Before the game had even kicked off, hopes were not high of the fixture taking place, such was the state of affairs that saw hundreds of people take to their chosen form of social media to belittle the efforts of Rodney Parade’s indefatigable ground staff following the Pro12 match between Newport Gwent Dragons and Ospreys. It was a ‘quagmire’ wrote many and a ‘disgrace’. Even television pundits, who really ought to know better, joined in the furore as the cheap shots kept coming. Naturally, Mark Jones’ team took it in their stride and prepared the pitch for yet another game. Yes, patches were a little sticky, but what does one expect of an outdoor game played in the depths of a northern hemisphere winter? What followed was an outstanding game of fast open rugby that thrilled the crowd who saw it and was testament to the tremendous work of the groundsmen. Thank you gentlemen.
RGC have had a remarkable first season in the Principality Premiership, sealing their spot in Tier 1 some weeks before the spilt. Sadly, Newport RFC have been left in Tier 2 as results went against the club over the course of the weekend leaving the club mathematically out of reach of qualification.
RGC’s outside half, Armani Roberts, kicked off towards the school end for this inaugural fixture between our clubs. The North Walians started strongly, quickly securing loose ball. Roberts placed a delicate grubber for flanker Tim Grey to latch on to. He fed the ball on to centre Tom Hughes who muscled his way up field. A quick ruck found an overlap to the left and number eight Huw Worthington was almost home for a try before tripping up and stalling on the try line. The ball rapidly moved back right for the powerful Hughes to crash over and claim the try. RGC full back Danny Cross made good the conversion to make it Newport 0 RGC 7 in two minutes.
Newport responded in the best way possible. The visitors were struggling to cope with the elusive running of Elliot Frewen as he penetrated their defence. Frewen skipped through a tackle and was away with the grafting Rhys Jenkins in close support. Frewen was halted on the five metre line but got the ball out to Jenkins allowing him to score Newport’s first try of the evening. Arwel Robson converted to make it 7-7 on 4 minutes.
The early scrums were encouraging for Newport. Young Chris Coleman was up against a seasoned pro in Phil John, formerly of the Scarlets, and James Greenfield appeared to have an advantage over his opposite number, Sam Wainwright.
Newport kept up the pressure. A Ryan James kick towards the touch line saw Elliot Frewen go haring after it only for the ball to bounce agonisingly out of reach and in to touch. Newport managed to pilfer the RGC throw in and keep the pressure on. The Black and Ambers were forcing RGC into conceding a string of penalties but couldn’t take advantage. Arwel Robson cheekily took one quickly and was nearly over before the defence floored him. Recycled ball kept RGC working hard in defence as Robson tried his luck for a second time. This time the RGC defence won the day, Robson was stripped of the ball and danger averted.
On the 21st minute Huw Worthington, the visitors number 8, received a yellow card for being offside at a ruck after the referee, Mr Rob Price, had warned him previously. Then, on 23 minutes, Phil John saw Mr Price’s yellow card for an offence at a line out. With RGC down to 13 players it was a matter of time before cracks appeared. That came on the 26th minute when Mr. Price awarded Newport a penalty try after a series of buckling and wheeling scrums. Arwel Robson slotted the simple conversion to make it Newport 14 RGC 7.
Newport really should have taken further advantage of the numerical supremacy. They had tons of ball but struggled to create much. The RGC defence was excellent, it must be said, but a two-man advantage needed to yield further rewards. Worryingly for Black and Amber supporters, RGC not only weathered the storm but went on to kick a penalty when back to full strength making it 14-10 on 34 minutes.
From Arwel Robson’s restart the ball cannoned off the chest of an RGC forward into the hands of Henry Palmer who kept the ball alive. A pass out to the backs looked intended for Robson but flanker Rhodri Jones got a hand to it. As the move appeared to be petering out Jones set off on a run, his long loping stride taking him in an arc across the face of the RGC defence. Just as Jones appeared to be running up a blind alley towards the cover defence he made a remarkable ‘basketball’ pass to his left into the arms of the sprinting Llywarch ap Myrddin who skated across for Newport’s third try. Arwel Robson converted again to make it Newport 21 RGC 10 on 36 minutes.
RGC hit back. Missed tackles allowed visiting scrum half Josh Leach to make metres towards the Newport line. He found the bustling Tom Hughes who powered towards the line. Hughes appeared to be held up short but it was apparent that he had satisfactorily grounded the ball over the Newport line and Mr. Price had no hesitation in awarding the try. Danny Cross converted to make the score Newport 21 RGC 17 on 39 minutes.
The half drew to a close as the Newport pack had their opponents in all sorts of trouble at the scrum and Arwel Robson stepped forward to kick a penalty for Newport to make it Newport 24 RGC 17 at half time.
Halftime – Newport RFC 24 RGC 1404 RFC 17
Arwel Robson kicked off the second half and quickly got back to work creating opportunities for his mates. A grubber kick through for Elliot Frewen again bounced above his head and harmlessly in to touch. RGC were struggling to clear their lines. Newport were efficiently and patiently going through the phases barely allowing a visitor’s hand on the ball. It took a super chip kick by Armani Roberts, aimed just long enough for winger Aron Evans to time his run on to and sprint away to Newport’s ten metre line before being reined in by the Black and Amber defence.
A 59th minute penalty to RGC, when Newport were caught offside, dropped short of the posts and into Arwel Robson’s hands. Robson set off on a mazy, jinking run from the shadow of the posts up toward halfway before kicking the ball towards the RGC line. The last RGC defender secured the ball but his supporting teammates couldn’t resist going off their feet at the ruck making the penalty decision simple for Mr. Price. Newport opted to scrummage but squandered the opportunity on this occasion. Possession was soon won back and Elliot Frewen was tackled. An RGC player rolled onto the Newport side of the ruck and laid there, once again giving Mr. Price an easy decision to make. Arwel Robson extended the lead to Newport 27 RGC 17 on 63 minutes.
Arwel Robson’s work was done for the evening. He’d done enough to secure the Man of the Match award and it was left to Matt O’Brien to guide Newport home. Newport RFC were playing some quality rugby, uncompromising in attack yet patient enough to wait for the right moment. The bonus point try for Newport came on the 71st minute when RGC were stretched to the limit. The ball popped out to second row Dan Partridge, who showed some tidy footwork and a nice burst of speed to get himself over the line. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 34 RGC 17.
Newport kept the pressure on, they weren’t done yet. O’Brien was poking and prodding the RGC defence from close range. It took an exquisite pass from O’Brien, a reverse pass while running in the opposite direction, into the gut of substitute Dan Mock to crash over to put a real gloss on an excellent win for Newport RFC and, potentially, the best performance by the team this season. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 41 RGC 17 on 77 minutes.
RGC huffed and puffed for a consolation score but couldn’t get through the Black and Amber wall. A hopeful grubber kick through, trying to turn Jon Morris, was snuffed out when Morris dealt with it easily. Mr. Price had seen enough and, with minimal injury time played, brought the game to a close.
A ringing endorsement of the game was given by none other than Scott Quinnell, an interested observer at Rodney Parade and a man who knows a thing or two about our game. He took to Twitter to tell his 81,285 followers ‘Some cracking try's. Good running rugby’, ‘Great game of rugby. Good skill lots of effort Newport won 41-17. Not a collapsed scrum.’
Newport RFC are back in Principality Premiership action next Saturday for a visit to Bargoed RFC. The effort that the Newport players put in against our North Walian counterparts was exemplary and, surely, deserving of a good travelling support to cheer them on!
Come on Newport!
Newport Man Of The Match – Arwel Robson
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 41 RGC 1404 RFC 17