Bedwas RFC v Newport RFC – 20th March 2018 by John Evans
After the disappointing outing in the Principality Premiership at Bridgend the previous Friday it was a good opportunity to blow away any rustiness in the squad and put that performance behind them. The Bridge Field is a tough place to go, as Newport know to their cost, but cup quarter-finals don’t come along that often for the Black and Ambers so it was a great chance to make progress in the National Cup competition.
Newport’s line up was largely the same as the previous game at the Brewery Field but the Bedwas team appeared to have been stricken with injuries and unavailability, reportedly with five front row forwards starting the game and another three on the bench. Nobody in the Newport camp, however, paid any attention to that. Bedwas RFC are a nuggety, uncompromising team and, eight props or not, will make opponents pay for mistakes and inattention.
Bedwas’ outside half, former Newport Gwent Dragons player Steffan Jones, kicked off. Bedwas’ big number 8, Andrew Waite, was soon driving at the heart of the Newport pack before Newport flanker Kyle Tayler was penalised for not releasing in the tackle. Bedwas kicked to the corner to try and heave their way across the Newport line. Home flanker James Richards was up at the tail of the lineout to form a rolling maul that looked ominous but Newport halted its progress, held the ball up and earned possession back. Bedwas were having the better of the early exchanges; Steffan Jones picked a route on the left wing to dart through but the pass inside to centre Mike Callow was finger-tipped by Newport’s Rhys Cresswell and the Black and Ambers regained the ball. It wasn’t long though before Bedwas made their mark. Prop Brynley Toms bumped through a tackle before passing to second row Geraint Edmunds. He had scrum half Tom Rowlands rushing up in support and it was he that scampered across the line for the first try of the evening. Steffan Jones slotted the conversion to make it Bedwas 7 Newport 0 on 6 minutes.
Bedwas were penalised in the 9th minute for not releasing in the tackle. Newport centre Chay Smith spotted a gap and quickly tapped the penalty and fed the ball left. The Black and Ambers gained ground quickly with John Lavender making hard progress up field. Lavender took the contact and set up the ruck. Newport kept possession well and got to within five metres of the line before Ryan James tried to tip toe between the ruck and the touchline before being pushed out of play. Bedwas won the lineout but a poor clearance kick kept the pressure on them, Newport won the line out at the tail of the line before launching a powerful rolling maul, progressing easily at one point as Bedwas only put two defenders against a maul of six. Bedwas attempted to shore up the defence but the damage was done, Newport inched forward enough for hooker Will Evans to thrust his way through a forest of legs to earn Newport a try on twelve minutes. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to level the scores at seven points apiece.
Newport built phases again and had a narrow escape when Bedwas flanker James Richards almost intercepted a pass but knocked the ball forward instead. However, the hard work came to fruition soon after. The Black and Ambers were playing super rugby, passing out of contact and opening up gaps in the home defence. A terrific pass from Jonny Morris to Matt O’Brien prised Bedwas open. John Lavender, clearly channelling Rod Snow, pushed Newport ahead again before being stopped. The ball spun back right to Joe Bartlett who utilised the ‘greyhounds’ around him to deceive the defence. Being flanked by backs he was bound to pass, wasn’t he? No, a show of the ball, a swivel of the hips and the big man loped clear to score Newport’s second try. Matt O’Brien added the extras to make it Bedwas 7 Newport 14 on 18 minutes.
Newport piled on the pressure. The kick-chase was working well with willing runners Elliot Frewen and Jonny Morris hunting down long balls and pressuring the hosts. Kyle Tayler forced a penalty for Newport on the home 22 metre line which Bedwas made worse by chopsing at the referee, Mr Dewi Phillips. Mr Phillips marched them back ten metres and Newport opted for the lineout. The visitors drove for the line again, Will Evans going close once more before Ryan James spotted Matt O’Brien running at pace at an angle. James popped the ball up to O’Brien who crashed over the line near the corner flag for a third Newport try. The scoreboard now read Bedwas 7 Newport 19 on twenty minutes.
Newport were far more ‘switched on’ than the game at the Brewery Field. They also had the luck of the bounce when a defensive set turned to attack simply because home no.8 Andrew Waite tried to catch the ball near the touch line and it simply bounced off his chest and into touch for a Newport lineout. The lineout worked well and Newport worked their way back into the home 22 metre area. Elliot Frewen took a high tackle and played the advantage awarded by Mr. Phillips. None came and play was brought back. Matt O’Brien kicked to the corner but the Bedwas pack managed to disrupt the rolling maul and turned possession over.
Bedwas threatened again on 31 minutes when Ryan James was caught offside. Home flanker James Richards won the lineout and palmed down to scrumhalf Tom Rowlands who then had wing Mathew John sprint along the angle to bisect the Newport defence. A series of close drives at the Newport line were repelled forcing Bedwas to go wide but Andrew Waite, lurking on the wing, found Jonny Morris in his face, illegally as it turned out, and knocked on. With the penalty again Bedwas tried the same tactic but this time Will Evans got amongst the home pack and turned over possession.
Newport switched back to ‘attack’ formation quickly, the crisp ‘tack’ sound of hands catching ball clearly audible as Newport pressed ahead. A powerful Newport scrum on 39 minutes disrupted the Bedwas pickup as No.8 Andrew Waite attempted to gather and stride away and he spilled the ball. The Newport pack reformed, with Black and Ambers no.8 Alex Everett’s boots on the forty metre line. The ball whipped left via Geraint O’Driscoll to Elliot Frewen who set up the ruck. John Lavender, playing out of his skin, made himself available, took the pass then cheekily dummied his way through to gallop over for a well-earned score. Matt O’Brien made it a seven-pointer and took the score to Bedwas 7 Newport 26.
There was time for Bedwas to restart but Ryan James soon hurried the ball into touch which signalled halftime. After a breathless half of Newport rugby, the Black and Ambers appeared to have at least one foot in Thursday’s semi-final draw. Forty minutes of sensible rugby should seal the deal.
Halftime – Bedwas RFC 7 Newport RFC 26
Matt O’Brien restarted the game with Newport now attacking the clubhouse end. Tom Pascoe in the centre took the returned kick and planted the ball firmly in the Bedwas 22 metre area on the river side of the ground. Bedwas tried to relieve the pressure but just kept it on when second row Geraint Edmunds spilled a pass. The Newport scrum asserted themselves and forced Bedwas to concede a penalty which Matt O’Brien comfortably slotted to make it Bedwas 7 Newport 29 on 43 minutes.
Bedwas, obviously, weren’t about to lie down and Steffan Jones, their outside half, jinked through a tackle and powered towards the Newport try line but was halted by determined tackling. A mighty defensive effort by Newport was rewarded when Bedwas wing Pat Lewis was hurried in the corner and knocked on with the try line seemingly at his mercy. The Black and Amber curtain was working well in defence as they slowly muscled Bedwas away from danger and back into the middle of the field. Bedwas, though, were contributing to their own downfall. Spilled passes, penalty kicks not making touch and some uncharacteristic performances were giving Newport an easier evening then they were probably expecting.
With his usual explosive energy, Jonny Morris hacked a loose ball forward and gave chase, he kicked again, this time angling the ball towards the posts. Morris appeared to have caught the ball cleanly and scored a perfect poachers try but, after a few seconds of deliberation, Mr Phillips decided that the ball had been knocked on and it was no try. Photographs later proved that Mr Phillips was absolutely correct in his decision.
Rhys Cresswell, in terrific form for Newport recently, took a lineout at the tail perfectly to set up another Newport attack. Matt O’Brien angled a kick for Jonny Morris to chase with Geraint O’Driscoll in support. Super hands from replacement prop Tom Piper kept the move going until Bedwas managed to regather possession and move away. They were now playing with an abandon that being twenty-two points adrift with twenty minutes to go can inspire some teams. Bedwas replacement Lewis Evans was pulling the strings for the hosts as players tired and cracks began to show. Bedwas ran through the phases until a big enough gap appeared for second row Tom Devine to canter through and score his sides second try. Lewis Evans added the conversion to make the score Bedwas 14 Newport 29 on 61 minutes.
Mr Phillips had an easier decision to make on 64 minutes when Newport went on the attack. A pass out wide had Bedwas replacement Mike Dacey stick out a hand to knock the ball on. The yellow card was brandished and Newport took the kick to the corner. The lineout and rolling maul was ruthlessly efficient again as it rumbled towards the Bedwas try line. It was Kyle Tayler who was the ball carrier on this occasion and his tireless performance was rewarded with a try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Bedwas 14 Newport 36.
Bedwas could consider themselves fortunate not to be down to thirteen players for a few minutes when a 70th minute incident was only partly resolved. Newport were advancing, passing right to left when the pass to Elliot Frewen was slightly ahead of him. Frewen controlled the ball with his boot then kicked ahead. As he ran in pursuit a Bedwas defender collared him, literally, and floored him. Sadly, neither Mr Phillips or his assistant could identify the guilty party so was left at a straight penalty but could just have easily been a card for someone. Bedwas got themselves off the hook when the rolling maul off the lineout was held up and possession turned over.
Rhys Cresswell charged down a 76th minute Bedwas clearing kick for Newport replacement Haydn Simons to secure. Newport lost possession but the clearance from Bedwas only found Matt O’Brien. He launched Jonny Morris on a run with flanker Joe Cullimore, on for Kyle Tayler, in support. Morris passed to Cullimore only for him to be forced into touch. That man Cresswell was in the news again on 80+1 minutes when a rib-cracking tackle dislodged the ball from the Bedwas carrier and Alex Everett pounced. He found a gap on the left with Ryan Bates, on for Ryan James, in support and Bates had Haydn Simons outside him again. Bedwas had run out of defenders and Simons crossed for Newport’s sixth and final try of the evening. Matt O’Brien added the two points to bring a final score of Bedwas 14 Newport 43 and safe passage into the semi-final of the National Cup, the furthest that the club has progressed in the semi-professional era. The supporter’s big day out in the capital is still a possibility!
Newport RFC are back in Principality Premiership action on Sunday 25th March when they host Neath RFC at Rodney Parade. Please try to come along to the game, Newport are playing a high-octane game at times and is really deserving of a wider audience. The draw for the semi-final of the National Cup takes place on Thursday with the semi-finals being played at neutral venues on the weekend of April 7th/8th.
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 both Llandovery RFC on March 30th for the day and 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.
The sun is shining and Newport RFC is a good place to be. The future’s bright, the future’s Black and Amber.
Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Matt O’Brien
FINAL SCORE _ Bedwas RFC 14 Newport RFC 43