Buzzing All Blacks claim a deserved win over jaded Blues

Owen Hamer involved - as he was all afternoon. Picture William John


Pictures by William John

Midweek Rugby:

WRU Division West 3A


Neyland 17  - Haverfordwest 8

Neyland reserved their best performance of the season for this thoroughly deserved win over old rivals Haverfordwest and it was achieved in front of a large crowd at the Athletic Ground as they led 7-5 at the break and were never headed as their mix of youth and experience paid dividends, writes Bill Carne.
The Blues looked jaded after missing out on the section championship against Laugharne on Saturday but that takes nothing away from Steve Evans’ team because they were good value for victory as locals were left scratching their heads about when they had lost beaten their Haverfordwest and when they had three brothers in the team as outstanding young scrum half Owen Hamer was joined by his brothers Josh and Kyle, playing on permit from Narberth, plus other brothers in George and Ben Williams, plus Iestyn Evans on the bench and Owain Evans having a great game with his all action play as he certainly led the team by example.
Also catching the eye amongst the All Blacks’ ‘Golden Oldies’ brigade were second rows Mark James and Andrew Slark alongside full back Delme Bateman, all in their 40s but playing with total commitment.
The Blues had Will Blackburn back from Narberth on permit but missed the energy up front of Matty Phillips and Jon Mason but although they were strong in the set pieces were unable to turn pressure into first half points and paid the price as The All Blacks swarmed all over them.

Andrew Slark puts in a big tackle

All Blacks score first and The Blues battle back

Neyland opened their account after defending really well from the kick-off and a splendid clearance kick by No 10 George Evans  put them on the attack to set up a platform where Ben James, Luke Griffiths Dawes (back from Crymych) and Dan Hart were involved and Owen Hamer slipped the scoring pass to George Williams, looking good in only his second game after so long out injured – and George Evans added the extras.
Haverfordwest had chances to respond but Slark and Delme Bateman tackled well and young winger Matthew Coles brought off a try-saving tackle before The Blues finally scored an unconverted try from some good ball retention which allowed Ioan Hawkridge-Jones and Liam Eaton to put another youngster in winger George Hopkins over in the top-left corner.

Delme Bateman sets up a Neyland attack

Try claims disallowed but Neyland keep control

Neyland thought they had grabbed a second score as Owen Hamer charged down a clearance kick and it looked as if centre Alex Codd won the touch-down but referee Mike Davies (Penclawdd) thought otherwise – but Neyland did score within two minutes of the second half starting when they worked the ball up the left flank and with the ubiquitous Bateman, Evans and Kyle Hamer involved it was Josh Hamer who shrugged off a tackle to score an unconverted try.
Haverfordwest reduced the deficit after good work by Terry Lovell, Jamie Zambas, Pul Dungey and skipper Karl Busch earned a penalty which full back Ollie Roberts landed – but home wingers Coles and Josh Watts covered well alongside Bateman, this onlooker’s man of the match amongst several other candidates, - and The All Blacks added a third score when Josh Hamer stepped inside a would-be  tackler to cross for his second try in the same spot.
George Evans was off target with the conversion and a penalty before Matthew Coles and Iestyn Evans went close in the top-corner – and it is to Haverfordwest’s credit that they battled really hard in the closing stages to try and snatch the consolation of a bonus point but again The All Blacks defended as if their lives depended upon it – and even the most die-hard Blues’ supporter told me it was no more that Neyland deserved!

Jamie Zambas looks for a gap. Picture William John
Neyland: Delme Bateman: Matthew Coles; George Williams; Alex Codd; Josh Watts: George Evans; Owen Hamer: Luke Griffiths-Dawes; Kyle Hamer; Ben James: Mark James; Andrew Slark: Josh Hamer; Owain Evans; Ben Williams. Replacements: Alex Swales; Iestyn Evans; Liam Rees; Corey Richards; Adam Peel.
Haverfordwest: Ollie Roberts:  Gabriel Thicker; Jack Evans; Iestyn Arnold; George Hopkins: Liam Eaton; Ioan Hawkridge-Jones: Iestyn Edwards; Jamie Zambas; Terry Lovell: Karl Busch (Capt); Will Blackburn: Paul Dungey; Mikey Griffiths; Jake Evans. Replacements: Dan Berry; Steve Thomas; Dylan Williamson; Jack Codd; Johnny White.

More good defence by The All Blacks. Picture William John