Neath 21 - Pontypool 7
By The Webmaster
August 24 2002

The Gnoll

Match report of the Neath v Pontypool match at the Gnoll as part of Gareth Llewelyn's testimonial. It was a hard match for Neath against a top of division 1 team who will be aiming to win division 1 this year.
Untitled Document

Match Report: Neath v Pontypool

Neath were never smooth but they helped Gareth Llewerllyn celebrate his testimonial with a three-tries to one victory over First Division Pontypool.

An appreciative crowd of more than 2500 pitched up at The Gnoll to see Llewellyn enjoy a deserved night of celebration.

And although they will go home with a certain anxiety after watching an often shapeless display, it was certainly an evening to remember for one of the club’s greatest sons.

With every intention of making it a night of all-round celebration for Llewellyn, Neath showed great endeavour and plenty of enterprise in the opening exchanges with Shane Williams a catalyst in this his long-awaited return from injury.

But Pontypool have invested well this summer and with Neath old-boy Mark Jones leading by example and Kuli Faletau, John Devereux and Kevin Ellis amongst those adding some vital experience, they were hardly the pushover some might have thought.

Still, with the pace and power of a front five that included the hugely promising loose-head prop Paul James, Neath gained the ascendancy and went ahead in seven minutes when right wing Kevin James brushed off Joel Griffin to score after some cute passing from Shaun Connor and James Storey.

Connor converted and then improved a second try two minutes later when Adrian Durston emerged from a melee of players to sidestep full-back David Smith and score a try on this his home debut.

Apart from a three-year stint with Harlequins during which time he played 114 times for the Londoners, the former Welsh lock has been a Neath stalwart. Infact on Friday, against Caerphilly, Llewellyn will make his 281st start in this his seventh year as captain at The Gnoll.

He was certainly grateful for Pontypool accepting the invitation to fill in for the Quins who failed to fulfil the fixture and at times Neath appeared to appreciate the gesture a little too much.

Defensively they were sound and particularly well organised, but in attack, they were often too hasty and over elaborate. For coach Lyn Jones it must have been a touch frustrating considering that the real business kicks off in less than a week’s time.

Neath were unable to add to their tally in the 31 minutes leading up to half time and despite wholesale changes at the interval, they struggled to find a smooth rhythm after it too.

Instead it was a night that saw Pontypool gain the plaudits. They might have lost Devereux to a knee ligament injury, but they were combative, fearless and as the game wore on increasingly competitive.

It took a piece of magic from centre David Tiueti to galvanise the home side – a typically robust surge through some heavy traffic on the hour, committed the Pooler defence and replacement Allan Bateman arrived on his shoulder to take the scoring pass.

That ended the contest as far as the result was concerned and it also gave Neath a chance to ring the changes once again and try out another set of combinations in the pack.

Llewellyn got his deserved rest at that juncture but he took to the field on the final whistle to applaude a set of fans who have certainly had their monies’ worth from this true Welsh All Black.

By that time Pontypool had helped themselves to a deserved try from Jonathan Williams which James Rowles converted, but it didn’t take any shine off Llewellyn’s night.

Neath: A Durston (G Morris 41mins); K James, J Storey (A Bateman 41mins; D Tiueti (J Leyshon 41mins; D Tiueti 47mins), S Williams, S Connor (L Jarvis 41mins), A Moore (G Jones 62mins); P James (D Jones 41mins), B Williams (S Jones 41mins), A Millward (A Jones 41mins), G Newman (L Bateman 41mins), G Llewellyn (capt), A Mocelutu, S Tandy (J McPhail 62mins), R Phillips (H Jenkins 41mins)

Pontypool: D Smith, L Woodard, J Hawker (J Williams 70mins), J Devereux (B Jefferies 25mins), J Griffin; J Rowles, K Ellis (N Lloyd 49mins); A Phillips, C Thomas, S Cronk (O Price 49mins), K Faletau (L Andrews 41mins), R Hunt, R Field, L McPherson, M Jones (capt. M Tuipolutu 41mins)



Tries: James, Durston, Bateman

Conversions: Connor (2), Jarvis


Try: Williams

Conversion: Rowles