (replaced by Marcus Jones), Matthew Jarvis, Owain Leonard (replaced by Matthew Flanagan), Dylan Kelleher-Griffiths (replaced by Sam Cochrane), Peter Lloyd (replaced by Sam Scarfe), Kelvyn Williams (replaced by Marc Thomas), Lewis Johnson (replaced by Dan Hill), Ashley Sweet, Mike Herbert (replaced by Adam Stratton), Callum Davies (replaced by Ben Moa) and Scott Matthews (captain).

Pontypool scorers: Tries by Joel Mahoney (2), Mike Herbert, Marcus Jones, Sam Scarfe and a penalty try. Conversions by Matthew Jarvis (4).

Referee: Mr Gareth Newman (Abergavenny)


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