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Narberth edged out in Neath

George McDonald scores his first of two tries

NARBERTH travelled to the Gnoll at Neath on Saturday (Oct 1) in good spirits following a battling win at Bedwas the previous weekend.

Travelling to Neath is always a special occasion as it is the home of one of Welsh rugby’s most historic clubs.

The previous weekend proved quite costly with several the squad carrying some bumps and bruises, but it was the loss of inspirational captain Tom Powell that was the most bitter blow.

The Otters wanted to start with intensity and tempo which almost paved the way for a first play try when Jordan Roberts reclaimed the kick-off only for the cover defence to beat Josh Davies to the rolling ball.

Indeed, it was Narberth who started as the better team by far when a driving lineout was grounded just short, then some slick interplay by the backs saw Josh Davies not quite able to release to the players outside him.

Neath’s defence has always been difficult to breach and this proved the case for periods in the first half.

However, a deft chip from Jon Rogers saw Jordan Roberts collect and offload to supporting Ilan Phillips whose simple pass put young George McDonald under the posts.

Narberth continued to hammer away at Neath’s stern defence and the away teams ‘kick-to-compete’ strategy seemed to be playing dividends as pressure was put on the home side’s back 3.

This pressure led to a turnover and quick distribution led to a Josh Davies break who cleverly chipped infield for McDonald to cross once again.

Most of the action remained in the Neath half as the otters had the wind advantage in the first 40, however Neath showed why they are potential league winners with another try of their own towards the end of the first half, even though it looked to have been knocked on prior to touching down.

It was all to play for in the second half as Narberth and Neath were not quite accurate enough with some shots at goal.

The second half still saw Narberth relentless in their pursuit of Neath, but Neath gradually clawed back points making good use of the wind advantage to set up some powerful driving mauls.

As the half progressed and Neath scored a relatively easy counter attack try, it became clear that Narberth were tiring. Neath struck back once more to move within a point of the Otters with 20minutes to go.

The last 20minutes was a tight affair as Narberth’s resolute defence kept Neath at bay with Caine Rees-Jones looking to counter-ruck at every opportunity.

The early stages of the half saw Narberth still kicking to regain and some good turnover work saw Jordan Robert go very close to scoring and Sutton from full back was also grounded just short.

Some powerful scrums saw Narberth edge closer to the line before finally taking 3 points to move within a point of Neath. However, Neath always seemed to exit and relieve the pressure and scored a try down the left flank after some poor Narberth lineout defence.

It was 26-23 with 5minutes left and Narberth squandered another scoring opportunity to win a 5 metre lineout which allowed Neath to clear and make their way down the field for another score to break the Otters hearts and finish the game at 33-23.

Coach Sean Gale commented that the players gave their all and could not have worked any harder.

Narberth will rue missed opportunities and some defensive slips as they were to a man, good enough to beat Neath at the Gnoll – however, Neath managed their game well and made good use of their forward power to remain the main contenders to Pontypool’s dominance.