(by Howard Evans)

The strong wind played a huge part in this match and Neath led 8-5 at the break, but Aberavon ran in five second-half tries with the wind at their back.

Once again the Talbot Athletic Ground pitch was in splendid order but despite the nine tries scored it was an excellent drop goal by skipper James Garland that was the best and most important score.

It was a stop-start game with Neath often going down, though Shaun Pearce, Ben Davies and Rheon James all picked up bad injuries.

The most popular moment however was an interception try by young Gambian-born wing Mike Wilson. It was his eighth game for Aberavon, but his first in the Premiership and he was a joy to watch. In one Neath attack he halted both their centre and wing and when the ball did not arrive he went looking for it. He provided great entertainment for the crowd.

Yet, it was not entirely a convincing Aberavon performance and there is still the need of an experienced back row forward, but Ben Davies excelled at everything he did - catching, jumping, running and passing.

Ben Jones was not far behind him and Joe Tomalin-Reeves, in only his second game back after injury, created a vital long-distance try by sheer intelligence.

It was Joe who scored the opening try by shrugging off two tacklers, but before the interval Ed Howley landed a penalty and hooker Sion Crocker had snatched a try for Neath.

After the break, Will Price went over in the corner for Garland to land a superb conversion and then Ben Jones scored in almost the same place before Tomalin-Reeves cleverly kept onside and sent Liam Popham away for a long-distance try though Liam did well to shake off a Neath tackler with Pearce cleverly going infield in support.

Popham converted his own try and at 24-8 Garland turned around and dropped a beautiful goal from some distance to celebrate his 30th birthday.

It seemed to wake Neath up and Charlie Davies scored after a clear forward pass and a huge knock-on but when they came again Wilson intercepted and there was no need to chase him with Garland converting.

Neath gained their third try by centre Richard Smith and Howley converted, but Aberavon struck back as replacement David Pritchard showed his strength in going over and Garland added the extras.

Aberavon 41 - 20 Neath

Aberavon Team:
Liam Popham; Mike Wilson, Will Price, Rheon James (rep Steffen Williams 73 min), Shaun Pearce (rep Jonathan Phillips 61 min); James Garland (capt), Jacob Flynn (rep David Pritchard 63 min); Jordan Walters (rep Mike Burgess 69 min), Luke Davies (rep Ieuan Davies 61 min), Jon Thomas (rep Rhys Forse 63 min), Ben Jones, Ben Davies (rep Ben Thomas 68 min), Rob Dudley-Jones, Luke Joseph, Joe Tomalin-Reeves (rep Craig Price 56 min).

Jordan Walters appeared from the Ospreys; Mike Wilson appeared from Swansea Uplands RFC.

Aberavon Scorers:
T - Joe Tomalin-Reeves, Will Price, Ben Jones, Liam Popham, Mike Wilson, David Pritchard 
C - James Garland (3), Liam Popham
DG - James Garland

Neath Scorers:
T - Sion Crocker, Charlie Davies, Richard Smith
C - Ed Howley
PG - Ed Howley

Elfyn Morris-Roberts

Man Of The Match:
1 - Ben Davies
2 - Mike Wilson
3 - Jacob Flynn

Time Line:
05 min: Aberavon - T - Joe Tomalin-Reeves (5 - 0)
26 min: Neath - PG - Ed Howley (5 - 3)
31 min: Neath - T - Sion Crocker (5 - 8)
Half Time
46 min: Aberavon - T - Will Price & C - James Garland (12 - 8)
53 min: Aberavon - T - Ben Jones (17 - 8)
55 min: Aberavon - T - Liam Popham & C - Liam Popham (24 - 8) 
63 min: Aberavon - DG - James Garland (27 - 8)
67 min: Neath - T - Charlie Davies (27 - 13)
72 min: Aberavon - T - Mike Wilson & C - James Garland (34 - 13)
77 min: Neath - T - Richard Smith & C - Ed Howley (34 - 20)
79 min: Aberavon - T - David Pritchard & C - James Garland (41 - 20) 
Full Time