NEATH put Glasgow to the sword by eight tries to one. Their right wing Kevin James was the star, claiming four of them in the midst of giving Michael Bartlett and Glen Metcalfe an uncomfortable afternoon.
Neath’s former open-side Lyn Jones is now their irrepressible coach. Before the start he was particularly complimentary about the visitors: “Glasgow play positive rugby, and have an exceptionally strong game.” Not yesterday. “They were a pleasure to play against when we narrowly beat them in Scotland last month.” This time the pleasure was all Neath’s.
The Welsh club’s ugly reputation of the late 1980s and early ’90s is a matter of history now, but in the modern era they are once again proving to be a vital force. However, this time they are rebels with a cause. The club almost went bankrupt two years ago, and had to be rescued via a WRU buy-out. As the effective owners, the union now seek a reduction to six professional clubs, Neath being left on the outside with their noses pressed against the window.
After this result, the Welsh All Blacks look particularly well placed to qualify for the Heineken Cup. Neath opened with a flourish, Kevin James being held short in the opening minute. He crossed shortly afterwards on the end of a movement initiated by Englishman James Storey, son of athletics commentator Stuart.
Calvin Howarth opened Glasgow’s account with a penalty from 35 metres on 12 minutes, but the Welshmen returned to the attack, and left wing Shane Williams went close with his trademark grubber and sprint. From the resulting five-metre scrum, Gareth Morris was put over to give the home side a deserved second score, and five minutes from half-time the two try-scorers combined to extend Neath’s lead when a kick to the right corner by Morris spun wickedly, and James was awarded a try.
An unhappy five minutes then followed for Glasgow. With Gordon Simpson off for repairs, Neath again attacked the Glasgow right flank with evergreen former Welsh skipper Gareth Llewellyn creating space for James to cross at the corner for his third score.
Neath led 22-3 at half-time, and early forward pressure immediately on the restart saw Barry Williams score from close range. On 50 minutes, when fly-half Lee Jarvis fielded a kick on halfway, he beat a couple of men, and Tongan centre Dave Tiueti was put over between the Glasgow posts.
The Scots then rumbled forward in midfield, before spilling the ball to scrum-half Andy Moore, who streaked clear from his own half before giving the speedy James a run in for try No 4.
Michael Bartlett scored a try that would have been scant consolation for him or his team-mates shortly before the end. There was little satisfaction for any of them, and replacement prop Andrew Howell claimed the final try.
With a fixture pile-up ahead of them, Glasgow’s players need to have a hard look at their motivation. A season that started with such promise against Ulster back on a warm August night at Hughenden is in danger of unravelling into an unseemly finish.
Dixon will expect much better from his men at Llanelli next Saturday.
Neath: G Morris; K James (D Dewdney, 74), J Storey (A Bateman, 64), T Tiueti, S Williams; L Jarvis (S Connor, 67), A Moore; D Jones, B Williams (S Jones, 59), A Millward (A Howell, 50), S Martin, G Llewellyn (capt) (R Phillips, 74), R Francis, N Bonner-Evans, B Sinkinson (S Tandy, 59).
Glasgow: G Metcalfe; J Steel, A Bulloch, A Henderson (J Stuart, 50), M Bartlett; C Howarth, G Beveridge; C Blades (E Murray, 59), G Bulloch (capt), L Harrison, S Griffiths, G Perrett, G Simpson (A Hall, 35-39 blood), J Petrie, D Macfadyen.
Referee: H Watkins (Welsh RU).
Scorers: Neath – Tries: K James (4), Morris, B Williams, Tiueti, Howell. Cons: Jarvis (3). Glasgow – Try: Bartlett. Con: Howarth. Pen: Howarth