ON Saturday (Mar 4) Neath were the visitors to the Lewis Lloyd Ground and a large crowd once again turned out hoping to see the Otters get a win against the team in second place in the Championship League and looking to be promoted to the Premier Division next season.
Unfortunately, despite a very plucky performance by Narberth, Neath eventually ran out winners in a closely contested match.
The Otters started the match well and ran the ball at every opportunity to stretch the heavier Neath pack. Despite making several incursions into the visitors 22 metre area, the Neath defence held firm but they did give away two early penalties which Nick Gale (making his 150th league appearance for the Otters) succeeded in converting to give Narberth a 6-0 lead.
Fifteen minutes into the game it was Neath’s turn to be awarded a penalty but they chose to kick to the corner for a line-out close to the Otters line. A resulting maul was formed and the bigger Neath forwards were able to drive their way over the line for a try which went unconverted (6-5).
This was a tactic which they used throughout the match which proved to be very successful and eventually took the game away from the Otters. Indeed only ten minutes later a similar try was scored by the visitors when their hooker touched down after another driving maul to put Neath in front 6-10.
Neath were now hitting a purple patch and after further pressure near the Otters try line their flanker dived over under the posts to stretch the lead further to 6-17.
Despite these setbacks, Narberth refused to give in and after getting a little more of the possession they again made inroads by using their back division to make ground upfield after some excellent driving runs by the forwards.
Once again, on the stroke of half time Neath were penalised for being offside at a ruck and Gale converted to make the score 9-17 at the break.
The Otters came out for the second half with renewed vigour and their attacking play was causing the visitors some problems and keeping them pinned within their 22. The pressure eventually told and a further penalty by Gale brought the score to 12-17.
Some crucial refereeing decisions then went against the Otters with the home crowd feeling that Neath were continually holding onto the ball on the floor when the Narberth players were trying to pull the ball from their grasp.
Ultimately further penalties were awarded to Neath and they again scored two further tries from rolling mauls close to the Otters line and Gale replied for Narberth with one further penalty to bring the final score to 15-29 in favour of Neath.
It was a very good performance from the Otters against a formidable Neath outfit and the final score did not reflect how close the game had actually been.
Two spectators in the crowd were WRU Chairman Ieuan Evans and his Vice Chairman Anthony Buchanan. They chatted to officials and supporters after the match in the clubhouse and said how much they had enjoyed watching a quality match with excellent performances from both teams.