Newport RFC vs Cross Keys RFC – 20th December 2017 by John Evans
After a two week break for the British and Irish Cup competition it was back to the bread and butter of Principality Premiership East conference rugby as near-neighbours Cross Keys came calling. Due to our landlords, the Dragons, having a fixture at Rodney Parade on Boxing Day it was left to the Black and Ambers to play on the Wednesday evening before the festivities.
Newport’s Haydn Simons kicked off with Newport playing towards the school end. Cross Keys received and wing Matthew Powell contributed a strong run to get his team over the half way line. Lock Josh Skinner continued the move but he was snared by the defending Elliot Frewen. The ruck was set and Cross Keys went left across the line before centre Phil Williams failed to hold the pass allowing Chay Smith the chance to begin working Newport away from danger.
Newport progressed up the field before being hauled into touch. The resulting Keys line out saw number 8 Adam Powell brought in on a super line but his pass to the left was intercepted. It all seemed a bit loose and shapeless by both teams.
Haydn Simons had an early shot at goal when Keys went over the top at a ruck. The 45 metre attempt just dropped short of the crossbar but it gave Cross Keys a marker that they daren’t concede penalties in the own half.
The Black and Ambers continued to attack. An ambitious pass out to Geraint O’Driscoll found its target as he arced around the defence, trying to bring Jonny Morris on to the ball but Morris was dragged into touch. However, the referee, Mr Ben Brakespeare, caught Keys offside. Haydn Simons booted Newport to seven metres out for the line out. Joe Bartlett caught the ball and Henry Palmer, as he has done so often for Newport, looped around, latched on to the back of the maul before finding the gap in the black and white defence. Haydn Simons added the two pointer to make the score Newport 7 Cross Keys 0.
Newport were hustling well in defence, slowly but surely pushing back the Cross Keys attacks before forcing them to knock on. Joe Bartlett secured a line out but the clearing kick barely made the Newport 22 metre line. Dan Partridge, back to approaching his best form, palmed a Keys ball down allowing Haydn Simons the opportunity to keep pushing Newport forward. The Black and Ambers were doing the fundamentals right and applying pressure on Cross Keys at the right times.
Super handling by Haydn Palmer released Chay Smith who set of on a zig-zagging run until he was caught by the Cross Keys defence. The clearing kick cannoned off Elliot Frewen’s breastbone but Mr Brakespeare interpreted this as a knock-on. From the scrum, Cross Keys managed to find some room as scrum half Owain Leonard pierced the Newport defence before feeding Leon Andrews in support who sprinted over for the try. Outside half Josh Prosser added the conversion to level the scores at seven points apiece on eighteen minutes.
Newport centre Haydn Palmer was shown a yellow card on twenty minutes after his tackle on Keys centre Lewis Barnett was judged high, despite Barnett appearing to duck into the tackle. Soon after, Jonny Morris conceded a penalty for deliberate knock-on despite a seemingly apparent attempt to intercept the ball. Cross Keys entered a spell of making some unusual choices. They spurned the straightforward-looking three point shot to go for the corner. Their usually reliable forward Josh Skinner threw the loosest of passes allowing Newport to reclaim possession. Jonny Morris scented an overlap and ran from the shadow of his own posts. The ball passed through Ryan Bates and Geraint O’Driscoll’s hands before Elliot Frewen was allowed to run. He got as far as halfway before being hauled into touch. Cross Keys won the lineout but lock Tom Lampard was halted in possession of the ball and wrapped up, earning Newport the turnover. Cross Keys were eventually found offside on 28 minutes so Haydn Simons edged Black and Amber noses in front with the penalty to make the score Newport 10 Cross Keys 7.
A 35th minute penalty attempt, after the Newport front row of Lavender, Palmer and Harris forced their counterparts to stand up in the scrum, faded right of the posts.
Cross Keys were at it again in the 38th minute, spurning the three pointer to go to the corner. This time the ball went straight to Newport number 8 Lennon Greggains who gratefully started to work Newport away from danger again. Newport were still looking for chances in stoppage time. John Lavender won a 50/50 collision and the ball bounced towards Morgan Burgess who made a neat inside pass to put Ryan Bates away. Bates was tackled and set up the ruck. The ball went left to right across the line but ended up bouncing off Elliot Frewen’s chest, a seemingly recurring theme this half.
The half time whistle left Newport with the upper hand, slightly ahead on points and with a clear view of what Cross Keys could and couldn’t do. It promised to be a tense second half.
Halftime – Newport RFC 10 Cross Keys RFC 7
Cross Keys outside half Josh Prosser restarted the game and immediately put Newport under pressure. Keys barged their way forward, working hard in attack before falling foul of an accidental offside decision. Newport, it should be said, had defended wholeheartedly forcing the Keys forwards to that position.
Haydn Simons made a super 44th minute break before finding the effervescent Elliot Frewen in support. Frewen hared off and got to within touching distance of the line before being stopped. Newport flung themselves at the black and white rocks in defence, Haydn Palmer notably so before Geraint O’Driscoll jinked around the cover to dot down, only Mr Brakespeare had deemed the pass forward and took play back for a Newport penalty for Keys drifting offside. Newport went for the corner to set up the maul. The scruffily-won line out was cleaned up by John Lavender before the ball went left along the line. Cross Keys were quick out of the blocks in defence forcing Newport to make rapid decisions. The ploy worked as a loose pass was seized upon by wing Matthew Powell and full back Leon Andrews who harried the Black and Amber attack. A little kick sat up beautifully for Powell who ran in sixty metres for a try with Chay Smith breathing down his neck the entire way. Josh Prosser missed the conversion to make the score Newport 10 Cross Keys 12.
Cross Keys put their earlier silliness behind them and began taking the kicks at goal. A 50th minute example gave them a ten points to fifteen lead when Josh Prosser nailed his attempt.
They had another go on 55 minutes. Newport were keeping the ball satisfactorily but Cross Keys pressure caused another handling error. Keys’ Josh Skinner was the recipient of a free pass and caused panic in the ranks resulting in Keys prop Richard Cornock not being released in the tackle. Outside half Prosser made no mistake. Newport 10 Cross Keys 18.
Haydn Simons had by now given way to the mercurial Matt O’Brien and it was his influence that led to a second Newport try. Newport were stringing together a series of phases before Cross Keys infringed. O’Brien took the penalty quickly to make a dart at the line. He managed to find Lennon Greggains who, in turn, passed to Jonny Morris to score. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 17 Cross Keys 18.
Newport continued to show some good individual skills, a pass from prop Nicky Boyce to Adam Sabri was sublime but replacement Sabri was hauled down on the Keys 22 metre line.
The game was into the final ten minutes with no clear winner emerging. A 72nd minute lofted kick fell loose when Elliot Frewen was challenged for it. A Cross Keys boot hacked it forward but the ball went dead. However, Mr Brakespeare had spotted a different incident and awarded Keys an attacking scrum, five metres out. The scrum was won and Cross Keys centre Barney Nightingale was brought on a straight line through the centre channel and crashed over to score. Josh Prosser added a conversion to make it Newport 17 Cross Keys 25.
The Black and Ambers responded instantly. A quick kick-off was seized upon and Newport piled forward. Lennon Greggains went close but set up the ruck instead. This set up the collector’s item of a Tom Piper try as the replacement prop picked up and found a narrow enough gap to hurl his frame through. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 24 Cross Keys 25.
Newport were forced to play rugby, with just minutes to go and a mere point adrift, it was time to choose death or glory. Unfortunately they didn’t choose glory. A booming kick from Cross Keys’ wise old head, Leon Andrews, put Newport on the defensive just six metres out. Newport replacement hooker Will Evans threw in but a misunderstanding had seen the line out jumpers move position. Evans threw to nobody. Cross Keys captain Scott Matthews couldn’t believe his luck as the ball fell into his lap, figuratively speaking. All he had to do to seal the win and the try bonus was jog across the line and fall over. Will Evans put his hands to his head when he realised what had happened and that Newport were going to come away from the game with nothing at all.
The Black and Ambers rolled the dice one last time, after all two points were still salvageable. Keys’ Barney Nightingale was yellow carded for a high tackle, an interesting cameo from the Keys man and at least proved consistency in Mr Brakespeare’s interpretations. Matt O’Brien booted Newport to the corner but, once again, the line out failed and Cross Keys came away with the ball. Will Evans threw himself into the loose play, seeming to play more at ten than two, but it wasn’t to be as the Black and Ambers had a game to put behind them and learn from.
Newport are next in Principality Premiership action on Saturday 30th December when our old friends from Cardiff RFC come and help us see in the New Year. The fixture after that is on Saturday January 6th 2018 when we visit Swansea RFC in the cup. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running a supporter’s bus to the game priced at £12 per head. Make sure that you contact them to book your seat in what should be an entertaining game. It just remains to say Merry Christmas, Nadolig Llawen, to Newport RFC supporters everywhere and let us hope that 2018 brings more stability to our club. We can only progress with your support; if you are out of the habit of coming to Rodney Parade please try and come to a game. The team are playing a skilful high tempo running game and, usually, are a pleasure to watch. Make it your New Year Resolution!
Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Jon Morris
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 24 Cross Keys RFC 32