Chris Kirwan, SWA writes :
NEWPORT gained the lead in injury time and then promptly lost it to 14-man Cardiff at the Arms Park last night. Centre Darren Ryan was sent off for reckless use of the boot on the stroke of half-time - the second time that a Cardiff man was given a red card against Gwent opposition in March following Ian George’s dismissal against Ebbw Vale at the start of the month. That didn’t prevent the Blue and Blacks from cruising to a bonus point win over the Steelmen and Newport must share their frustration after an incredible finale. Wing Mike Poole scuttled over two minutes after the 80 and Gareth Wyatt converted for a 17-16 lead.
But Cardiff fly-half Gareth Davies held his nerve with a 45-metre penalty 11 minutes into injury time to sneak it. But the result was overshadowed by an injury to Newport fly-half Chris Wannell, who was stretchered off in a neck brace after lengthy treatment on the pitch. His plight was the biggest downer on a night where the Black and Ambers failed to strengthen their third place in the table. The duel between Ebbw Vale and Pontypool to avoid the drop may be grabbing most of the attention but the battle for places in the top four, which bring automatic British and Irish Cup qualification, is just as tight. Neath look well set for yet another title but the chase is on between the Black and Ambers, Swansea (who have just three games to play but points in the bag), Cardiff, Llanelli and Pontypridd.
It was the Blue and Blacks who made a scorching start courtesy of a gift by Newport fly-half Chris Wannell inside two minutes with scrum-half Tom Slater going under the sticks from halfway after blocking then gathering a grubber kick. Fly-half Gareth Davies added the routine conversion but it took just four minutes for Newport to make it 7-5 through Alan Awcock. The winger finished off a flowing move from quick lineout ball that saw centre Pat Leach put Poole and Wyatt in full flight. Cardiff inched themselves further ahead with a Davies penalty on 22 minutes but the hosts were reduced to 14 men when Jake Thomas was penalised for a dangerous tackle on 27. That gave Newport the chance to apply the pressure but Wannell was wide with a penalty and skipper Andrew Coombs was held up over the line. Then came the big moment of the half just before the break when wing Jimmy Norris was outpaced by Leach in a race to the line and then referee Tim Hayes dismissed Ryan from the resulting ruck.
But it was the hosts who stretched away after the break with a Davies penalty on 46 and they maintained their eight-point advantage thanks to a magnificent last-ditch tap tackle on Poole by former Newport centre Gareth Chapman. Yet the see-saw game then saw a last-ditch tackle at the other end, full-back Craig Morgan denied five metres out by Poole after intercepting Wannell’s poor pass, who was then injured at the breakdown. Davies pushed Cardiff further away with a penalty on 72 minutes but Awcock dashed over after good work from Coombs and flanker Richard Dale to get Newport back in it before the late drama.
Cardiff scorers: Try - T Slater and G Davies 1c, 4p. Newport scorers: Tries - A Awcock (2), M Poole and G Wyatt 1c. Referee: Tim Hayes (WRU). Argus star man: Andrew Quick.