EBBW VALE 20, NEATH 10
Ebbw Vale silenced their growing band of critics by dumping last year's
beaten finalists Neath out of Principality Cup.
While Vale defied the odds to secure a place in the last eight, Neath will be kicking themselves for throwing away a 10-point first half lead and having flanker Alfie Mocelutu sent off for stamping.
The two sides have experienced vastly differing fortunes in the Welsh/Scottish League this season with Vale lingering uncomfortably around the
foot and Neath at the business end.
However, as Pontypool proved on Friday night, league form counts for nothing when it comes to cup rugby.
And Vale, though behind early on, were
deserving of their interval share.
The home side made the early inroads and the Welsh All Blacks were forced to hang on as the home side, who were destroyed by Neath in the league earlier this season, threatend to take a foothold.
But somewhat against the run of play, Neath took the lead when Lee Jarvis
kicked his first penalty of the afternoon.
The kick served to settle the Neath nerves and within a matter of minutes
Patrick Horgan had improved their lead when he latched onto a sweeping move to score a try which Jarvis duly converted for a 10-0 lead.
It was somewhat surprising that it took Vale 35 minutes to register their
first points of the game but, by that time, Neath were missing their influential second row Gareth Llewellyn who was helped off with a knee injury.
Aaran Takarangi, the New Zealand born three quarter, chased a speculative kick ahead from Cull and when David Tiueti made a hash of his attempted clearance kick, Takarangi pounced to score and Cull converted.
Cull added a penalty before the break to level matters and a try straight
after the retsrat put the Steelmen infront for the first time.
Neath appeared to have secured decent ball inside their own 22 but, when
the ball bobbled free, Vale flanker Tyrone Morris pounced for his side's
second try of the afternoon.
Cull converted but they were soon down to 14 men after Kati Tuipolotu was
yellow carded for tackling within 10 metres after a penalty was awarded.
But while Neath's numerical advantage lasted just 10 minutes, they were to
suffer from a numerical disadvantage for the rest of the game when flanker
Mocelutu was shown the red card for stamping.
Last season's runners up tried to pick up the pace of the game, but it was Vale who were far stronger, espeically
in the set piece, and with three minutes remaining fly half Mark Meehan put the seal on a famous Vale win with a drop goal.
Scorers: Ebbw Vale: Tries: A Takarangi, T Morris; Cons: G Cull 2; Pen: G Cull; DG: M Meehan. Neath: Try: P Horgan; Con: L Jarvis; Pen: L Jarvis
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.
The WRU officially unveiled the new pitch today in time for Wales to take on Australia in the first of the Dove Men Series autumn international matches this Saturday. Head Groundsman Lee Evans and colleague Craig Campbell reflect on the 15-week project and look ahead to a pitch perfect future at Millennium Stadium.