Sunday, 10 August 2014

Neath 15-15 Doncaster Knights

Welsh Premiership outfit Neath held on to clinch a dramatic draw against the English Championship’s newest addition Doncaster Knights in a thrilling encounter at a wet and wild Gnoll.

 But this pre season friendly turned ugly towards the end with Neath's Lee Evans dismissed for fighting late on, after several brawls erupted in the final ten minutes.

Doncaster outscored their Welsh hosts two tries to nil but Neath played the conditions better than their English rivals and deserved to get something out of the contest.

 It was the hosts that started the brighter in the opening ten minutes and the boot of James Thomas gave them an early advantage.

 But the professional side slowly moved up the gears and they were soon in the lead. After several phases, fly half Jamie Lennard spotted space behind the Neath defence and his cute dink outfoxed the hosts' cover into Knights winger Tyson Lewis' safe arms. Dougie Flockhart added the extras.

 Whereas Doncaster's first try was full of skill and guile, their second shortly after was one for the forwards. From a driving line out Neath were powerless to stop the visitors marching over, with flanker Will Foden emerging with the ball.

 If the first half belonged to the visitors, the second definitely belonged to their Welsh hosts.
The Knights' discipline began to falter and with the Welsh weather producing its worst, it was Neath that began to dominate proceedings. 

 Three well struck penalties from the boot of Thomas drew the hosts level.

 Flockhart and Thomas then traded kicks as the game went into the final ten locked at 15-15.

 With Neath down to 14 players Clive Griffiths' side looked like they had stolen it at the death with winger Flockhart crossing, but he was adjudged to have put his foot in touch on the way to touching down. 

Ultimately there were positives for both teams as they kicked off their 2014/15 pre-season campaign –Neath’s Director of Rugby Rowland Phillips would have been impressed by his side's work ethic and scramble defence, while new signing Rhodri Cole at scrum half looked lively and posed a constant threat around the fringes.

For Clive Griffiths’ Knights, meanwhile, their sizeable backline caused a number of problems in the first half while their scrum was well on top throughout, and perhaps Doncaster would have felt they had done enough to claim the win. But it wasn’t all good news for the professional outfit as scrum half Brad Field, making his first start since last November, looked distraught as he limped from the pitch just before the interval.

On Saturday, Neath play host to another English Championship side, with Plymouth Albion the visitors at the Gnoll, while Doncaster have more Welsh opposition when Swansea visit Castle Park.


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