Newport RFC welcomed Bargoed RFC to Rodney Parade for their first visit in the Principality Premiership and their first visit since November 1979, when the number one song in the charts was ‘When you’re in love with a beautiful woman’ by Dr. Hook and the news had revealed that Anthony Blunt was the ‘fourth man’ in the Cambridge spy ring. Yes, that long ago.
The game kicked off to a background of fully grey skies, light rain and swirling winds. Bargoed’s outside half, Iain Smerdon , got the game underway and both teams indulged in a spot of aerial tennis before settling down to get the ball in hand. Sadly, from a Newport line out, Matt O’Brien was almost taken man and ball by a full-blooded tackle and, with possession spilled, Bargoed wing Ashley Norton hacked through before securing the ball and passing to centre Jordan Howells. Howells was hauled down just short of the try line but the ruck quickly formed and was won by the Bargoed pack. Visiting scrum half James Pizey had the straightforward task of finding a runner who could pass out to number eight Ieuan Jones, the former Cardiff Blues player, to cross almost unopposed on two minutes. That made the score Newport 0 Bargoed 5.
Within minutes Newport had conceded a penalty when the referee, Mr Ben Whitehouse, had judged that Morgan Burgess had strayed offside at a ruck. Bargoed’s Smerdon went for the corner. The lineout was cleanly won and the rolling maul was effective with visiting captain Rhys Morgan being the recipient of the ball at the back. The try was clearly scored and added to by full back Matthew Lewis making the score Newport 0 Bargoed 12 on five minutes.
This was little short of a disastrous start by the Black and Ambers and could have been worse when a 13th minute penalty shot at goal drifted wide of the uprights. Newport were regularly falling foul of Mr Whitehouse at the set-pieces and were creating little until the 22nd minute when scrum half Owen Davies spotted enough of a gap to race away with Kyle Tayler in support. Tayler found Matt O’Brien on his right shoulder and, under some pressure, opted to slide in and take advantage of the damp conditions and negate the possibility of being tackled. O’Brien scraped over the line and, in the process, took his personal tally to over three hundred points scored for Newport RFC. He also added the conversion to make the score Newport 7 Bargoed 12.
Mr Whitehouse again penalised Newport, this time for a back rower slipping his binding. Matthew Lewis, the Bargoed full back stepped forward to slot the penalty from thirty metres out and take the score to Newport 7 Bargoed 15 on 29 minutes. To compound the situation, Matt O’Brien’s restart went high, became caught in the strengthening wind and ended up back inside the Newport half resulting in a scrum to Bargoed on the centre spot.
Newport were picking up the pace and showing the intent to attack but were nowhere near clinical enough in the conditions. But press they did and it began to pay dividends when visiting number eight, Ieuan Jones needlessly, but deliberately, knocked the ball on during a Newport passing move. Mr Whitehouse had no option but to offer him a ten minute breather. From the resulting penalty O’Brien kicked Newport up to the 22 metre line. A strong rolling maul took the Black and Ambers up to the five metre line as Evan Whitson, marking his fiftieth appearance in the jersey, Adam Brown and John Lavender all took turns at guiding the maul. The ball spun across the line but Bargoed were caught offside in defence allowing Newport another crack at the try line, O’Brien went for the corner and, line out won, a threatening rumble towards the line proved irresistible to Bargoed flanker Alex Herbert who was quickly spotted by Mr Whitehouse as being guilty of deliberately dragging the maul down. He too was offered ten minutes on the naughty step. Newport opted for the scrum, went left into contact before a short series of rucks saw the ball go right to Matt O’Brien who put in a beautifully-weighted grubber kick for Tom Pascoe and Chay Smith to chase. Smith got there first and claimed the try. O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 14 Bargoed 15 on 40 + 5 minutes.
As Mr Whitehouse blew for half time Newport supporters were slightly relieved that at least Newport RFC were in touching distance of Bargoed, and they would be down to thirteen players for at least the first five minutes of the second half. If Newport started strongly and took advantage then the game was eminently winnable.
Halftime – Newport RFC 14 Bargoed RFC 15
Henry Palmer replaced Evan Whitson at half time allowing Palmer to also make his fiftieth appearance in a Black and Amber jersey. Matt O’Brien kicked off and Morgan Burgess sprinted up to meet the ball, won it and secured it for Newport. Bargoed were under a little bit of pressure as they made some unforced errors in defence but Newport weren’t able to capitalise.
A 45th minute handling move took full advantage of the two absent back row defenders as Geraint O’Driscoll, Henry Palmer and Matt O’Brien carried Newport half the length of the field before wing Curtis Ayling was released but he was hauled into touch just ten metres out. Newport kept the pressure up as Matt O’Brien cross-kicked into the corner for wing Jon Morris to chase but the ball was unfortunately spilled by O’Driscoll. Newport won the ball back but the pressure on Bargoed was relieved when a pass was knocked on and Bargoed centre Jordan Howells scooped the ball up, evaded tacklers and punted ahead for wing Ashley Norton to chase only for Morgan Burgess, not long having finished a twelve hour night shift on the railway, winning the race and smothering the counterpunch.
However, now that Bargoed had their two absentees back on the field, the outlook of the game was changing. Our visitors seemed to sense that they had guided themselves through rough seas and were growing in confidence. They boosted their lead in the 52nd minute when a ruck on the Newport 22 appeared to be going nowhere when wing Dai Evans emerged through the maul and on the Newport side. He raced towards the try line only to be tackled but scrum half James Pizey was backing his mate up and gratefully received the pass to score. Matthew Lewis added the conversion to make the score Newport 14 Bargoed 22.
Newport were lacklustre. A penalty to the corner was wasted at the line out and Bargoed came away with the ball comfortably. The Black and Ambers tried mixing and matching personnel in the front row but, with no success. The coup de grace for Newport came as early as the 63rd minute when a scrum folded. Matthew Lewis stepped forward to kick the penalty. The ball hit the right hand upright in front of the North Terrace and dropped into Newport hands. The ball was quickly out to Geraint O’Driscoll whose relieving kick was charged down by flanker Alex Herbert and ran loose for centre Jordan Howells to drop on to. Matthew Lewis had another shot at goal, for a conversion this time, to make the score Newport 14 Bargoed 29.
Matthew Lewis extended his side’s lead on 68 minutes to 14 points to 32 due to another penalty award and further again on 77 minutes when Newport captain Rhys Jenkins was judged to have tackled unintentionally, but undeniably, high. This made the score Newport 14 Bargoed 35.
Added time was mercifully brief and Bargoed, quite rightly, celebrated an excellent performance by them and a historic first win at Rodney Parade.
Newport were horribly second best in many aspects of the game. Supporters were left scratching their heads, questioning why a team that beat Ebbw Vale away and Pontypridd at home and ran champions Merthyr close at the Wern would appear to be so lacking in confidence? It’s difficult to fathom. The players certainly don’t lack ability or fitness. The coaching team will work on this midweek and prepare our players for their next game, away at Cross Keys next Saturday 7th October.
Please note that the fixture away at Cardiff RFC will now take place on Friday 27th October, kicking off at 7.15pm. This is a change at Cardiff’s request due to the Anthony Joshua v Kubrat Pulev bout taking place in the adjacent Principality Stadium the following day. Newport’s next home game should be on Saturday 4th November when Bedwas visit but this is also subject to amendment as it is the first FA Cup round that Newport County are eligible for so, dependant on their draw, that fixture may have to be moved.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Morgan Burgess
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 14 Bargoed RFC 35
Match pictures from Ron Sutcliffe: