2007/2008 Principality Premiership
Newport 16 v 28 Neath
05 March 2008 - Rodney Parade, Newport

Match Report

Newport 16 Neath 28 (HT:6-14)

Neath gained the expected win at Rodney Parade as Newport coach Ian Hembrow likened it to playing a “team of pros” – in fact Neath have the luxury of being able to have 3 training sessions of 3 hrs each every week. Big spending Neath have assembled an impressive squad and on show for this match were past Newport players Gareth King, Nicky Downs, Jimmie Richards, Steve Martin , Gareth Gravel, ex-Pontypridd players Dafydd Lockyear, Matt Nutthal, ex-Swansea and Wales player Arwel Thomas and if that wasn’t enough they also had the services of Ospreys Steve Tandy. Centres Lockyear and Thomas ruthlessly exposed Newport’s shaky mid-field , Steve Tandy was everywhere and young scrum-half Martin Roberts gave Arwel Thomas great service but to Newport’s credit it was not all one way traffic and had Newport not conceded a couple of tries by missed tackle then the result would have been much closer. On the plus side Newport have improved greatly of late and Ian Hembrow said he was proud of their effort and performance. The pack, in which all played their part and Andrew Brown, Lewis Evans and Andrew Coombs stood out, put in yet another outstanding performance but in truth Newport could not match the cutting edge of Neath.                                                                                   

Newport opened the scoring on 16 mins after soaking up early Neath pressure with a Dan Griffiths penalty from RFU referee Dale Newitt, being monitored by Tony Spreadbury, for not rolling away. Then Neath centres Lockyer and Thomas showed their skills with first Lockyer cutting through midfield on 18 mins from quick line-out ball to feed Thomas for a try. Then on 31 mins Tandy was given a try after another fast jinking run from Thomas. Both tries were converted by Arwel Thomas before Griffiths added a penalty on 39 mins for a HT score of 6-14.  
Neath soon made their ninth four-try bonus of the season on 65 mins when scrum-half Roberts nipped over from a quick-tap penalty in front of the posts and then Lockyer got a well-deserved try after wing Kevin James did the work. Newport came close on times with typical  Scott Williams runs but Brown, Kershaw-Naylor and Mike Burke all went close without getting over the line. Then on 41 mins, Matt Veater who appeared to have run himself into the ground found enough steam to crash over after a quick Nathan Williams tap penalty for a well deserved Newport try converted by replacement full-back Michael Hook.. Newport played their last 3mins of the match reduced to 13 men as James Dixon and Richard Dale were helped for the field. 

And so the Neath supporters went home happy and Newport were left to ponder – well those few who turned up anyway! It was a poor crowd with few travelling Neath supporters and not that many Newport supporters. Not so long ago this match would have been played in front of a near-packed Rodney Parade but since the introduction of Regional rugby in Wales many thousands of supporters have walked away being not interested in the regional game and having little interest in this so-called semi-professional league mainly set up to develop players. The worrying thing is that this trend may well continue and perhaps it is time for the WRU to think again about the set-up but if Wales win the 6 Nations will anything much change ?!                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Official : Dale Newitt (England)

Newport Neath