Llandovery RFC v Newport RFC – 30th March 2018 by John Evans
It was a much-changed Newport RFC team that took the field at Church Bank for this Principality Premiership fixture against Llandovery RFC. With the amount of games coming up, and the magnitude of one in particular, coaches Craig Warlow, Ty Morris and Stuart Lawrence wisely rotated their squad, drafted in some permit players as replacements and played some players out of position. New recruit Andrew Mann, more familiar to us as a second row, had an outing at number six and performed remarkably well while the appearance of centre Adam Sabri on the wing was less of a surprise.
It was a chilly, dry and breezy day in mid-Wales in contrast to the heavy rain that had been in the south east corner of the country for about eighteen hours prior to kick off.
After a minutes silence for Mr Keith Jones, a local supporter of Llandovery RFC, punctuated only by a distant singing Robin at this most bucolic of grounds, Drovers outside half Jack Maynard kicked off towards the ‘clubhouse’ end of the ground for Newport’s Geraint O’Driscoll, ultimately, to return it with interest. Llandovery won the line out but their fullback, Kristian Jones, made a hash of taking a pass and handed Newport an attacking scrum some ten metres out. The front five, headed up by Nicky Boyce, Henry Palmer and tighthead Nicky Thomas, on permit from his parent professional side the Dragon, made sure that their opposite numbers knew what they were about by applying pressure at the first scrum and skating them backwards at a rate of knots. This caused problems of its own as number 8 Alex Everett seemed surprised by the rapid appearance of the ball at his feet and only got the ball away with some effort. Newport moved the ball across the line but the Drovers defence were not found wanting and snuffed the opportunity out.
The dominant scrum paid dividends on five minutes when the referee, Mr Aaron Parry, found that Llandovery were wheeling the scrum. Geraint O’Driscoll assumed kicking duty and knocked over the first three-pointer of the afternoon to make the score Llandovery 0 Newport 3.
Newport were guilty of kicking a ball out ‘on the full’ some minutes later allowing Llandovery a line out about thirty metres from the Newport line on the terrace side of the field. The ball spun left through the green and red shirted hands before Newport were penalised for entering a ruck from the side. Mr Parry played advantage to Llandovery who continued the move. Flanker Stuart Worrall went close before the ball was popped up for prop Jamie Hughes to take the short pass and crash over for an eleventh minute try. The conversion was missed so the score now was Llandovery 5 Newport 3.
Newport marched back up the field and a gap was eventually found for Adam Sabri to take a run at the defence but the pass from Tom Pascoe was judged to have been slightly forward and the move was halted in the Drovers 22 metre area. Try-scoring prop Jamie Hughes had left the field by now with stars circling around his head like a character in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. His replacement, Berian Watkins fared little better at scrumtime when he conceded a penalty for boring in against Nicky Thomas on 21 minutes allowing Geraint O’Driscoll to step forward and take the lead for Newport again with a well struck penalty kick. Llandovery 5 Newport 6.
Llandovery re-took the lead just two minutes later when prop Nicky Boyce inadvertently caught Drovers outside half Jack Maynard with a tackle judged to be high. Maynard dusted himself down and slotted the thirty metre kick that was almost straight in front of the posts to make the score Llandovery 8 Newport 6.
Geraint O’Driscoll fielded a high ball superbly when under pressure and set up a ruck. Scrum half, and acting captain, Ryan James box-kicked forward for the ball to roll into touch towards the corner of the pitch. The Drovers won their line out but then knocked on in subsequent phases. This gave Newport a delicious opportunity. The scrum was won comfortably and Ryan James passed to the sprinting Geraint O’Driscoll coming to the short side. O’Driscoll took the contact, returned the ball to James who then flung it left to the scampering wing Harri Lang who was in for the game’s second try, touching down in the corner. O’Driscoll improved the try by adding the two points with a tricky kick to make the scoreboard read Llandovery 8 Newport 13 on 28 minutes.
Haydn Simons at outside half for Newport started to flex his creative muscle as a cross kick to Adam Sabri was well executed by both players but Sabri was soon surrounded and almost isolated. The Black and Ambers recovered the ball and Chay Smith spotted a gap behind the defence to run into. His deft kick ahead was covered by Drovers 10 Jack Maynard but Chay Smith grabbed hold of Maynard’s jersey and tried dragging him over the line, forcing him to dot down and award Newport an attacking scrum. The Drovers recovered well, however, and Smith was soon relieved of his duty and Llandovery recovered well.
Llandovery closed the gap in the scores on 37 minutes when Newport were penalised for not scrummaging straight. Jack Maynard comfortably kicked the points to make it Llandovery 11 Newport 13.
Tom Pascoe had a foot out of place when penalised for offside on 39 minutes. Llandovery’s Maynard booted his team up to around 27 metres only for Henry Palmer to expertly isolate second row Morgan Jones and force the penalty to Newport. Haydn Simons kicked Newport up to the home forty metre line for a line out. The move was doing okay until Simons’ looping run around was over ran and the ball went to ground and forward. Llandovery were initially awarded a scrum in which Newport were penalised but the Assistant Referee intervened and the penalty was reversed. Geraint O’Driscoll slotted the three-pointer from thirty eight metres to make the score Llandovery 11 Newport 16 on 40+3 minutes as the whistle blew for halftime.
Halftime – Llandovery RFC x Newport RFC xx
Replacement prop Liam Bodman was the only change for Newport at halftime as he replaced Nicky Thomas on the tight side of the scrum. Haydn Simons kicked the half off with Newport now attacking the clubhouse end. Drovers’ Jack Maynard was offered a kick at goal on 41 minutes when Newport were penalised which he took, making the score Llandovery 14 Newport 16.
The game soon entered a faintly scrappy phase punctuated only by Tom Pascoe and Adam Sabri surging down the right wing for Henry Palmer to pick up and bash forward before Llandovery flanker Stuart Worrall conceded a penalty some 28 metres out. The shot at goal being missed wasn’t the most disappointing part of all this; Alex Everett, in a real purple patch of form for our club at number 8, being taken from the field slung between the shoulders of Mike Drew and Jeremy Williams was a real blow. One can only hope that the young man recovers quickly and is back in Black and Amber soon. Joe Cullimore was hastily summoned from the replacement’s bench to cover Everett.
The game was also now stagnating a little in the middle third of the field, not helped by frequent Llandovery replacements which only served to disjoint the game from a spectator’s viewpoint.
The Drovers spurned a 58th minute penalty attempt themselves following a high tackle, Jack Maynard’s kick sailing left of the posts keeping the score at 14-16. Matt O’Brien, on as a 51st minute replacement for Haydn Simons, took a drop-out kick which almost turned sour when Drovers flanker Stuart Worrall snatched the ball in mid-air. The Black and Amber scramble defence reacted quickly though and Llandovery eventually knocked on and the pressure was relieved.
The Drovers notably upped the tempo of their game beyond the hour mark and it forced Newport into conceding a 63rd minute penalty for not releasing in the tackle which Jack Maynard kicked from thirty metres to make the score Llandovery 17 Newport 16.
Llandovery conceded a penalty on 65 minutes for not rolling away in the tackle which Matt O’Brien elected to kick for touch. The ball reached Liam Bodman, who wasn’t the intended recipient, but Newport worked it, going right but it halted when Newport conceded a penalty of their own by not releasing the ball in the tackle. However, a 71st minute gift horse wasn’t looked in the mouth as Drovers flanker Duane Eager became Duane Overeager as he played the ball out of Ryan James’ hands at a ruck. Mr Parry had a simple decision to make, penalty to Newport and ten minutes for Mr Eager to think about what he had done. Geraint O’Driscoll added another three points to his tally to bring the score to Llandovery 17 Newport 19 on 71 minutes.
Llandovery seemed to be forcing play but were letting themselves down with handling errors and, with a loose forward in the bin, were doing themselves no favours. Slick improvised handling by Matt O’Brien and Geraint O’Driscoll made space on the left for James Little to find Harri Lang with flankers Joe Cullimore and Josh Reid in attentive support. The Drovers conceded another penalty but O’Driscoll’s kick scooped right of the sticks. Newport kept up the pressure when Llandovery conceded yet again when they were pinged for being off their feet at a ruck. Matt O’Brien elected to go to the corner. Joe Bartlett took the throw and set up the rolling maul which rumbled forward before being dragged to the ground. Henry Palmer made a thrust at the line but fell short. O’Brien then took the cross kick option to Adam Sabri but the ball sailed clear over his head. Still, with time being played it looked as though the Black and Ambers had just about done enough.
Only they hadn’t.
With a last roll of the dice and deep into stoppage time, four minutes to be precise, Llandovery’s Aaron Warren found space along his left wing. He kicked forward and angled the ball for wing Lee Williams to chase. Williams then flailed at the ball as the home supporters then celebrated a try being scored. Mr Parry, who had been up with play, paused for a second or two before declaring no try, the ball had been knocked on. At this point an Assistant Referee intervened, ran in from behind play and spoke with Mr Parry upon which the decision was overturned and the try was awarded. Jack Maynard slotted the conversion to make it Llandovery 24 Newport 19. It was the cruellest way for Newport to lose a game of rugby and it did make some Newport supporters wonder who was actually refereeing. The appearance of a picture of a Highwayman on Twitter some minutes later seemed apt.
But the club mustn’t dwell on this incident. There is the matter of Swansea RFC on Tuesday night, a proud club whose abilities belie their league position. If our players aren’t ‘at it’, as soccer pundit Gary Neville would have it, then the club will go into the cup semi-final against Llandovery RFC on the back of two defeats, which would be far from ideal. Our squad have talent, ability and fitness to burn. As for the Drovers, well, they proved that Newport RFC have nothing to fear in the cup. Yes, they are a very good side but so are we. The game at the Talbot Athletic Ground will be fascinating. You can join the festivities there by travelling on the supporter’s bus run by the Friends of Newport Rugby. Get in touch with them soon to book your seat, even better if you could do it while attending the game versus Swansea! The players need us supporters to do that just now, get behind them and support them! Who knows what might be possible this season if we pull together?
Don’t forget that the Hall of Fame dinner is approaching. Tickets for this event are selling well, so don’t miss out, book yours soon! Also the Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running supporters buses to RGC 1404 on May 10th for the weekend. Please get in touch with the Trust if you would like to book any of these events.
Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Henry Palmer
FINAL SCORE _ Llandovery RFC 24 Newport RFC 19