Rugby Union: Gwent plumb depths

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The Independent Online
Newbridge. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11

Neath. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17

IF Newbridge were able to show that there is life left in Gwent rugby, their local rivals, Pontypool, emphasised the difficulties being experienced by the county famous for producing the hardest of forwards and greatest of packs with their record 78-0 defeat at Cardiff.

The inquests into the state of rugby in the most easterly region of Wales have been lengthy and numerous of late. Any answers to their problems have so far been slow in coming.

If you examine the bottom of the Heineken League First Division you will find four Gwent clubs, Newbridge and Pontypool among them, propping up everyone else. It is a familiar tale in other divisions, with the bottom three places in the Third being occupied by Gwent clubs as well as the final place in the Fourth.

Yet it would be wrong to assume there was a vast difference between the top club, Neath, and their hosts from the basement, Newbridge. In three previous visits to the Welfare Ground, Neath had failed to win a game and the bogy could well have been extended on this occasion.

The traditional Gwent rugby virtues were much to the fore, but the modern game demands more. Maybe when the Gwent sides begin to study the way rugby is developing they will be able to keep pace with the modern game.

While Newbridge chose to attack via the scrum, and caused Neath considerable discomfort, they were never quick enough in the loose and failed to match the continuity shown by their visitors. Meanwhile, at Cardiff Arms Park, Pontypool were shunted the length of their 22 for a pushover score as Cardiff went on an 11-try rampage.

That was probably the saddest moment for Pontypool, the club where Ray Prosser fashioned the art of scrummaging, and should act as a clarion call to every club in Gwent to reassess the way that they are playing the game.

At Newbridge, it was Neath's teamwork and resilience that ultimately allowed them to retain their unbeaten record, two second-half tries from their No 8 Steve Williams proving the main difference between the two sides.

Newbridge: Try Harding; Penalties Green 2. Neath: Tries S Williams 2, Rhodri Jones; Conversion McCarthy.

Newbridge: W Taylor; G Harding, A Lucas, J Hawker, S Reed; A Green, J Churcher; R Buckley, K Waters, B Fisher, C Crane, A Sutton, A Gibbs, G Pugh, P Crane (capt).

Neath: P Thorburn; N Lewis, S Crandon, A Shaw, T Michael; M McCarthy, Rhodri Jones; Brian Williams, Barrie Williams, J Davies, Glyn Llewellyn, Gareth Llewellyn (capt), Robin Jones, S Williams, A Varney.

Referee: D R Davies (Llanbradach).

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