Rugby Union: Boobyer underpins Neath brilliance

Neath 31 Llanelli 6
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Neath attained a brilliance which few supporters could have expected in the conditions. The only Welsh Premier Division match to survive the weather even escaped the worst of the rain as the gods smiled on the Gnoll. The wind howled diagonally across the field yet Neath's handling earned four tries and a bonus point. These two great sides are now level with eight wins each in the league over eight seasons. But Neath's ability and their pace on to the pass meant there was little Llanelli could do on the day.

Three tons of sand had been spread on the field and the groundstaff's work was fully rewarded, earning them priority praise from Neath's coach Lyn Jones, who also enthused over the style of his side's victory.

This was a day when the Scarlets looked ill at ease and Neath were 15- 0 up after 19 minutes. Even the sun shone briefly on Welsh rugby's All Blacks as they avenged a 52-23 defeat at Stradey in their opening fixture of the season in August. "Neath are no way a relegation side," said the Llanelli coach Gareth Jenkins who gave them full marks and refused to dwell on his own team's weakness. When 18-3 up at half-time, Neath might have expected Llanelli to come back with some force. Yet the visitors' best efforts were thwarted by Neath's back row of Mark Bennett, Lee Jones and Ian Boobyer. The latter brought off some stunning tackles including one no-nonsense check on his brother Neil.

The unkindest cut for Llanelli came when their outside-half Frano Botica went off with a stomach upset after 49 minutes. Craig Warlow, who replaced him, battled valiantly to inject life into Llanelli's effort but Neath were solid and sensible, rarely drifting offside as referee Derek Bevan orchestrated proceedings full of good spirit despite the fury.

Chris John, who landed three penalties in four attempts as well as a conversion, put Neath ahead in 10 minutes. Then came two tries in five minutes, wing Delme Williams capping perfect handling and hooker Mefin Davies surging over for a converted try. John added his second penalty before Botica replied with a well-judged kick from 35 metres. John's third penalty stretched the lead to 21-3 with Warlow kicking a penalty within three minutes of coming on. Neath's captain Geraint Evans and fellow centre Tristan Davies then added tries in another devastating four-minute spell.

Neath: D Case; C Higgs, T Davies, G Evans (capt), Delme Williams; C John, P Horgan (C Bridges, 75); D Morris, M Davies, B Evans, G Llewellyn, S Martin, M Bennett, I Boobyer, L Jones.

Llanelli: Darril Williams; W Proctor, N Boobyer, S Jones (N Davies, 58), M Wintle; F Botica (C Warlow, 49), R Moon (A Jones, 75); Rhys Jones, R McBryde (capt), S Gale, V Cooper, M Voyle, D Hodges, I Jones (C Davies, 17), H Jenkins (C Wyatt, 51).

Referee: D Bevan (Clydach).

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