Newport RFC vs Ebbw Vale RFC – 4th February 2018 by John Evans
It was a dry, still day that laid the platform for a cracking game of rugby. The sun came out just before half time too, just in time for supporters to take a look at a new, improved Ebbw Vale RFC. This was the two team’s third clash this season but much has changed at Eugene Cross Park since their last visit to Rodney Parade in November when the Steelmen capitulated in a 42-12 rout. The club’s acquisition of coach Greg Woods from Cross Keys RFC may well prove to be one of their best signings in a few seasons.
Ebbw Vale’s outside half Dai Langdon kicked off and Newport’s Rhys Cresswell received. He ran into the tackle to form the ruck as Ryan James box-kicked the ball forward. Dai Langdon spotted an overlap to his left and ran for it. As the Newport cover closed in he kicked the ball forward. Sadly for Newport, the covering Matt O’Brien, restored at outside half for Newport following injury, slipped and failed to grasp the ball. Langdon hacked his own kick ahead before it bounced up into his arms and he crossed the line for the opening try in about the same amount of time it has taken you to read this far. Ebbw full back Dan Haymond slotted the conversion to make the score Newport 0 Ebbw Vale 7.
Newport conceded a penalty for a high tackle moments later and it was apparent that the purple shirted visitors were a much different proposition to their last visit here. They were aggressively thumping away at the Newport defence, utilising the pick-and-go routine to great effect. A cross-kick to the left appeared to have been covered by Newport fullback Elliot Frewen until the greater height of Ebbw wing Toby Fricker reached the ball first. Alarm bells rang in the Newport defence as a visitor’s line out transformed into a rolling maul which heaved its way over the Newport line for ball-carrier Ronnie Kynes, Ebbw’s captain, to ground for a try. The conversion by Dan Haymond went wide but the disastrous start for Newport caused the scoreboard to read Newport 0 Ebbw Vale 12 with seven minutes played.
Newport worked their way into promising positions. An 11th minute attempt came to nothing when midfield over-elaboration saw a pass spilled and Ebbw come away with the ball. Kyle Tayler took the ball well at a line out and had an effective rolling maul set up around him. They rumbled forward to about ten metres out from the Vale try line before wing Adam Sabri was tasked to move his team further forward. Sabri got a further few metres forward before the ball went right to second row Joe Bartlett who was isolated and stripped. Thankfully for Newport, as efficient as Ebbw Vale were at turning the ball over they weren’t so good at actually releasing the pressure and getting themselves out of trouble entirely.
And then, on sixteen minutes, came the game’s pivotal moment. Ebbw Vale’s number six, Cameron Regan, their standout player in the game in November when they were woeful, pressed the self-destruct button. At a line out an Assistant Referee spotted Regan elbow Newport’s Dan Partridge in the face. As they scuffled on the floor and the game progressed the referee, Mr Robert Price, let the game come to a natural halt before consulting with his colleague. It was decided that the offence was serious enough to warrant a straight red card and nobody appeared to disagree as Regan headed for the changing rooms.
Newport went for the corner, trying to capitalise on Ebbw Vale’s temporary disorganisation. Unfortunately the throw was overthrown and Ebbw Vale scooped up the ball only for captain Ronnie Kynes to knock on and put his side under unnecessary pressure. The Ebbw Vale front row stood up with the power exerted and Newport opted to reset the scrum. Newport chose to go right but Ebbw winger Toby Fricker flew out of the line to arrive at Elliot Frewen just a second after the ball. This disrupted the Newport attack and the Black and Ambers lost their rhythm. Eventually Ebbw full back Dan Haymond booted the ball away to halfway.
Matt O’Brien took the pass from Ryan James and waltzed through the gap the Cameron Regan would possibly have occupied but, again, the pass outside was spilt and the opportunity gone. From the scrum, Ebbw scrum half, Dai Jones, was snared by Ryan James. Mr Price judged that he then held on to the ball for too long in the tackle and awarded Newport a penalty. Matt O’Brien made sure of the kick and moved the scoreboard to Newport 3 Ebbw Vale 12 on 22 minutes.
Newport kept trying to exploit the natural overlap but were ineffective. Ebbw Vale’s defence was obdurate enough to keep causing the Black and Ambers problems. Rhys Cresswell again received the restart and Ryan James again booted the ball forward. Elliot Frewen flew up and took Ebbw full back Dan Haymond man-and-ball. Vale did try to move the ball away but committed a forward pass giving Newport the ball back with a scrum about 5 metres over the halfway line. Newport’s Alex Everett caught a deflected kick and managed to fabricate an excellent pass to Kyle Tayler who pushed Newport forward. He found Dan Partridge on his right but Partridge couldn’t help but knock on in the tackle.
Newport were penalised again on 27 minutes when they tried to run a clearing kick back at the Ebbw vale defence but Tom Pascoe was isolated with the ball. Full back Dan Haymond stepped forward to slot the three-pointer to take his side into a 3 - 15 lead.
Ryan James played a referee’s advantage on thirty minutes as he punted ahead for Adam Sabri to follow up. Sabri won the ball but conceded a penalty himself. Then followed a succession of plays in which neither side to either keep hold of the ball or complete anything to the referee’s satisfaction. That was until Ebbw conceded a 36th minute penalty for offside. Matt O’Brien placed Newport about thirty metres out on the Hazell stand side. Rhys Cresswell did well at the line out to secure possession before the ball moved across the line. Jonny Morris scythed through the line at pace up into the visitor’s 22 metre are before being ankle-tapped. Ebbw Vale were spread out thinly in defence as the ball moved right again out to prop Nicky Boyce. Boyce, spotting the defender with two others desperately corner-flagging, calmly paused his run to let the corner-flaggers overrun him before stepping back inside to use his strength and momentum to burrow across the line for a hard-earned Newport try. The conversion bounced out from the left hand post to make the score Newport 8 Ebbw Vale 15.
Ryan James collected the restart and returned the ball with interest as visiting full back Dan Haymond spilled the ball to give Newport a scrum just short of 40 metres from the Vale line. Nothing came of it again as the ball was once more ripped from a Newport player and Steelman Dai Jones booted the ball into the Hazell stand to bring the first half to a close.
Newport had been profligate in the first half but there was a feeling that, with one of Ebbw Vale’s most effective operators excluded from the rest of the game, time might just be on Newport’s side.
Halftime – Newport RFC 8 Ebbw Vale RFC 15
Matt O’Brien kicked off the second half at Rodney Parade. A few rounds of aerial tennis were put to a satisfactory end when Geraint O’Driscoll put his team just outside the 22 metre line with a Ebbw throw in at the line.
Mr Price pinged Ebbw in the 44th minute allowing Matt O’Brien another shot a goal and, in doing so, took his personal tally of points scored for Newport RFC to 400. Newport 11 Ebbw Vale 15.
Ryan James put in an awkward, spiralling kick towards Ebbw’s Dan Haymond who obliged by knocking the ball on and giving Newport a scrum on the visitors 22 metre line. The ball went right quickly to Tom Pascoe who kicked the ball behind the advancing purple line for Jonny Morris to angle his run onto. A great run by Morris came to nothing again as it bounced as only an oval ball can and the move petered out.
Newport seemed to become impatient with themselves and the circumstances. Ebbw Vale methodically worked through their defensive drills while Newport snatched and grabbed at things and allowed the visitors to wriggle off the hook time and again. This only really served to give Ebbw Vale, and their vociferous supporters, heart.
It took until the 66th minute to finally nose ahead on the scoreboard. An Ebbw hand knocked the ball backwards from a lineout. Quickest to react was Rhys Cresswell who put in a beautiful little pass to Kyle Tayler who drove for the line. Owen Davies, having replaced Ryan James at scrum half, controlled play from the back of the ruck excellently, took play right then back left until Adam Sabri steamed forward on the angle and took the reverse pass at speed. Sabri at that speed and range in very nearly unstoppable and so it proved. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 18 Ebbw Vale 15.
The Black and Ambers finally looked as though they were about to kick on but danger lurked around every corner. Ebbw Vale set up a powerful driving maul which Newport stopped illegally. Ebbw’s Dan Haymond was given the opportunity to level the scores but, to the great relief of the Black and Ambers supporters, the kick drifted harmlessly wide. Still Ebbw looked for a winner. Newport infringed again on 79 minutes and Ebbw opted to go to the corner and go for the victory. The lineout could prove vital as the Steelmen are well known for their rolling maul prowess. Thankfully big Joe Bartlett made his presence felt and Ebbw knocked on from throw. The scrum was won by Newport cleanly and Matt O’Brien strained every sinew to clear the ball as far down field as he possibly could. Ebbw Vale possibly sealed their own fate as centre Dom Franchi passed back into his own 22 metre area to Toby Fricker who kicked directly to touch. Newport took the lineout and drove forward. Rhys Cresswell, still with the Man of the Match announcement ringing in his ears, went close but lost the ball in contact. Ebbw Vale tried to break free but were restricted to their own 22 metre area. Finally, an effort by scrum half Dai Jones was snared and the ball went loose to Newport’s Matt Prosser who set the ball up for Owen Davies to pass back to Matt O’Brien who pelted the ball into the dark recesses of the empty Hazell stand to ensure a Newport win after four minutes of breathless stoppage time.
The game could almost have been the definition of “winning ugly”. Anybody offered that score before the start of the game would have taken it with both hands and, in truth, nobody will be particularly interested in how Newport performed in years to come. All that mattered was the ‘W’ and that’s what the records now show. Newport have played Ebbw Vale three times this season and beaten them three times. We’ll have that, thanks.
Newport RFC are next back in Principality Premiership action on Saturday, 10th February at the Bridge Field as we visit Bedwas RFC. After that we host Llanelli RFC on Friday 16th February at 7.30pm. Following that, Pontypridd RFC visit Newport on February 24th and the kick-off has been moved to a new time of 11.30am
Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Rhys Cresswell
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 18 Ebbw Vale RFC 15