It’s been ten long years since Newport came away from Sardis Road with a win under their belt. However, there were small signs that an upset may be on the cards this time around. Pontypridd appeared to be struggling with injuries to key players, they were playing on their new synthetic pitch, so were as inexperienced on it as Newport were, their form appeared to have been wobbling of late although, to their credit, they could still usually close out the tightest games and the referee was a gentleman by the name of Robert Price! Surely, seeing his name on the front of Newport’s shirts would gain some sympathy? Joking, of course, but Newport RFC were also due a change in their luck. They have been playing quite well but the results simply didn’t reflect the performances.
After a minutes silence for Mr. Maldwyn Price, a former Pontypridd club member, the game started with Arwel Robson kicking off towards the clubhouse. As early as the second minute, Pontypridd were caught with an early push at the scrum. Ryan James tapped the free kick quickly and found Reuben Tucker who biffed the ball up to the Pontypridd 22 metre line. The ball then made its way out to Rhodri Jones whose loping, long stride took him over the line draped in Black and White jerseys to touch down for Newport. The conversion was missed making the score Pontypridd 0 Newport 5.
Minutes later, Newport were threatening to go forward again from a line out. Ryan James fired the ball away to Arwel Robson who carried, then tried to spread the ball wide only for the pass to be picked off by Pontypridd centre Bradley Coombes who sprinted away unchallenged from the halfway line to score. Outside half Callum Hall added the conversion to make it 7-5 to the home side on six minutes.
A 13th minute penalty for Pontypridd edged them further ahead as Newport were adjudged to have been offside almost in the shadow of the posts. Callum Hall made no mistake with the simple penalty goal to make it Pontypridd 10 Newport 5 on 13 minutes.
Newport compounded their earlier mistake by giving away a second try that was as soft as the first. Smart turnover ball was moved wide and, what would have been a nice, simple pass was spoiled by the hulking presence of Pontypridd’s Dafydd Lockyer who took the pass and set off towards the try line before finding wing Alex Webber in support. The pass enabled Webber to score unchallenged in the corner. Hall’s conversion was good and made the score Pontypridd 17 Newport 5 on 18 minutes.
Newport were awarded a penalty of their own on 20 minutes as Geraint O’Driscoll was not released in the tackle. Arwel Robson went for the corner but a very powerful drive by the Black and White pack nullified the threat from the line out.
With Newport back in possession of the ball, Chay Smith found a gap in the Pontypridd defence and tried to find Tom Riley before home wing Joe Davies got a hand to the ball. Craig Atwell continued his terrific form of late and spirited the ball away. It was passed wide but the final, scoring, pass to Llywarch ap Myrddin, playing on the wing today, was deemed forward and play was brought back.
Pontypridd continued to threaten as Joe Davies went close. Callum Hall retrieved his own chip kick before finding Davies in support. He was hauled down on the Newport 5 metre line by O’Driscoll but chose to continue to play the ball rather than release and then continue. Newport were awarded a relieving penalty.
Newport turned defence into attack and, on the 37th minute, were awarded a penalty as Pontypridd were found to have infringed at the scrum. Arwel Robson’s kick looked good but shaved the outside of the right post and bounce back into play for Pontypridd to hoof downfield. The Newport line out was won, but a moment’s indecision by Ryan James proved very expensive. His clearing kick was charged down by second row Hemi Barnes who gathered the loose ball before brushing off defenders as he went on to score his sides third try. Three tries, three gifts. Callum Hall added the conversion to make the score Pontypridd 24 Newport 5.
Halftime – Pontypridd RFC 24 Newport RFC 5
Pontypridd started the second half and it was interesting to see the adjustments that the Newport coaches had made at half time. Nothing in the way of personnel just yet, but a general ‘tightening up’ of things.
Reuben Tucker, an excellent summer acquisition, was being a pain in the collective Pontypridd neck and his 47th minute break between Newport’s 22 metre line and Pontypridd’s 40 metre line showed why. However it came to nought as the ball was popped up out of the tackle into the hands of Dafydd Lockyer again. So frustrating.
Newport were awarded a series of close range penalties around the 52 minute mark. After a re-set line out, Tucker, James Greenfield and Adam Brown drove the ball into the heart of the Pontypridd defence before being awarded another penalty, However, former Cardiff Blues second row Chris Dicomidis read the throw correctly and was able to snaffle the ball away and Pontypridd cleared. However, all was not well with Mr. Price’s mood. He had clearly grown tired of the regular Pontypridd infringements and when hooker Ashleigh James failed to allow Arwel Robson to his feet at a tackle, he reached into his pocket for a yellow card on the 54th minute.
The change of half backs on the hour usually adds a little spice into the Newport attack, and so it was on this occasion. Reuben Tucker made another trademark bash up field before finding replacement Matt O’Brien. O’Brien juggled the pass before finding Geraint O’Driscoll steaming up in support on the wing. O’Driscoll fended two players off before scoring a try which O’Brien added the conversion from the touchline. The score now was Pontypridd 24 Newport 12 on 62 minutes.
Could Newport snatch this?
Replacement scrum half Owen Davies appeared to have been clear away before being called back as he had bumped the referee on the way. Unlucky, but the close calls just weren’t going for Newport. Pontypridd went desperately close on the 72nd minute as a grubber kick found two attackers facing O’Driscoll who had to turn and smother the ball. He did so but was ruled to have carried the ball over his own try line in doing so. Thankfully the attacking scrum was stubbed out by a strong Newport pack and the danger passed.
Newport’s woes were far from over though. Geraint O’Driscoll, playing as well as he has since before his calamitous knee injury, horribly mistimed a challenge on Pontypridd’s Cameron Lewis. Lewis appeared to flail through the air and land awkwardly but was, hopefully, unharmed in the incident. O’Driscoll, however, was laid out for some minutes receiving attention from both medical teams. Newport RFC must thank Pontypridd RFC for their assistance with Geraint, it was appreciated. Thankfully Geraint got to his feet and walked off with assistance, although he did appear to have small birds flying in clockwise circles around his head, like when Tom wallops Jerry with a broom handle. Mr Price felt obliged to show O’Driscoll a yellow card for the challenge and Newport continued with fourteen players.
Late tries came for Pontypridd via Alex Webber again who simply took a pass and ran at the channel where O’Driscoll would have been. Craig Atwell did his best to cover the gap but couldn’t get to grips with the elusive runner. Then, the final play of the game, Matt O’Brien tried to kick a ball through for Wes Cunliffe to chase. Pontypridd’s Dane Blacker scooped the ball up, spun out of the tackle before feeding wing Joe Davies who was clear to score his side’s fifth try. Callum Hall added the conversion on 80 + 7 minutes to make it a final score of Pontypridd 36 Newport 12. The fact the Hall’s conversion bounced off the same upright that Arwel Robson had struck in the first half, but went inside, rather than outside the posts, was symptomatic of Newport’s fortunes.
On the face of it, the score seems like a horrific five-tries-to-two drubbing, but it really wasn’t like that. Newport showed that they are more than capable of competing with teams like Pontypridd but nobody can virtually gift a team like theirs five tries and expect to win. That said, the two tries in injury time did put a gloss on the score line which Newport RFC supporters felt that they scarcely deserved, but that’s sport.
Newport RFC take a break from Principality Premiership action and head up to visit our friends at Bedwas RFC on Wednesday 12th October in a Premiership Challenge fixture. Kick-off is at 7.15pm. Bedwas were defeated finalists in the competition last season and will surely want to go one better this year. It should be an interesting game!
Man Of The Match – Craig Atwell
FINAL SCORE _ Pontypridd RFC 36 Newport RFC 12
See the tries via the link on YouTube here - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c62PZOq8r0
Hear Craig Warlow’s speaking to Ioan Dyer on Soundcloud here –