Newport search for the missing link

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Newport 10 Neath 10

Newport's bid to return to the upper echelons of Welsh rugby is at least taking shape. Having lost their 100 per cent record at Pontypridd the previous weekend, they hit back to share the spoils against Neath.

In the bad old days, and there have been plenty of those in the past 20 years, they wouldhave crumbled after conceding a first-minute try. Nowadays, though, they are made of sterner stuff. Gareth Rees provides the competitive edge, Jason Hewlett the dash and Kevin Moseley the drive.

It all adds up to a highly respectable combination, yet still something is missing. Evidence of that is that the home side were unable to convert their greater enthusiasm and superiority in the final quarter into vital winning points.

A share of the spoils (Neath's early try by Chris Higgs was cancelled out by Gareth Rees half an hour later with both sides landing a penalty in the second half) was not enough to enable the black and ambers to overtake Neath into the top half of the table. It will only be a matter of time, however, if they continue to add quality players to their squad and retain their desire to match the glory days of old.

Neath, on the other hand, are a shadow of the side that dominated the Welsh game in the 1980s. They may have recruited an excellent line and goal-kicker in the Natal outside-half, Chris Beukes, but the loss to Bristol of Arwel Thomas and to Llanelli of Matthew McCarthy has robbed them of their spark. It is a great shame because in John Funnell, Richard Jones and Leigh Davies they have three of the more talented young centres around.

Newport: Try R Rees; Conversion G Rees; Penalty G Rees. Neath: Try Higgs; Conversion Beukes; Penalty Beukes.

Newport: M Yendle; R Rees, D Hughes, S Webley, A Arentsen; G Rees, J Hewlett; S Duggan, P Young (A Peacock, 10), S Cronk, N Jones, K Moseley (capt), M Voyle, M Workman, D Gray.

Neath: P Thorburn; C Higgs, H Woodland, J Funnell, S Bowling; C Beukes, C McDonald; L Gerrard, B Williams, J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Gareth Llewellyn (capt), J Burnell, S Williams, C Wyatt.

Referee: G Crothers (Irish RFU).