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
School and college pupils from school club hubs across the Blues region were invited to the WRU National Centre of Excellence this week to complete the Level 1 Referee course. Nigel Owens was one of the tutors and more courses of this kind will be run around Wales to cater for the demand, to increase the number of qualified referees available to officiate school and club rugby, and to find potential future referees of the senior game.
The Welsh Rugby Union is forming a new Youth Board with a brief to help keep more young people involved in the game during their late teenage years and beyond. The first task of the fifteen strong Board will be to analyse and consider the issues which lead to a number of youngsters drifting away from the sport between the ages of 16 and 21. To apply visit www.wru.wales/youthboard
The Foster's Challenge Cup will involve the 12 Principality Premiership sides and will run during European and British & Irish Cup weeks, providing vital fixtures for the participating clubs and an opportunity for upcoming players to step up to semi-professional rugby and make a claim for starting places within the Premiership squads.
Eighty schools and colleges in Wales now have a full time rugby officer as part of the WRU's school club hub scheme. All of the school club hub officers recently gathered at the National Centre of Excellence for various workshops.
The WRU has launched a campaign to create a long term legacy for Welsh club rugby by highlighting the advantages of volunteering. Rhian Edwards, a volunteer at Seven Sisters, has enjoyed many benefits of her volunteering at a grassroots rugby club including being part of the Rugby World Cup volunteer workforce after being nominated by the WRU - and the WRU is asking for more people to develop their 'Welsh rugby roots'.
The top three teams of the Principality Premiership put their unbeaten runs on the line this weekend. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespies is joined by South Wales Argus rugby writer Chris Kirwan to discuss the weekend's action
Geraint John has taken up the new role of WRU elite coach development manager having arrived in Wales last week. WRU TV caught up with him at the WRU rugby department's strategy day at the Millennium Stadium.
The entire Welsh Rugby Union Rugby Department gathered at the Millennium Stadium earlier this week where WRU Head of Rugby Josh Lewsey looked back on a year where structural and strategic changes have seen significant progress made
Tomorrow will see the first six-point try scored in the northern hemisphere when the Principality Premiership kicks off. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie catches up with WRU National match Officials Manager Nigel Whitehouse, and Pontypridd winger Alex Webber as they look ahead to the innovative changes.
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 Welsh Rugby Union has reiterated its strong stance to players at all levels of the game to ensure they train and compete cleanly for the good of the game following a player suspension for an Anti-Doping Rule Violation.