RESULT: Neath 18 - Carmarthen Quins 15
Coming away with a losing bonus point from this match was scant reward following a determined performance by the Quins. Having taken the lead later on in the game, a desperate Neath passing bout gave their full back the opportunity to chase down a kick ahead to make the final vital score the denied the Quins the spoils.
The match was quickly rearranged and played away from home due to technical problems at the Park, but it’s confidently hoped that things will be in place for the next home game against Swansea on 16 September.
Back to Neath… Quins made seven changes following their previous match against Llanelli and the recalibrated squad opened strongly with Dan Jones slotting over a second minute penalty from 35 yards out. Once again the Quins stamped their authority on the line out, with Lee Taylor, Haydn Pugh and Lewys Millen in full control. The set piece proved up to the challenge against a heavier home eight and Ifan Beynon-Thomas was able to keep his backs busy.
The home side were bent on moving any ball that they won, and so the opening quarter was fast and furious, with plenty of quick tap penalties which kept the Quins defence on its toes. The Welsh All Blacks used the wind to save and make territory, including one upfield surge which saw their pack gain ground and Geraint James crash over the line to make the opening try, which was duly converted by Ed Howley.
On the half hour, Howley took his side into double figures with a penalty, but the Quins were quick to respond and drove play into the home 22. Having drawn most of the Neath defence into the action area, Beynon-Thomas took play left for Morgan Griffiths to do the rest and race over the line for a well-taken try in the corner, making the conversion too difficult for Dan Jones to land. The Quins were getting on top but impatience led to a slowed pace and the first half closed with the home side 10-8 ahead.
Early in the second half a powerful charge by the home side took play into the Quins 22 and Howley increased the Neath lead with a penalty. However the Quins could not convert their pressure into points, despite keeping play in the Neath half for long periods. Dan Jones showed his class with a 65 yard kick that found touch from within his own half, which took play up to the Neath line but again haste prevented a score.
The Quins pack looked the fitter and their efforts prevented the Welsh All Blacks from mounting any serious threat, as each onslaught was met with determined tackling. As the game went on it looked better for the Carmarthen side and, following a 30 yard penalty, Beynon-Thomas took a quick tap penalty, followed by a clever dash that took him through a bewildered Neath cover to score under the posts. Dan Jones made the conversion to give the Quins a deserved lead.
However, this was short-lived as the home side then threw everything in to their attack, and with the game deep into injury time, came a fortunate kick ahead for Howley to narrowly win the race to touch down. The Quins can consider themselves unlucky, as the headline read in ‘Wales on Sunday’ the next day: ‘Howley Steals it for Neath’.
However, several Quins players really stood out in this game and it will be interesting to watch their progress in their next match on 9 September when they travel to Aberavon for their next, eagerly awaited, encounter. Onwards and upwards.
Match report by Alan Bowen.