Newport’s campaign in Tier 2 of the Principality Premiership continued when our greatest rivals, and oldest friends, arrived from the Arms Park. Cardiff RFC turned up on the back of a week that they would rather forget. The previous Saturday they had taken part in a National Cup game at home to Pontypool RFC, a rare fixture in which Newport RFC supporters probably wanted both teams to lose heavily. The Championship club duly turned our visitors over, rather convincingly, but were then subject to the tiresome ‘Trial by Twitter’ when a perceived slight was broadcast to the nation by influential people at said club. This lead to keyboard warriors all across the country taking up the cudgels in an attempt to beat the Blue and Blacks around the head with it. Such is life today. Naturally, Cardiff RFC would have dealt with the aftermath quietly and through the correct channels.
Newport RFC were also coming into this game on the back of a loss and one that stripped the squad of several influential members due to injury. Newport had to call on the Newport Gwent Dragons, Brynmawr RFC, Blaenavon RFC and Newbridge RFC to permit in players and to them the club are genuinely grateful.
The game kicked off at midday in order that supporters and players could watch the Scotland v Wales Six Nations game on the big screen in the Bisley Suite. About an hour before this a light misty rain settled over Newport with occasional strong gusts of wind. This continued for the duration of the afternoon and made conditions for the players a little trickier.
Cardiff’s outside half, Jarrod Evans, kicked off towards the clubhouse end. Cardiff set about pressing the Newport defence, using hustling and harrying to deny the Newport players time or space. The early play was all Blue and Black. Jarrod Evans placed an intelligent cross kick which Newport full-back Llywarch ap Myrddin appeared to have covered. ‘Larry’ spilled the ball under pressure from the Cardiff wing James Beal and Elliot Frewen instinctively picked up the ball in an offside position. Cardiff’s Jack Davies climbed highest in the lineout and the maul rumbled towards the Newport try line. The referee, Mr Adam Jones, couldn’t see the grounding and gave Cardiff a five metre attacking scrum. The Newport scrum would not be moved. Cardiff were struggling to do very much with possession and this attack petered out to nothing when James Greenfield pounced on the loose ball on the ground which Ryan James cleared. Cardiff wing Ceri Young returned the ball at the Newport defence but was stripped of the ball illegally. Mr Jones awarded Cardiff a penalty which Jarrod Evans slotted comfortably to make it Newport 0 Cardiff 3 on 6 minutes.
Cardiff continued to snuff out Newport at source. Effective use of ‘line speed’ had the Newport clearing kickers screwing the ball into touch and keeping the pressure on. Visiting full-back Gareth Thompson nearly had a golden opportunity when he fielded Tom Pascoe’s hurried clearance but his boot clipped the touch line.
It took fifteen minutes before Newport were awarded their first penalty. Geraint O’Driscoll, slotting in at outside half for Newport, kicked Newport to ten metres from the Cardiff line. Adam Brown claimed the line out ball as Rhys Jenkins made a burst around the blind side. He scrambled over for a score but Mr Jones declined to award it having seen some blocking.
Ryan James put in a very effective box kick for Jon Morris to hunt down on twenty minutes. Newport were ten metres from the Cardiff line again. Rhodri Jones took the line out and the maul closed in around him. A series of drives at the line softened Cardiff up before prop Garin Harris got his hands on the ball and drove low. He crossed the line for Newport’s first try of the afternoon and O’Driscoll added the conversion to make it Newport 7 Cardiff 3.
Newport were starting to loosen the shackles that Cardiff had tried to impose on them. Rhodri Jones was proving to be a proper nuisance at the Cardiff line out, spoiling much of the ball that came their way. It was a line out steal that lead to Newport making an attack as Ryan James beckoned Henry Palmer to take the short side which he duly did. When Palmer wasn’t released in the tackle O’Driscoll booted Newport up to the Cardiff 22 metre line. Newport second row Andrew Mann, making his Principality Premiership debut for the club, won the ball and James released the backs. It reached centre Chay Smith, still showing the good form that he exhibited at Pontypridd, who made yards before passing on to Rhodri Jones. Sadly Jones spilled the ball in contact and another promising opportunity came to nothing.
Both teams were attempting to create something out of nothing but it was Newport that were ever so slowly getting the upper hand. The scrum had settled down after a few early creaks and the half-backs, James and O’Driscoll had found their range with territorial kicking. The last score of the half came in the fourth minute of injury time when Mr Jones penalised Cardiff for turning in at a scrum. Geraint O’Driscoll stepped forward to make it ten points to three as the whistle went.
Halftime – Newport RFC 10 Cardiff RFC 3
Geraint O’Driscoll restarted the game by belting the ball into the corner, under the Bisley Suite, for Jon Morris to chase. Morris arrived at roughly the same time as the ball and got in amongst the Cardiff defence excellently, holding up play long enough for the ‘heavy gang’ to appear. But then Newport started to make silly mistakes;- not rolling away from the tackle, side entry to a ruck and, most unforgivably, chopsing. Penalties, every one of them. Within seconds Newport were back defending their own line. Cardiff’s Jarrod Evans went for the corner in front of the Hazell Stand. Cardiff’s Jack Davies won the line out but Rhodri Jones did just enough, again, to spoil Cardiff’s possession.
Ryan James and Geraint O’Driscoll were putting in a great display of playing to the conditions. When they were up against a flat defensive line they angled the ball into a corner for either John Morris or Elliot Frewen to track down and harass the Blue and Blacks into a mistake. This wasn’t an afternoon for flashing blades; this was old-fashioned tracking up and down the channels. It’s on this selfless work that victories are built.
Cardiff wing James Beal got boot to a loose ball and created some panic among the Newport defence. Jon Morris was back to mop up on the Newport five metre line before being nailed. Chay Smith was on hand to carry the ball back up field but he was stripped of the ball around the Newport 22. That man Beal was there again for another tilt at the Newport line before being smothered into touch some seven metres out.
Mr Jones eventually tired of Cardiff’s buckling at the scrum in the 54th minute and their loose-head prop, Gavin Nash, was invited to sit on the naughty step for ten minutes. Cardiff responded excellently, running the ball at the Black and Ambers and catching their defence unawares. James Beal, again, sprinted along his wing before being tackled. The ball went through the hands to left wing Ceri Young who came close but he, too, was tackled. Cardiff number eight Ben Thomas had a drive before Mr Jones decided that Cardiff weren’t taking advantage of an awarded penalty and brought play back. The referee spoke with both captains and offending players before reversing a penalty against Newport. Cardiff went for the line out but lost the ball when the maul was absolutely smashed by Newport, scrum to the home side, danger averted.
The game continued in this vein until the 66th minute when Newport were the beneficiaries of a reversed penalty. Mr Jones had initially penalised Newport for not rolling away at the tackle again, seemingly a favourite of this referee, when his Assistant Referee became involved, having seen some foul play. Sadly, Geraint O’Driscoll’s penalty attempt sailed to the right of the posts so the score remained ten points to three.
Cardiff nearly broke free of Newport’s territorial game in the 74th minute but the scramble defence of the home side was solid. Cardiff passed the ball back and forth across the Newport 22 metre line and the Black and Ambers seemed to simply wait for them to make a mistake which duly came in the form of a knock-on.
Ten – three may possibly have been enough but Newport looked to extend the lead towards the end of the game. A long boot ahead by O’Driscoll found Rhys Jenkins chasing after it with Jon Morris in support. Jenkins snared the Cardiff full-back, Gareth Thompson, whose pass attempt went loose. Elliot Frewen hacked ahead for the ball to ricochet off a Cardiff player to Garin Harris. Harris secured the ball before it was worked across the line to Jon Morris, running with Llywarch ap Myrrdin in support. The ball fell loose to Tom Pascoe who toe-poked ahead only for a Blue and Black defender to carry the ball over his own try line, attacking scrum to Newport. From the scrum Rhys Jenkins broke to the right and crossed the line only to be held up. From the reset scrum, and with the public address system confirmation that Jenkins was Newport RFC Man of the Match still ringing in his ears, he picked up, chose to go left and was rewarded with a try which Geraint O’Driscoll improved upon. The score was now Newport 17 Cardiff 3 on 80+2 minutes.
Cardiff earned themselves a consolation score when former Newport player Will Rees-Hole crossed out wide after several phases with Cardiff managing to keep hold of the ball and the Newport defence seemingly at sixes and sevens. Jarrod Evans was unsuccessful with the conversion so they didn’t even come away with a losing bonus point. The score was now Newport 17 Cardiff 8 on 80+9 minutes as the final whistle went.
There were lots of excellent individual performances today, the wings, Frewen and Morris, stuck to their task without complaint doing the unglamorous side of wing work, Garin Harris had potentially his best game in a Black and Amber jersey so far and both Ryan James and Geraint O’Driscoll controlled the game well, showing their experience in playing the conditions. Andrew Mann, on permit from Brynmawr RFC, was excellent in the second row and looked determined to make an impression. He did the shirt proud and, hopefully, we’ll see him wearing it many more times in the future. However, the award had to go to Rhys Jenkins whose whole-hearted commitment and dogged determination were a delight to see. He must have won more turnover ball for Newport than he had protein shakes in the last fortnight.
Newport RFC now have a two week spell with no competitive games. Us supporters have to wait until March 18th for our next fix of Black and Amber rugby when we visit Neath RFC at the Gnoll in a Principality Premiership Tier 2 fixture. The kick-off is again at midday in order to avoid clashing with the France v Wales Six Nations game. Apparently, Neath RFC are promoting it as a ‘Wear Your Colours’ day, so, if you’re planning to go, why not join in and wear your Black and Amber shirts. Let’s see if we can outnumber them!
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Rhys Jenkins
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 17 Cardiff RFC 8
Pictures from Ron Sutcliffe:https://www.flickr.com/photos/147517109@N03/sets/72157679142264100/
Pictures from Simon Latham: https://m.flickr.com/#/photos/simonjlatham/sets/72157677305550343/