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
The annual Women's club launch was held at the Wales Centre of Excellence where National Women's Head Coach and Programme Lead Rhys Edwards, Competition Secretary Adrian Howell and Cardiff Met player Ffion Jones express eagerness for the new campaign to get under way.
Plenty of award winners in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast.Dragons centre Tyler Morgan wins one of the top awards for up and coming talent with the SportingWales Rising Stars 2015 award. Scarlets and Wales outside half Hannah Jones is one of the runners-up. We also he from community clubs as the season approaches and Principality Premiership unsung hero Ron Taylor of Ebbw Vale.
Actor and Millennium Stadium Tour Guide Gareth Bale has been performing his one-man play about Wales rugby legend Ray Gravell across Wales. He chats to WRU TV before taking his show to the Edinburgh Festival.
After widespread consultation, the WRU has made major changes to its pathway programme for girls rugby with a spring and summer season being introduced with immediate effect in order to respond to a clear demand to play the game.
The Webb Ellis Cup visited Lampeter on Monday to recognise the fact that the town is celebrating a major milestone as it is believed the first ever game of rugby played in Wales, was in fact played in Lampeter 150 years ago.
We cover the big news the 2017 Champions League Final will be coming to the Millennium Stadium, in this week's Principality Welsh Rugby Union Podcast. We hear from FAW chief executive Jonathan Ford, First Minister Carwyn Jones and WRU group chief executive Roger Lewis. Wales coach Warren Gatland describes their high altitude training in Switzerland, national match officials manager Nigel Whitehouse talks about the community coaches and referees conference, while we have a special feature on Cardiff Blues U18 girls sevens squad preparing for their first Gemau Cymru, with some help from internationals Elinor Snowsill and Philippa Tuttiett.
Cardiff Blues U18 Girls will go into Sunday's Gemau Cymru with an extra spring in their step after Welsh internationals Elinor Snowsill and Philippa Tuttiett offered some last minute tips at a training session earlier this week.
Rob Howley and Josh Lewsey addressed more than 250 community club coaches and referees at the first WRU National Community Conference on the weekend. The volunteers benefitted from coaching masterclasses and workshops in a bid to connect all levels of the rugby pathway in Wales.
The winners of a filmmaking competition organised by the education charity Into Film and the WRU enjoyed a behind the scenes tour of the Millennium Stadium - and a chance to be photographed with the WRU's fire-breathing, rugby loving mascot, Scorch The Dragon, and Welsh international, Jake Ball.
Ebbw Vale coach Jason Strange is proud of his side's effort in against Pontypridd in the Principality Premiership final and as WRU TV's Liz Jones finds out, he's now looking forward to Wales' Under 20 campaign with confidence.
Principality Building Society has joined forces with the Welsh Rugby Union to offer every club in Wales the opportunity to reward their most cherished volunteers with tickets for Wales' Dove Men Test clash with Italy at the Millennium Stadium next weekend, Saturday 5th September 2015 (5.00pm).
A day of entertainment is promised during the Foster's National 7s at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday 30 August, with games, fancy dress prizes and festive food and drink on offer as an added bonus alongside some fast and furious rugby.
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 SWALEC Leagues are the focus of the community rugby in Wales
SSE SWALEC Cup
The SSE SWALEC 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