Neath drew 15-15 with Doncaster Knights at the weekend
Neath clinched a dramatic draw against the English Championship's newest addition Doncaster Knights, in a thrilling encounter at a wet and wild Gnoll at the weekend.
It was the hosts that started the brighter in the opening ten minutes with good link up play between centres Dai Langdon and Lloyd Phillips, before open side flanker Calum Thomas supported the break to put Neath in striking distance of a try.
Doncaster infringed at the resulting ruck and and the boot of James Thomas gave Neath an early advantage. From that point onwards, the professional side slowly moved up the gears and they were soon in the lead. After several phases, fly half Jamie Lennard spotted space behind the Neath defence and his cute dink outfoxed the hosts' cover into winger Knights winger Tyson Lewis' safe arms. Dougie Flockhart added the extras.
Whereas Doncaster's first try was full of skill and guile, their second shortly after was one for the forwards. From a driving line out Neath were powerless to stop the visitors marching over with flanker Will Foden emerging with the ball.
If the first half belonged to the visitors, the second definitely belonged to their Welsh hosts. The Knights' discipline began to falter and with the Welsh weather producing its worst, it was Neath that began to dominate proceedings.
Following constant Neath pressure and foray and foray of attack into Doncaster's 22, three well struck penalties from the boot of Thomas drew the hosts level.
Flockhart and Thomas then traded kicks as the game went into the final ten locked at 15-15.
With Neath down to 14 players Clive Griffiths' side looked like they had stolen it at the death with winger Flockhart crossing, but he was adjudged to have put his foot in touch on the way to touching down.
Ultimately there were positives for both teams as they kicked off their 2014/15 pre-season campaign -Neath's Director of Rugby Rowland Phillips would have been impressed by his sides work ethic and scramble defence, while new signing Rhodri Cole at scrum half looked lively and posed a constant threat around the fringes.
For Clive Griffiths' Knights their sizeable backline caused a number of problems in the first half and their scrum was well on top throughout and perhaps Doncaster would have felt they had done enough to claim the win.
Neath Director of Rugby, Rowland Phillips, stated 'The game was an extremely useful exercise for us and I got a huge amount out of it in terms of seeing how much the players had taken on board in the last six weeks. We've worked a lot on defensive organization and attitude if you look at the two Doncaster tries, the first comes from a wicked bounce and the second a mix up in policy off a driving line out which is easily solved moving forward. Doncaster had a lot of possession in the first half and found it very hard to break us down so from that perspective I'm reasonably happy.'
'Individually there were good performances from some of the new faces in the squad such as Calum Thomas (man of the match), Rhodri Cole and Lloyd Phillips which suggests our recruitment over the summer has been good. We are going to learn more about these players and where we are as a team over the next few weeks and we have an even tougher encounter against Plymouth Albion this Saturday.'
'It was good to be back at the Gnoll, with quite a vocal crowd, chanting Neath, Neath, Neath and the atmosphere in the club house seems to be getting back to the old days. It's important that there is an even bigger crowd this Saturday, as the new players need to keep experiencing and understanding what it means to play for this Club.'
On Saturday Neath play host to another English Championship side with Plymouth Albion the visitors at the Gnoll while Doncaster have more Welsh opposition when Swansea visit Castle Park.
Saturday 16th August: Neath RFC v Plymouth Albion RFC, 6.30pm ko
Tuesday 19th August: Ospreys v Neath, Aberavon, Swansea & Bridgend, Gnoll, 7pm
Thursday 21st August: Neath RFC v Trebanos RFC, 7pm ko
A joint venture between the WRU and Admiral saw hundreds of children enjoy the Admiral Festival of Rugby held at the National Centre of Excellence at the weekend where Welsh internationals Sam Warburton, Scott Williams and Rob Evans were in attendance.
The WRU is searching for 12 new rugby development apprentices following a successful first year of its WRU Coach Core programme. Craig Duncan and Jess Hancock have flourished in the first year of the programme which has given them a real direction in their lives.
The WRU signed TV comedian Rhod Gilbert up to a 'Coaching Children Level 1' course before letting him loose on an U8s side at Whitland Junior Borderers - we went behind the scenes to film the making of 'Rhod Gilbert's Work Experience' see the results here.
Llandovery are aiming to make it three titles in a row in this year's Foster's National 7s being held at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday 28 August. Drovers assistant coach Simon Davies and Lee Rees assess their sides chances
A pioneering strength and conditioning programme has been delivered to more than 8000 boys and girls at hub schools throughout Wales this season, helping to develop stronger, more flexible athletes for rugby and other sports.
The last five years have been an emotional rollercoaster on and off the pitch for RGC1404. Promotion to the Principality Premiership was the culmination of five years of hard work and investment in North Wales. WRU TV caught up with prop Joe Simpson, who was one of the first intake of WRU North Wales Academy players in 2010.
Ebbw Vale captain Damien Hudd picked up the biggest accolade of the night at the 11th Principality Premiership Awards Evening held at Principality Stadium, after leading his side to the title for the first time.
Wales U20 captain Tom Phillips and performance psychologist Dr Rich Neil explain why spending three days at Monmouth RFC has further strengthened the togetherness of the squad ahead of the #WorldRugbyU20s
Merthyr were officially crowned champions of the SSE SWALEC Championship at Dowlais on Saturday where captain Andy Powell paid tribute to his side who have earned promotion to the Principality Premiership
WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips hosted the second meeting of the WRU Youth Board last weekend ahead of the Judgement Day IV regional double-header. Tthe board, made up of 15 under-21-year-olds from around Wales, heard presentations from head of participation Ryan Jones, policy and integrity manager Jeremy Rogers and national women's rugby manager Caroline Spanton, with Pro Rugby Wales CEO Mark Davies also on hand to hear the range of views aired.
With rugby sevens riding the crest of a wave on the back of the heroics of GB men in Rio, Wales assistant 7s coach Richie Pugh is dangling the carrot of Olympic selection for Tokyo in front of the teams taking part in next week's Foster's 7s at BT Cardiff Arms Park.
Developing the game in Wales and creating a stable and progressive environment for players of the future
Taking the grass roots game out across the length and breadth of the nation, the National Leagues are the focus of the community rugby in Wales
The National Cup, Plate and Bowl continue the legacy of the WRU Challenge Cup, culminating in a shot at glory at the Millennium Stadium
Women's Community Rugby embraces both the regional and community club game from Girls' Leagues through to the Women's Premier Division