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
This week on the Principality Premiership Podcast, WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie talks to Carmarthen Quins head coach Louie Tonkin who is aiming to close the gap on leading duo, Pontypridd and Ebbw Vale, with victory against Bridgend tomorrow.
Christmas has come early at Glynneath rugby club, one of a number around Wales who have received an array of merchandise and equipment this December courtesy of the Welsh Rugby Union's £750,000 participation points scheme.
The WRU have been delivering on the scheme - which gives individual clubs access to up to £5,000 worth of supplies and equipment each for the 2014/2015 season - over the last two weeks and today (Friday) were received by a special guest in Glynneath, club president and pitch marker Max Boyce.
The Welsh Rugby Union has signed a new four year deal with specialist equipment supplier Rhino Rugby, which is set to benefit both the grass roots game in Wales and the national squad in equal measure.
We watch the new grass growing and being stitched together in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We speak to Millennium Stadium groundsman Lee Evans, Wales great Ieuan Evans gives an overview on the new strategy announced by head of rugby Josh Lewsey, while we also hear from Bedwas, Aberavon and Carmarthen Quins in the Principality Premiership.
Having just secured a top place finish in the Principality Premiership, Pontypridd are given no time to rest on their laurels as they face a tough away trip to face Cross Keys on Saturday at Pandy Park (KO 2:30pm).