Neath roll back the years as they rediscover try-scoring knack

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The Independent Online
Neath 76 Ebbw Vale 29

Last season it was boring, boring Neath, with one of the lowest try- scoring records in the Heineken League, yet this winter the Welsh All Blacks are finding their way to the try line with incredible regularity.

You could also add simplicity, because the new coaches, Lyn and Darrell Jones, have instilled the simple doctrine of letting the ball do the work and getting players into supporting positions as quickly as possible.

All of a sudden, Gareth Llewellyn's side have got a smile on their faces again and teams are being put to the sword at The Gnoll in the same way as in the late 1980s.

Last season Neath scored a mere 33 tries in 22 outings, yet in their last two league matches they have notched 19. Perhaps more significantly, they have taken maximum bonus points from their last two games and this victory moved them into second place in the table.

They made their intentions plain right from the start as they refused to take easy penalty shots and simply ran everything. It quickly became obvious that the team had marked this game down as a five-pointer - and they were all in the bag by half-time.

A third-minute penalty by Byron Hayward may have given Ebbw Vale the lead, but from the fifth to the 45th minute Neath were unstoppable as they ran in eight tries without riposte.

By half-time they had notched seven to take a 45-3 lead and there were five more to savour in the second half. A trace of complacency understandably crept into proceedings once the three bonus points had been clinched, but then Ebbw Vale came into their own.

Down in the First Division basement, where survival is the name of the game, every point is crucial and by scoring four tries last season's Second Divison runners-up at least got something out of the game.

They have begun to make a name for themselves as secondhalf battlers and this was their third bonus point of the season. It seems the new points- for- tries offers something for everyone, not least the fans who were able to savour 16 tries and 105 points.

Neath: Tries Evans 2, Jones 2, Scott, J Davies, Bridges, L Davies, Morris, Allen, Higgs, Wintle; Conversions C Bridges 8. Ebbw Vale: Tries Ford 2, Lewis, Williams; Conversions B Hayward 3; Penalty B Hayward.

Neath: R Jones (G Davies, 57); C Higgs, L Davies, G Evans, R Wintle; P Williams, C Bridges; D Morris, B Williams (K Allen, 52), J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Gareth Llewellyn (capt), J Burnell, S Williams (I Boobyer, 73), C Scott.

Ebbw Vale: D Worgan; H Laugharne, I Lewis, J Bamsey, N Morgan; B Hayward, M Boys; A Phillips (W Ford, 48), S Jones, M Sibthorpe, D Medleycott, E Moores (B Watkins, 58), D Harris, J Williams, K Jones (capt).

Referee: G Simmonds (Cardiff).

n The former England stand-off, Rob Andrew, is set to face the former Welsh international Jonathan Davies next month. Andrew's new club, Newcastle, are planning to play Cardiff at St James' Park in the New Year. Davies, who recently returned to rugby union after a successful six-year spell in league, is currently ruled out by a hernia operation but is expected back next month.