Newport RFC vs Llanelli RFC – 29th April 2017 by John Evans
After achieving a five wins from five games ratio since the Principality Premiership was split in January, Newport had secured their spot in the play-offs in mid-May and were no aiming to secure a home draw. That statistic was always likely to be severely tested by Llanelli RFC who, as we all know, are no slouches.
Llanelli’s outside half, Ioan Hughes kicked the game off with the Scarlets attacking the school end. Newport’s Rhys Jenkins received the ball and started a charge toward the Llanelli line. Jenkins set up a ruck before the ball was whipped across the line out to Elliot Frewen on the wing who stabbed the ball forward and gave chase. Llanelli’s fullback, Kalum Evans countered as the game started at a breathless pace.
Newport prop Nicky Boyce contributed well at keeping Llanelli second row Chris Long off the ground while he was trying to drive forward ensuring Newport won possession back. The pack, again, were very good at the scrum, making their counterparts work for everything in the set piece. Hooker Henry Palmer even managed to contribute a few ‘against the head’ scrum steals.
Scarlets centre Ryan Davies received a tackle from Tom Pascoe that had ‘Welcome to Newport’ written all over it but they managed to retain the ball, despite Davies’ collision, and went close to scoring before fit-again winger Wes Cunliffe managed to snuff out the move and bundle Llanelli into touch.
Newport powered their way up to the Llanelli twenty-two as Dan Partridge won a line out cleanly to feed scrum half Ryan James. James, in turn, found a powering Chay Smith trying to biff a path up the middle of the park. Dan Mock, making a decent fist of filling in for the absent Rhodri Jones at blindside flanker, scooped the ball up and passed left to the flying Frewen but he was tackled into touch. An exciting passage of play followed with Matt O’Brien fabricating a pass out to Frewen again who chipped the ball forward. Llanelli gathered and kicked possession away but it went straight to the hands of big Dan Partridge who strode towards the line. The ruck set up was a little loose but retreating second row Adam Powell, the Llanelli captain, couldn’t resist kicking the ball back towards his team mates. Matt O’Brien made no mistake with the penalty to make it Newport 3 Llanelli 0 on fourteen minutes.
The response by the visitors was quick. Llanelli’s Chris Long took a low, hard lineout throw and set up a drive on the Newport 22 metre line. Dan Mock did well to get amongst them and disrupt the drive but the referee, Mr Jason Bessant, saw an offence. Llanelli went for the corner but the line out throw went long and high. Newport flanker Kyle Tayler got a hand to the ball but it went forward, Llanelli scrum just five metres out. The scrum was solid as the ball went left and Llanelli centre Ioan Nicholas found his colleague Ryan Davies on hand to skip through a tackle and score the visitors first try of the afternoon. Wing Dion Jones added the simple conversion to make the score Newport 3 Llanelli 7 on nineteen minutes.
Matt O’Brien kicked a penalty for Newport on 22 minutes when a stray Llanelli boot made contact with the ball at a Newport scrum followed by another penalty to Newport on 25 minutes, a titanic effort from a couple of feet inside Newport’s half. The score was now Newport 9 Llanelli 7.
Claxons were ringing in the Newport defence on 31 minutes when Wes Cunliffe was caught in a three-on-one situation. Cunliffe went for the intercept but missed. Luckily for Newport Llanelli hooker Taylor Davies’ potential scoring pass to his number eight ,Tom Phillips, was forward. The Black and Ambers were let off the hook on this occasion. Acting Newport captain Rhys Jenkins carried the ball away from the scrum up the ‘blindside’ channel with Dan Mock in support. The ball went left to Matt O’Brien who dodged his way up to the ten metre line before being tackled. Kyle Tayler was present to retrieve the ball for Ryan James to put in a kick for Frewen to chase. The ball rolled dead but a good seventy metres had been made. Dan Partridge was making his presence felt on opposition throw-ins at the line out and contributed to an excellent ‘choke’ tackle to win the ball back for Newport in the shadow of the Hazell Stand.
Newport continued to attack without ever really threatening the try line, Matt O’Brien trying to bring players on to the ball at pace to burst holes in the Llanelli defence. Mr Bessant blew the whistle for half time. As Newport headed for the changing room they would have known that they would require a lot more effort and nous if they wanted to win this game.
Halftime – Newport RFC 9 Llanelli RFC 7
Matt O’Brien restarted the game for Newport and, almost immediately, disaster struck. A Llanelli scrum in midfield, about forty metres out seemed safe enough but powerful centre Ioan Nicholas broke the Black and Amber defence and passed left to support Tom Phillips to canter over. Dion Jones added the conversion to make the score Newport 9 Llanelli 14 on 41 minutes.
Newport switched debutant for debutant on 47 minutes as second row Gavin Bilton made way for back row Lennon Greggains to enable Dan Mock to return to the familiarity of his second row duties. Newport were soon in trouble again. A spilled pass in centre field was hacked forward, Chay Smith getting to the ball first on the Newport try line but the Black and Ambers tried to run the ball out of trouble and soon coughed up possession. Newport’s physicality held up the Llanelli rolling maul and the front row of Nicky Boyce, Henry Palmer and Garin Harris got the team out of trouble as they heaved the Scarlets backwards and forced a penalty allowing Matt O’Brien to clear the danger with a line out on the Bisley Stand side. The forwards put in a superb rolling maul, one for the purist, gaining another fifteen metres before Ryan James barked his orders and released the backs. The ball went through the hands before Wes Cunliffe was allowed a chance to get up to speed with the ball in hand before being tackled into touch.
The now, seemingly, regular change of front rows around the hour mark took place with props Matt Prosser and Fraser Young replacing Harris and Boyce while Will Evans took over hooking duties from Henry Palmer.
Newport briefly threatened as Geraint O’Driscoll found a yard of space and found the willing Elliot Frewen on the left wing but the return pass went forward. Newport were trying to increase the tempo of the game for the final quarter, replacement scrum half Ryan Bates noticeably contributing to this but it worked against them on 67 minutes as the Black and Ambers were cut wide open. Wing Ashley Evans received the ball and drew the defender to release the supporting Thomas Rogers on his left. Mr Bessant took a moment to confer with his Assistant Referee before awarding the try in the corner. The conversion was missed, so the scoreboard now read Newport 9 Llanelli 19.
Worse was to follow. Llanelli were in control of the ball for phase after phase just metres from the Newport try line. Scarlets scrum half Scott Maynard had an armchair ride as he could poke and pull the Newport defence at leisure. He eventually found a gap for wing Dion Jones to barge through for his teams bonus point try which he converted himself bringing the score to Newport 9 Llanelli 26 on 74 minutes.
Will Evans had a charge at the Llanelli line but spilled the ball in contact and, as Newport hunted for a consolation try, Tom Pascoe won a foot race with Llanelli flanker Dan Davis to a loose ball only to knock it on once he got to it. That incident alone was a microcosm of Newport RFC’s afternoon.
The game ended with Llanelli pushing for another score and Newport defending frantically before the Scarlets decided that it was ‘job done’ and elected to kick the ball to touch.
This was a disappointing performance by the Black and Ambers. They didn’t really create any try scoring opportunities all afternoon and the defence that had been so reliable up at Bargoed looked patchy at times. But, being positive, Newport RFC are still top of the tree in Tier Two of the Principality Premiership and have a final chance to cement a home draw in the play-offs. To do this they need to beat Cross Keys RFC when they visit Rodney Parade on Wednesday May 6th, kick off at 7.30pm. Games between Newport and Cross Keys are usually hard-fought affairs with no quarter asked or given, full-blooded rugby with an edge that you only reserve for your nearest and dearest!
Come on Newport!
Newport Man Of The Match – Kyle Tayler
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 9 Llanelli RFC 26