Ebbw completed the season’s double – and for the second year running – over a combative and much improved Neath at the Gnoll on Saturday afternoon.
Ebbw kicked off towards the clubhouse and a knock on by the receiver, Jonny Griffiths gave the visitors a scrum, that yeilded a penalty which Dai Langdon sent to touch close to the Neath line. The catch and drive came on, but the ball went out to left wing Jared Rosser who burrowed over for the try.
There was no more score and no scoring chances for either side until Luke Price converted a penalty on 20 minutes to make the score 6-2 in Ebbw’s favour. The Steelmen were having the bulk of possession but wrong options and handling errors in the greasy conditions prevented them opening up the lead. In fact, as the half went on, Neath grew in confidence and deservedly took the lead when centre Keiran Williams burst through from close range to score. Although Price missed the conversion, his team walked off 8-6 in the lead.
Mr Wayne Davies, who had a good afternoon, had warned both captains late in the first half, that he was unhappy about the number of offences at the breakdown and made it clear that a yellow card was on its way. It was Kristian Phillips, Neath’s Osprey wing, who received it, meaning that the All Blacks were short out on their right. Ebbw, accordingly, attacked that space. Firstly Rhys Clarke and Luke Crocker combined to free Rosser who cantered in for his second, converted by Dai Langdon; then a brilliant counter attacking run from Dan Haymond saw Rosser in support to take the pass, dance around three defenders and cross for his hat-trick. Iain Smerdon converted to give Ebbw a 22-8 lead, and it looked as if a bonus point win was on the cards. Full credit to Neath, they rallied well and livewire scrum half Reuben Morgan-Williams broke through several tackles to race home for a try wide on the left which Price converted. It was 22-16, and that’s how it finished, though both sides had late chances that failed to convert to points.
Ebbw will now have 4 weeks away from league action, time to reflect on a very successful period of 4 successive wins that has seen them open up a 10 point gap over 7th placed Llanelli. With just 7 points separating the top 6 clubs, there really is everything to play for!