By: Paul Hopkins
Swansea battled to a first win of the season in a tough derby match against Neath to the delight of a loud St Helen’s crowd.
The All Blacks gave away an early penalty after their backs stepped offside in midfield and full back Luke Griffiths chipped to touch. The Whites kept the ball tight and earned another penalty, but Luke Griffiths missed his effort at goal.
Instead it was full back Ed Howley who kicked the first points of the game for Neath after the home pack collapsed a scrum.
A crunching hit by flanker Jordan Collier, who was quick off the line, secured a turnover for the All Blacks and Howley kicked a second penalty goal.
A third penalty in six minutes followed when the Swansea defence were guilty of diving over the top. Howley made no mistake to kick his side nine points clear.
Centre J Rhys Williams took a superb crash ball on the twenty-two and raced up to within a few metres of the line, but a mistake at the base of the ruck by scrum half Josh Guy brought an end to the promising move.
Swansea hit back when winger Andrew Claypole powered into the twenty-two and found Tudor Hughes on his shoulder. The lock stayed strong in the tackle and was able to score under the posts. Luke Griffiths converted.
Star flanker Callum Bowden was unlucky not to score for the home side after another rolling maul by the home side, but he was held up inches short of the line. Number eight Duane Eager peeled off the scrum, but Guy dropped the ball over the line under pressure.
Fly half Foard Cooksley collected a high ball and Collier was penalised for a high tackle. Luke Griffiths kicked his side into the lead.
The visitors were back ahead just two minutes later when Howley punished the Whites pack for an infringement at the scrum.
Half-time:- Swansea 10 Neath 12
Luke Griffiths kicked Swansea back into the lead with a penalty goal early in the second half after offside in the Neath defence.
The powerful number eight Ieuan Jones made good yards, giving the home side little option but to kill the ball. Into a strong wind fly half Callum Hall opted to kick to the corner. A foul at the lineout meant Hall was able to chip deeper into the twenty-two. Scott Andrews spotted a gap at the ruck, but Cooksley intercepted a long pass out wide to race up to halfway.
The visitors gave away a penalty inside their own half and Luke Griffiths made them pay with a successful kick at goal.
The Swansea forwards began to rampage into Neath territory at will and the All Blacks were penalised for illegally slowing down the ball. Luke Griffiths missed his effort at goal.
The theme of Swansea penalties continued and this time Luke Griffiths converted the chance to take his side into a seven point win.
Scrum half Scott Gibson sparked Neath into life with a chip through down the wing, but it was well marshalled into touch by opposite number Guy.
It took 73 minutes for the first fight of the match and it ended with Gibson shown a yellow card.
Offside in midfield by the Neath defence gave Luke Griffiths another penalty chance from which he sealed victory.
Full-time:- Swansea 25 Neath 12
Tries:- Tudor Hughes (25)
Cons:- Luke Griffiths (26)
Pens:- Luke Griffiths (37, 43, 53, 60, 78, 80+1)
Pens:- Ed Howley (9, 11, 13, 39)
Yellow cards:- Scott Gibson (73)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Referee:- Gareth Newman
Weather:- Light rain, 12C
Man of the match:- Callum Bowden
15 Luke Griffiths
14 Ryan Griffiths
13 Gareth Rees (rep: Jedd Evans 75)
12 J Rhys Williams
11 Andrew Claypole
10 Foard Cooksley
9 Josh Guy
1 Tom Sloane (rep: Jack Powell 66)
2 Sion Jones (rep: Sion Jones 80)
3 Greg Cunniffe (rep: Tom Harper 66)
4 Tudor Hughes
5 Jon Fox © (rep: Ben Davies 75)
6 Jon Vaughan
7 Callum Bowden
8 Duane Eager
16 Sion Jones
17 Jack Powell
18 Tom Harper
19 Gethin John
20 Ben Davies
21 Sam Cambriani
22 Jedd Evans
23 Joe Jenkins
15 Ed Howley
14 Ryan Pugh (rep: Regan King 37)
13 Aaron Bramwell
12 Gavin Evans
11 Ian Ellis
10 Callum Hall
9 Scott Gibson
1 Ben Uphill
2 Sion Crocker (rep: Darren Hughes 57)
3 Liam Tobias (rep: Ryan Thomas 61)
4 Jon Barley (rep: Ryan Bean 28)
5 Scott Andrews ©
6 Jordan Collier (rep: Leon Ward 57)
7 Lloyd Evans (rep: Leon Ward 18-23)
8 Ieuan Jones
16 Luke Garratt
17 Owen Nesbitt
18 Regan King
19 Scott Hicks
20 Leon Ward
21 Ryan Bean
22 Darren Hughes
23 Ryan Thomas