Newport RFC returned to the Rodney Parade pitch for this attractive pre-season friendly against Rosslyn Park RFC. Some quite strong links between our two clubs have developed over the last few years. Appearing for Rosslyn Park today were former Newport players Adam Frampton and Scott Sneddon, along with prop Stewart Maguire, who left Newport for Irish province Leinster, and former Newport Gwent Dragons No.8 Hugo Ellis, who played quite a few games for our club during his time at Rodney Parade. Hugo, sadly, was not at the club in a playing capacity and remained in his ‘civvies’ throughout.
The Newport management have been industrious throughout the close season, acquiring new players, strengthening the squad and trying to improve the standards throughout. A strong new centre partnership looks likely to emerge in the two Toms, Riley and Pascoe, who started together and were instantly up for scrutiny by Newport supporters. Tom Riley, of course, spent several seasons with Newport before moving on to Newport Gwent Dragons and then the Cornish Pirates. Tom Pascoe, from Cardiff, has spent time playing in Australia, so their joint arrival has created some excitement, if not expectation, on the terrace.
Newport outside half Matt O’Brien kicked off towards the club on a sunny Saturday afternoon and almost instantly Park concede a penalty. O’Brien tilted a kick at the corner but it was Newport now penalised, both sides needing to settle down and find their rhythm. Park tried to run the ball out of defence but a pass cannoned off flanker Harry Broadbent’s chest giving Newport the ball back. From the scrum Kyle Tayler made ground, Elliot Frewen following up off the wing carried the ball on and popped it onto Brendan Lampitt, but he was penalised for holding on to the ball in the tackle.
On 5 minutes, Kyle Tayler ripped the ball clear from a Park carrier and slipped it on to O’Brien. Matt O’Brien, as is Matt’s style, delighted in mixing things up between short, pop passes, long booming passes and dainty little grubber kicks in behind the defence. Park were caught infringing again, so Newport went to the corner. It came to nothing as Adam Brown was penalised for being off his feet at the ruck.
Rosslyn Park were quite loose, borderline careless at times, in their passing. One loose pass saw Frewen hack through and sprint to chase before being hauled down ten metres short. Newport regained possession quickly from the Park scrum and good, strong work from Henry Palmer and Tom Pascoe kept the ball alive in the shadow of Park’s posts. O’Brien chipped ahead for full back Llywarch ap Myrddin to pounce on but the try was disallowed by referee Leighton Hodges and Newport were brought back for a scrum, five metres out. Newport kept up the pressure, ap Myrddin wriggling for the line only to be held up short before the ball was fired out low and hard to Tom Riley who couldn’t quite keep hold of the pass and went into touch.
Just as Rosslyn Park were given an opportunity to clear their lines, scrum half Russell Weir made a hash of it and ended up giving possession back to Newport. This time the indiscretion was punished. The ball went right from the scrum to winger Wes Cunliffe who committed his opposite number and scooped the ball out of the tackle into the path of Brendan Lampitt who crashed over. Matt O’Brien converted to make it 7-0 on 16 minutes.
Park were stung into attack but the Newport defence was strong enough to stop it at source. One midfield pass had Park no.8 Rory Martyn-Smith flap at the ball and knock on. Newport were penalised again, this time for holding on to the ball in the tackle. Scott Sneddon went for the corner. Line out won, Sneddon received the ball back and made a break for the posts. He very nearly got there until Rhodri Jones got involved and collared him, quite literally.
But just as Rosslyn Park seemed to be gathering momentum, they seemed to shoot themselves in the foot. From a scrum, their pack splintered somewhat and a loose forward appeared to kick the ball directly at Matt O’Brien. O’Brien’s clearance was partly charged down, allowing ap Myrddin and Frewen to go on pinballing runs up field clearing the ball a full forty metres. Moments later, Park scrum half, Weir, was seemingly through with a single defender to beat, gave a sloppy bouncing forward pass that should have been a Park try but became an ap Myrddin thirty metre clearing kick.
Newport’s defence was strong, stopping Rosslyn Park players in their tracks with double hits. Park seemed to struggle with answers to Newport’s questions. The last avenue open to them seemed to be to break play up to such an extent that set piece defending went out of the window. Which is what happened. Park received a long kick down field from Newport and passed the ball out wide to flying winger David Vincent. He gained speed and found a series of gaps in the Newport defence that he jinked through and crossed under the posts with barely a hand laid on him. Sneddon added the conversion to make it 7-7 on 40+1 minutes.
Newport responded with an O’Brien penalty kick from fully forty five metres to make the score 10-7 at half time.
Half Time Newport RFC 10 Rosslyn Park RFC 7
Rosslyn Park changed thirteen of their starting fifteen players at half time. From the outset, this Rosslyn Park 2.0 unit were doing far more damage than their first half squad mates. The scrum was much more solid and, on 41 minutes, their rolling mauls improved to the point that hooker Charlie Piper found himself at the tail of one and crossed for Park’s second try. Outside half Harry Leonard added the conversion to make it 10-14.
Park were dictating the play, popping passes to each other with aplomb, seemingly making ground at will to such an extent that Elliot Frewen couldn’t resist sticking his hands where he shouldn’t leaving Mr Hodges to show him a yellow card.
Kyle Tayler was getting through a prodigious amount of work and had a good, solid game throughout. An important, legal, hand on the ball stopped a few Park attacks before they had a chance to amount to much.
Park claimed another try on 53 minutes after second row James Inglis made a good run and slipped a lovely pass on to the supporting winger, Robinson. The score was Newport 10 Rosslyn Park 19.
Newport fought back. New recruit Reuben Tucker set the ball up excellently before Cunliffe battled the ball across field. The pass was slung towards Haydn Palmer who crossed out wide after finding the Park defence short in numbers. Matt O’Brien converted to make it Newport 17 Rosslyn Park 19 on 57 minutes.
Reuben Tucker was certainly making his presence felt. His destructive work on the ground was stopping Park getting going at times, while there will be more than one sore shoulder in London after Tucker decided that some Park players were lying across the ball at a ruck!
Rosslyn Park claimed their fourth try after a super break by openside Jamie Harries up into the Newport 22, then prop Maurice Nwakor floated a splendid pass into the arms of Andrew Henderson who crossed out wide, leaving Leonard to add the extras, making it Newport 17 Rosslyn Park 26 on 67 minutes.
It was left to Newport to play catch up. Some lovely interplay between Matt O’Brien and Tom Riley saw Newport move forward. O’Brien carried the ball some fifteen metres before angling a kick forward for Llywarch ap Myrddin to latch on to. However, he was bundled out of the way before he could score leaving Mr Hodges no option but to award the Penalty Try to Newport and invite Park’s full back, Henry Robinson, to sit down and think about what he had done. Poor ‘Larry’, could have had two tries, ended up with none! O’Brien booted the straightforward conversion to make it 24 – 26 on 71 minutes.
Craig Atwell was coming to the fore in the closing stages. Whether it was early season rustiness, or fitness not quite there yet, but Rosslyn Park were getting their fair share of players caught on the floor not releasing and players like Atwell and Lloyd Phillips were making sure the decisions went Newport’s way.
Newport needed to make one score for victory against this strong and athletic Rosslyn Park side, but it wasn’t to be. They huffed and puffed but Park wouldn’t let Newport out of their own 22. Finally, Haydn Palmer was caught in possession; Park gobbled him up, were awarded the penalty and hoofed the ball off the field for a deserved win.
There was plenty to mull over in the Bisley Suite after the game. There was lots that went right, some bits to work on, some selection posers for Messrs Warlow and Morris to ponder. The defence was, at times, very sound. The amount of battle and desire in the Newport players was heartening.
Newport RFC thank Rosslyn Park RFC for this fixture and wish them every success in their division this season and hope that our paths cross again soon.
The squad has been built on good foundations from last season. The raw talent has been supplemented by good, strong players. It will be fascinating to see how this squad develops and the next step is at the Butts Arena where Newport take on Coventry RFC on Saturday 20th August.
Final Score Newport RFC 24 Rosslyn Park RFC 26https://www.flickr.com/photos/simonjlatham/sets/72157671261356540/