The caretaker Wales coach, Steve Hansen, will be hoping that this was not a dress rehearsal for his debut in charge of the national side when they meet France at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. After all, Bridgend had parted company with their coach on the same day as Graham Henry left his post with Wales, and the Ravens similarly promoted from within.
What Richard Webster and Huw Bevan had to tolerate on their big day were more mistakes than ever, further indiscipline and a drubbing by five tries to two that left them anchored in the bottom three of the Welsh/Scottish League. Neath, on the other hand, are in the sort of form that could see them survive in the top three in the table and make a mockery of those clubs calling for them to be axed from the top flight next season.
Brett Sinkinson vied with the Tongan centre Dave Tiueti for the man of the match award and finally appears to be getting back to the sort of form that made him an automatic Wales choice when Henry first arrived. But it would have taken a magician to rob Tiueti of the title on a day when his three tries made a world of difference between the two teams. He struck twice in the space of three minutes in the first half to give the home team a handy start.
The first came from a set move as he came on the charge to receive from the scrum-half Pat Horgan and barge his way over. Then he was on hand to follow up kicks ahead by Lee Jarvis and Shane Williams to bag his second.
Bridgend gradually found some composure and Craig Warlow kicked them back into contention with three successive penalties to cut the deficit to a single point after 25 minutes. But Neath scored a third try through their Fijian flanker Alfie Mocelutu and then Jarvis kicked a simple penalty from 18 metres on the stroke of half-time to make it 18-9 at the break.
It did not help the Bridgend cause that they lost their lock Keith Stewart for 10 minutes for punching, six minutes before half-time, and they were reduced to 13 men when the prop John Thiel was given a yellow card for a similar offence moments before the break.
With the wind at the backs, Neath grew in confidence and Jarvis kicked a second penalty from 40 metres before converting Tiueti's third try after some great approach work from the home pack.
Bridgend at least responded with a Gareth Thomas try at the posts which Warlow converted, but when their front row buckled twice at a five-metre scrum, the referee, Nigel Whitehouse, awarded a penalty try to which Jarvis added the extra points.
The former Neath back row man Shaun van Rensberg crossed in the right corner for Bridgend's second try in injury time, but it was too little too late.
Neath: Tries D Tiueti 3, A Mocelutu, penalty try; Conversions L Jarvis 2; Penalties L Jarvis 2. Bridgend: Tries G Thomas, S van Rensberg; Conversion C Warlow; Penalties C Warlow 3.
Neath: S Connor; K James, J Storey (M Price, 79), D Tiueti, S Williams (D Pugh, 79); L Jarvis, P Horgan (A Moore, 79); D Jones (A Howell, 76), B Williams (S Jones, 73), A Millward, S Martin, G Llewellyn (capt; J Slade, 79), R Francis, B Sinkinson (R Phillips, 76), A Mocelutu.
Bridgend: A Durston; Daniel Jones (A Havili, 54), D James, J Funnell (J Devereux, 54), G Thomas; C Warlow, H Harries (capt; J Hewlett, 69); C Loader, G Williams, J Thiel (A Griffiths, 74), K Stewart, Deiniol Jones, N Budgett (S van Rensberg, 66), M Molitika, R Bryan.
Referee: N Whitehouse (Swansea).Reuse content