Friday, 30 October 2009

Neath centre reaches milestone

Centre Stephen Thomas reaches the 100-appearance milestone for third-placed Neath when they visit Parc-y-Scarlets to play Llanelli (kick off 2.30pm) on Saturday.

The strong-running Thomas, equally at home on the wing or in the centre, averages over a try every other game, having crossed for 56 tries since linking with the Welsh All Blacks in 2005/06, and, having missed out last week, he will be keen to add to his tally this time out.

He becomes the 10th Neath player to reach his century of appearances since the Premiership came into being, joining Gareth Morris, Kevin James, Wayne Mitchell, Paul Jones, Andy Littlehales, current Wales squad member Craig Mitchell, Andrew Howell and Andy Llewellyn (both now playing for Ebbw Vale) and John McPhail.

The Welsh All Blacks, already into the second half of their Principality Premiership away fixtures, make five changes from the side which lost to Cardiff in last Sunday’s televised spectacular.

Behind the scrum, wingers Kevin James and Alec Jenkins and top points-scorer Gareth McCarthy are restored while the pack is reinforced by the return of Martin Jones and Euros Evans. All-action hooker Gerwyn Price is named on the bench for the first time following his recovery from a knee operation.

Head Coach Patrick Horgan said: “We were, to say the least, bitterly disappointed by aspects of our game against Cardiff although the television audience will no doubt have enjoyed the eight-try thriller.

Llanelli will have watched it with interest and will have noted that we played some very good rugby alongside some very poor stuff and that our error count was far too high.

Llanelli, like Cardiff, are a very good, clinical side and we face another big challenge. But that is what rugby is about – meeting a challenge head-on and rising to overcome it. Llanelli have a similar record to ourselves and will be pleased to be back home after a run of away games.

“Although they have suffered some regional call-ups, these were known early enough in the week for them to prepare very thoroughly for us and we expect another full-on West Wales derby. They have a solid pack, a good young back-row and some promising backs.

“It will be a good test of our credentials and we must rediscover ourselves.”

Neath: G.King; K.James, S.Thomas, N.Brew, A.Jenkins; G.McCarthy, K.Farrell; A.V.Lott, A.James, M.Jones; E.Evans, N.Edwards; M.Collins, G.Gravell (captain), A.Whitney
Replacements – K.Phillips, A.Thomas, T.James, J.Reeves, G.Price, L.Evans, C.Price

Referee – Mr. Tim Hayes (Carmarthen)


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