Neath were last night duly crowned Welsh Premiership champions after demolishing Bedwas with another awesome display. The destination of the second semi-professional title has hardly been in doubt since the All Blacks opened the season with a devastating run of 15 straight victories.
No one was able to match them during this phase and although they wobbled in mid-winter, mainly due to calls by Wales at junior levels, they have once more peaked in the spring. In succeeding Newport as champions, Neath have maintained an unbeaten home record while victory over Bedwas completed a ninth double of the campaign.
They now go to Newport on Saturday for a showdown of past against present champions and wind things up with a Bank Holiday Monday showdown against Swansea at St Helen's (2.30pm). Bedwas, who secured a 25-25 scoreline at the ground last season, failed to find that form and were helpless in preventing Neath winning league honours for a third time - and a first since 1996.
Following a tentative start, the All Blacks hit the front in the 10th minute when fly-half James Hook broke, leading to captain Gareth Morris releasing centre Andrew Bishop for the touchdown. Eight minutes on, a wayward kick from Bedwas full-back Nathan Gittins led to Hook lighting up the Gnoll with an individual try of stunning proportions.
Even at this early stage the signs were there that another side were on a damage-limitation footing, and that was confirmed when Bishop got a second try. Bedwas then bucked the trend with a 34th-minute pushover try from flanker Owen Ankers, but normal service was resumed via a Patrick Horgan touchdown.
And, right on half-time, another record fell to Hook with his second try - the club individual points record of 446 points that had been held since 2002 by Lee Jarvis. Neath led 27-5 at the turnaround, and within five minutes both prop Cai Griffiths and wing Richard Johnston had touched down.
During the remainder of the third quarter further tries were added by No 8 Lee Beach along with an interception effort from replacement wing Aled Bevan, making it 53-5. The icing was then applied to Neath's title cake with two late touchdowns from replacement Neil Clapham, together with centre Wayne Mitchell.
Amidst joyous scenes at this famous old ground, WRU chairman David Pickering presented Neath captain Gareth Morris with the championship vase.
Neath: Tries - A Bishop (2), J Hook (2), N Clapham (2), P Horgan, C Griffiths, R Johnston, L Beach, A Bevan, W Mitchell; Cons - Hook (4), Bevan
Bedwas: Tries - O Ankers
Neath: G Morris (capt); A Brew (A Bevan 24), A Bishop, W Mitchell, R Johnston; J Hook (N Clapham 59), P Horgan (Mark Davies 54); A Howell (P Jones 49), A Littlehales (D Poland 70), C Griffiths (A Howell 77), S Martin, I Evans (C Gittins 49), B Davies (A Llewellyn 54), L Beach, J McPhail
Bedwas: N Gittins; S Sankala (C Boughton 57), G Miles, A Harrison, N Hill (M Pizey 57); A James (D Jones 40), S Jones; M Pettit (R Wilks 52), P McGee, J Salter, R Edwards (capt), A Edwards (P Steele 40), O Ankers, D Mattravers, P Wheeler (M Wood 52)