ULSTER 17, NEATH 13
Lee Jarvis left his kicking boots in Wales and Neath lost their unbeaten
record in the Celtic League.
The Welsh All Blacks prolific points scorer missed three second half penalties at a packed Ravenhill to let Ulster off the hook and allow them to hit back after their heavy defeat at Swansea last weekend.
The 10,000 crowd witnessed a very even, but pretty dour, first half in which
Shane Williams provided a ray of sunshine with a brilliant solo try after 27 minutes.
Neath started well and were rewarded with a Jarvis penalty after 17 minutes
before Williams broke through the middle and sprinted clear to score a
great try at the posts which Jarvis converted.
But no sooner had the Welshmen established a 10 point lead than they found the home side battling back into contention. Whereas Ulster had folded in the face of Swansea pressure the previous week, on their own patch they
rolled up their sleeves and fought back.
"We were in the driving seat and things were going well for us in the opening quarter," said Neath coach Lyn Jones.
"But the yellow card for Duncan Jones for a technical offence at a scrum was a huge decision by the referee. We lost our composure and they scored 10 quick points.
"I think we had 10 opportunities to score in the match and we only took
three of them. Not good enough!"
Neil Doak launched the revival with a penalty after half an hour and then he added the extra points to a try by full back Bryn Cunningham to ensure it was all square at the break.
Neath were down to 14 men at the time Cunningham claimed his try because
Scottish referee Andy Ireland had sent prop Duncan Jones to the sin-bin for
disrupting the scrum. Mr Ireland also produced his yellow card in the second
half when he sent Warren Brosnihan to the touchline for killing the ball with 16 minutes to go.
The second half opened up and with the scent of an unlikely victory in their nostrils the Ulster side raised their game. Having Irish utility back Paddy Wallace for the rest of the season with a broken leg at Swansea last weekend, they were hit by the withdrawl of two more players the day before this game.
That left the home fans fearing the worst against the unbeaten Neath side
who they still remembered from last season's thrilling quarter-final when
the Irishmen emerged 38-29 victors.
The turning point came eight minutes after the break when Ireland and Lions
wing Tyrone Howe ripped through the heart of the Neath defence, brushed off
two tackles and sprinted to the line. Doak added the conversion anmd Neath
were left to chase the game.
Jarvis managed to hit the mark with his second penalty with 10 minutes to go, but those other misses cost his side dear.
Ulster: B Cunningham; J Topping, R Constable, S Stewart (J Cunnigham 80), T Howe; A Larkin, N Doak; J Fitzpatrick, M Sexton (captain), S Best, M Blair, J Davidson, W Brosnihan, N McMillan, T McWhirter (N Best 74).
Yellow Card: W Brosnihan 64.
Neath: A Durston; K James, A Bateman (J Storey 68), D Tieuti, S Williams; L
Jarvis, P Horgan (A Moore 59); D Jones, B Williams, A Millward (A Jones 68),
A Newman, G Llewellyn (capt), H Jenkins, N Bonner-Evans, S Tandy.
Yellow Card: D Jones 33.
Referee: A Ireland (Scotland)
Porthcawl recently received a WRU facilities grant and funding from Natwest RugbyForce in order to give their changing rooms a facelift. This came after receiving £10,000 in a WRU facilities grant last year to tarmac their car park. The improvements have already helped to make the club more accessible, not only for their own members and players but for the whole community.
The Welsh Rugby Union has launched a new, accredited Safeguarding and Protecting Children course - funded by the WRU and delivered in partnership with Sport Wales and the NSPCC - fo rugby club volunteers around Wales.
The SWALEC semi-final draws threw up some mouth-watering clashes in the Cup, Plate and Bowl as the 12 teams aim for the Millennium Stadium Finals Day. All the semi-finals are to be played on the weekend of April 12.
Welsh whistler Rhys Thomas continues to scale the heights of the game as he prepares to be an official in this weekend's Hong Kong Sevens tournament, undoubtedly the showpiece event on the World Series calendar.
Wales International Ian Evans and Wales and Lions legend Scott Quinnell swapped rugby balls for paint pots at Tonna during the RBS 6 Nations. They surprised club players with a special clubhouse makeover to launch NatWest RugbyForce 2014 - a programme developed in partnership with the WRU to make rugby clubs stronger businesses by improving and renovating their facilities with the support of volunteers and the local community.
Fresh from claiming the Bowl honours in Tokyo last Sunday, the Wales Sevens squad have settled into their routine as they prepare for this weekend's Hong Kong tournament where Iolo Evans is aiming high, as WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie discovers.