Newport had to fight back from 0-25 down after only 22 mins , 7-32 after 25mins and 12-35 after 34 mins. Having got back to 19-35 at HT, key substitutions saw them score a further 29 pts without reply. Newport will now meet Swansea in the S/F at St Helens.
SWA report :
Newport will have to wait to dig out their passports and beach towels after a dramatic 48-35 comeback victory against Llanelli in the play-offs at Rodney Parade. It looked grim for the Black and Ambers when the West Walians went 32-7 up after just 25 mins.But the rusty hosts came firing back to seal a last four showdown with Swansea - and their hero was making his Newport debut. Schoolboy scrum-half Jonathan Evans, who caught the eye for the Dragons against the Ospreys last week, came on for the second half and not only did he get his side on the front foot with his swift service but he scored the crucial try.
His effort, and Newport’s sixth, on 70 mins put them in front for the first time after a performance that contrasted starkly to their 13 wins from 13 Premiership games at the Parade.
Tackles were missed and errors were made in a lack-lustre first 40 minutes, but perhaps that was understandable given the way the play-offs have gone down among the unlucky eight that qualified for them.The ‘prize’ was a trip to take on St Helen’s in the semi-final but, in keeping with the farce that the play-offs have become, the date for that is undecided. The list of mishaps for the end-of-season tournament - that the Welsh Rugby Union called “a cutting-edge competition” with a straight face - is ever growing. Pontypridd were thrown out for fielding an ineligible player, dates of games have been switched around because of cricket being played on pitches plus nobody is sure where the final is meant to be played.
Added to that last night was a Llanelli bench that was only four-strong because they were hindered by Wales Under-20s call-ups and permit rules.That meant there were three more empty seats at a Rodney Parade that made your average cricket ground on a County Championship day seem like the Nou Camp or Maracana.
But despite all of the play-offs flaws Newport pledged (at least outwardly) to do their very best to win the tournament. Yet they made a sloppy start with Llanelli crossing for two early tries through wing Dorian Thomas and hooker Rhys Lawrence with fly-half Gareth James, who played at Ebbw Vale this season, adding a conversion. Centre Chris Keenan calmly knocked over a drop goal, wing Dale Ford went over down the right and James added five more points with the boot to make it 25-0 to the Swalec Cup winners just past the 20-minute mark.
“I paid a tenner for this rubbish” or words to that effect was the cry from the Hazell Stand.The Black and Ambers got themselves on the scoreboard when Richard Dale crossed after a searing Gareth Wyatt break (though the final pass by Dan McShane appeared to be forward). Lewis Robling inched the hosts closer with the conversion but the door was swiftly slammed shut again when yet more weak tackling allowed full-back Johnny Lewis to make it 32-7. The scores kept coming in a strange, and at that point unenjoyable, game that lacked the structure and intensity of a ‘real’ league game. Dan McShane picked Llanelli’s pocket from their own scrum five yards out to score Newport’s second, James booted another penalty and then Newport wing Mike Poole went over with Robling converting to make it 35-19 at the break.
Alan Awcock raced over early on and replacement fly-half Chris Wannell added the extras to make it game on at 35-26. Newport, helped by the swift service of replacement scrum-half Jon Evans, bossed matters but Llanelli dug deep and there was no further score going into the last quarter. But replacement Pat Leach dashed over on 65 mins after good work by his fellow centre Scott Williams to make it a one-score game. And then Evans sent the sparse crowd into raptures when he scorched over late on before a Williams try at the death.
Newport scorers: tries - R Dale, D McShane, M Poole, A Awcock, P Leach, J Evans, S Williams; conversions - L Robling (2), C Wannell (3); penalty - C Wannell.
Llanelli scorers: tries - D Thomas, R Lawrence, D Ford, J Lewis; conversions - G James (3); penalties - G James (2); drop goal - C Keenan.
Argus star man: Jonathan Evans
Referee : Gwyn Morris