Bedwas Battle In Vain Against Premier Leaders.
Bedwas 6, Neath 17. Premier Division Saturday 29 March 2008.
Report by Geoff Watkins, photography by Ian Lovell.
Played in torrential rain throughout, the result against runaway Premiership leaders who stiffened their team with Ospreys halfbacks Martin Roberts and Howard Thomas was disappointing for Bedwas. With Neath’s win built on three tries, the first early in the game when they took full advantage of a yellow card and piled over the line, and late in the game when Bedwas were too slow to clear the ball and a kick and chase gave them the try for a more respectable score- and the odds on losing point for Bedwas was gone. Their other try midway through the match was another mud bath pile over, but the hard grafting commitment and determination of the Bridge Field team never slackened and augurs well for the remaining hard matches ahead.
Bedwas coach Steve Law commented ‘We applied ourselves admirably today in atrocious conditions and were always in the game and certainly Neath had to fight all the way. The turning point came when Neath kicked away from their 22-metre line and kept on kicking to gain the touchdown. Neath played the difficult conditions better and scrum half Martin Roberts kicked tactically well throughout’
Neath coach Rowland Phillips commented ‘We have respect for a quality side like Bedwas and knew we had to get it spot on in what promised to be a close game and I was pleased with the way we controlled the ball and kept possession when necessary. We probably deserved the win but it was hard work and a good bounce back after our previous match defeat, a tough rehearsal for our next match against Cross Keys, another Gwent Club!’
Of the match itself, it didn’t just rain it hammered down, the Neath game plan evident from the start, to smash through repeatedly with their bigger, heavier forwards, but were often contained by a resilient and aggressive defence. Neath took full advantage when Bedwas lock Rhodri Edwards was sin-binned after six minutes and piled over with prop Martin Jones claiming the try, converted by outside half Howard Thomas. Bedwas, using similar tactics fought back and were rewarded when full back Stuart Thomas slotted a difficult penalty wide out and from a mud-patch. Bedwas flanker Phil Sargent came off with a cut head on 38 minutes, replaced by Andrew Tibbatts. Half time seeing Neath leading 7 points to 3.
Unbelievably the rain further intensified in the second period and in such conditions the pattern of play was as before with forwards and backs charging forward into solid, heavy tackling, but Neath again driving over the line in numbers for a try by big lock Martin Morgan. Stuart Thomas kicked his second penalty to reduce the deficit prompting Bedwas to make several substitutions with hooker Keiran Crawford, lock Adam Brown, and flanker Brendon Lampitt all coming after 51 minutes to replace Brian Edwards, Rhodri Edwards and Robert Downes. Andrew Tibbatts also coming on for a second time to replace Number 8 Neil Lewis. The rejuvenated Bedwas pack piling on the pressure but the streetwise Gnoll side did not throw the ball around, resorting to long kicks down field. Bedwas replaced prop Gareth Leonard with Dafydd Lewis after 60 minutes the crucial moment coming when a kick and chase over70 metres bought a try for Neath scrum half Martin Roberts on 63 minutes which was ultimately the match winning score. Bedwas replaced Stuart Thomas with Gareth Miles and scrum half James Pizey with Gareth Crothers (68 minutes) in a final attempt to get back into the game and again put the league leaders on the back foot but Neath’s well organised defence held out. A disappointing result for Bedwas who next play away against bottom of the table Maesteg on Saturday 5th April 2008 which could be a very difficult and a must win match for Bedwas.
Stuart Thomas, Scott Horner, Jason Tovey, Dai Atkins, Jimmy Norris, John Welch (captain), James Pizey, Gareth Leonard, Brian Edwards, Keiron Jenkins, Rhodri Edwards, Craig Powell, Phil Sargent, Robert Downes, Neil Lewis.
Dafydd Lewis (Leonard 60 minutes), Keiran Crawford (B. Edwards (51 mins), Adam Brown (R. Edwards 51 mins), Brendon Lampitt (Robert Downes 51 mins), Gareth Crothers (James Pizey 70 mins), Gareth Miles (Stuart Thomas 68 mins)