Rowland Phillips, the Neath coach, was left fuming after his Premiership contenders crashed at Swansea on Saturday night. The two clubs may have joined to form the Ospreys at the regional level, but there is no love lost between the All Whites of Swansea and the All Blacks of Neath.
Phillips could not believe that a 13-7 lead turned into a 13-21 loss in the final few minutes. "All I can say is Merry Christmas and a happy new year to Swansea," the big backrower muttered, "because the only thing we didn't do was put ribbons on it for them."
Swansea's coach, Tony Clement, said: "Our defence won the game. We showed great resilience and self-belief."
The All Blacks went into the match level with Newport at the top of the League table, but with the Black and Ambers not playingNeath failed to take the chance to go clear.
Neath opened the scoring in the fourth minute when the winger Richard Johnston won the race to the ball after a clever chip from the scrum-half Patrick Horgan. The fly-half Matthew Jones converted. Swansea replied in the 11th minute when replacement the fly-half Rob Sweeney put up an up-and-under that the Neath full-back Paul Bamsey spilled in the tackle. The Swansea centre Paul Mackey kicked ahead to score.
Jones extended the margin to 13-7 with a 70th-minute penalty, but Swansea hit back with a try to the left winger Nicky Jones. The fly-half Luke Richards, who spent 15 minutes off the field getting his head bandaged, slotted a superb sideline conversion to give the underdogs the lead. To rub salt into Neath's wounds, Swansea's scrum-half Rhodri Wells scored a final try in the 83rd minute.
Swansea: Tries P Mackey, N Jones, R Wells; Conversions R Sweeney, L Richards 2. Neath: Try R Johnston; Penalties M Jones 2; Conversions M Jones.
Swansea: G Swales; R Jones, P Mackey, M Brayley, N Jones; L Richards (R Sweeney, 9-25), R Wells; T Evans, R Hibbard, A Clatworthy, I Evans (R Francis, 70), N Thomas, H Singh, G Jones, G Vaughan-Evans (capt).
Neath: P Bamsey; R Carter, M Jones, W Mitchell, M Evans; M Jones, P Horgan; P Jones (capt), D Poland, A Howell, T Davies, L Bateman, S Tandy, J McPhail (A Llewellyn, 70), H Jenkins (R Phillips, 75).
Referee: Huw F Lewis (WRU)Reuse content