The new Principality Premiership season began for Newport RFC with a visit to the furthest point west that the division could offer, Carmarthen Quins RFC. Visits to Carmarthen Park are never less than entertaining; the home team are very much a rugby-playing side and usually try to run the ball from all angles. It was also quite unpredictable what the outcome might be. When Newport travelled here last April, a rip-roaring game saw Newport come away with a two-bonus point defeat which is far from the worst outcome to an away game. In this trapdoor of a season, bonus points could be the difference between staying up and relegation.
Newport’s brand new kit, by makers VX3, had arrived just the previous day so it was a chance to wear the new shirts. The new shirts will be available to supporters, in supporters sizes, quite soon, please keep an eye out for updates on this. Quins wore white shirts with black shirts on this occasion.
Quins’ outside half Iestyn Wilson kicked matters off and his ball went directly to Elliot Frewen, playing at fullback while Geraint O’Driscoll concludes his honeymoon. Quins managed to tie the ball in to force the Newport scrum and, worryingly, eased Newport off their own ball. Rhys Jenkins attempted to rescue the situation by diving through the legs of his forwards to retrieve the ball but was just found guilty of conceding a penalty. Quins nominated their kicker, the deadly accurate Aled Thomas, formerly of this parish, to take a shot at goal; it was a relief to all Newport supporters to see the ball sail harmlessly right of the uprights.
Newport kicked long to restart, the ball ending up with Quins winger Dylan Morgans, who ran the ball back fully sixty metres with scarcely a hand being laid on him. Thankfully for Newport, his pass out of contact was spilled but this wasn’t going well at all.
Quins thought that they had scored on five minutes when, from a poorly executed Newport lineout, Quins booted themselves upfield for their own lineout on the Newport 22 metre line. The ball went wide for flanker Elis Lloyd to burst through but the referee, Mr. Gareth Newman of Abergavenny, spotted an infringement and awarded Newport a penalty. The Black and Ambers were just about surviving.
In a decent spell of Newport possession, Rynard Landman, in at second row on permit from his parent team the Dragons, did well to power through tackles and set up a midfield ruck. Ryan James box-kicked for Elliot Frewen to chase, Quins covering defender, scrum half Liam Davies, was potentially in trouble until Newport made it easy for him by a support player being penalised for flopping over the top of the ruck.
Newport continued to put themselves under pressure when a very loose pass went to ground for Quins centre Nicholas Reynolds to gather about 27 metres out. Quins kept possession until Elliot Frewen managed to rip it away in a tackle. Matt O’Brien kicked long towards Quins wing Matthew John while Jonny Morris hunted him down. Sadly the Quins man was given an easy ride as a support player again was judged to have flopped over the ruck and conceded a penalty.
Newport were starting to take shape somewhat as they went through phases. Rhys Jenkins set up a ruck in midfield for Ryan James to distribute from. His pass deceived everybody except Matt O’Brien who skipped past a tackler and found Tom Pascoe thundering up in support. Quins were struggling to clear their lines until Newport helped them again as Pascoe’s support opted to flagrantly enter the ruck from the side. At least the Newport play, and scrummaging, was settling down. Once the discipline had joined it then we’d be in business.
On twenty minutes Newport began a series of close-quarters rucks near the Quins line. The Black and Ambers punched away with little return only for Joe Bartlett to go closest, but he lost possession. Quins captain Haydn Pugh was seen being quite smart in defending here and it was largely him that disrupted Newport on this occasion. Quins kicked long to clear. Tom Pascoe fielded the kick but his kick return had little distance to it. Quins wing Dylan Morgans hacked ahead forcing Jonny Morris to gather and touch down behind his own try line. The Quins attacking scrum 5 was a steady platform for number eight Lewys Millin to pick up and drive to his left, reach out and score the first try of the game. Fullback Aled Thomas added the two to make it Quins 7 Newport 0 on 24 minutes.
If a spur were needed for Newport to settle down quickly Quins had provided it. Within minutes Newport were level when a set move from a scrum broke the Quins defence up nicely. Matt O’Brien made a half-break before Joe Bartlett and Rynard Landman carried on the move. Play switched left for prop Dan Preece to make a bullish run along the flank and set up a ruck. Ryan James spotted Rhys Jenkins on the charge into the heart of the Quins defence and his simple pass put Matt O’Brien in the clear near the posts. O’Brien added the two to equalise the scores on thirty minutes.
Newport pushed ahead just three minutes later when Rhys Jenkins broke left from a scrum. Tom Pascoe created the overlap for Chay Smith to race into the space Pascoe had left him. Chay Smith set up the ruck well, keeping the ball dynamic for Ryan James to pick out the charging Rynard Landman. Landman carried hard into the Quins 22 metre area and formed another ruck. Ryan James had the simple job of picking out Matt O’Brien who coasted across the line for his, and Newport’s, second try. Matt O’Brien kicked the conversion to make it Quins 7 Newport 14.
Quins had opportunities to draw themselves level as the half drew to a close. A close-range lineout went begging for Quins as second row Shaun Jones failed to catch the ball, knocking it forward instead. Ryan James’ clearing kick was charged down so Newport were awarded a scrum. From the defensive scrum the ball went to Tom Pascoe whose burst from deep was halted and possession was lost. Quins quickly spotted an overlap on their right but it was that man Jones at fault again as his feeding pass floated harmlessly into touch.
The half concluded with several phases of Quins possession which were drawn to a juddering halt by a classic flanker ‘rip and steal’ by Kyle Tayler from which Newport could kill the ball.
Halftime – Carmarthen Quins 7 Newport 14
Matt O’Brien restarted the game, kicking towards the Quins pack. Quins kept the ball well, edging up to the Newport forty metre line, but no further. Quins maintained possession until Aled Thomas broke a tackle and approached the Newport 22 metre line. The work the squad seem to have done on defence in pre-season showed as a solid Black and Amber wall eased Quins away from the 22 metre area and back to the forty. The almost inevitable turnover occurred and the ball moved across the line for Matt O’Brien to kick along the touchline for Harri Lang to chase. Lang closed in at the same time as Quins hooker Torin Myhill. A Quins scrum was the outcome as, evidently, the ball became caught in Myhill’s jersey and wasn’t for releasing. Newport conceded a penalty at the scrum, scrumhalf Liam Davies opting to take it quickly. Josh Skinner was on hand to nail Davies, his pass going loose, allowing Newport to gather and work the ball quickly right. A laser-guided touch-finder put Newport on the Quins five-metre line on the right had side of play.
The Black and Ambers were flying up in defence, sprinting forward aggressively putting the Quins under pressure that they struggled to react well to creating a steady flow of turnover ball. Newport had improved beyond recognition.
The Newport management made some changes on fifty minutes, Rynard Landman coming off for Matthew Reed, Garin Harris for Tom Piper with Josh Skinner moving up to the second row. To his credit, Landman performed excellently for Newport RFC; one could have been forgiven for thinking that his roots were in Duffryn rather than the Eastern Cape.
Elliot Frewen was finally released as he flashed away, splitting Quins in two. He sprinted up into the Quins 22 metre area before being tackled and losing possession. From the Quins scrum the ball was kicked away. Frewen was back in position to field the kick, size up his options and set off again. Once more Frewen carved the Quins apart with his running. He reached the Quins 22 metre area before finding Chay Smith in support with Tom Pascoe to his left again. Smith’s easy pass to Pascoe put his centre partner in for an excellent try which Matt O’Brien crowned with two extra points to make it Quins 7 Newport 21 on 53 minutes.
Quins had to respond or they were sunk. A 57th minute try for them was a riposte. They had been applying pressure consistently for a short while until Newport conceded a penalty. Their kick to the corner yielded the possession they wanted and they did well to suck Newport’s defence right and break left which resulted in a try for outside half Iestyn Wilson. That left the scoreboard at Quins 12 Newport 21.
There was peril for Newport on 67 minutes when the loose-play ghost reappeared. A fumble forward on their five-metre line awarded Quins an attacking scrum five but the deliberate wheel to the left was so obvious that they can’t surely have hoped to deceive Mr. Newman? Penalty to Newport, lines cleared, panic over.
Newport continued to work hard on 71 minutes as Matthew Reed charged forward, Evan Whitson, on for Henry Palmer, had a thrust as did Joe Bartlett and Elliot Frewen. Newport manoeuvred closer to the Quins try line but Matthew Reed was robbed of possession. Quins cleared but only to their 22 metre line. With Newport dominating possession they constantly changed the point of attack-Skinner, Reed, Harris and Tayler all leaving a mark on the Quins jerseys but, critically, a knock-on was awarded against Geraint Watkin, on for Ryan James, when the ball appeared to be stuck in the ruck.
Newport were still continuing to hunt for the luxury of the bonus point try and it came on 78 minutes. From a line out the ball moved right. Jonny Morris put Elliot Frewen through again and put Newport just ten metres out. Newport went right again when Matt O’Brien spotted a target for a cross-kick out on the right flank-the unlikely target being second row Joe Bartlett. Under some pressure Bartlett couldn’t make the catch but palmed the ball backwards, dropped on it and flicked the ball up to Kyle Tayler who rounded the defence to gallop in for a well-deserved try out wide. Matt O’Brien couldn’t increase the margin with the conversion making the score Quins 12 Newport 26.
Newport maintained the effort levels into stoppage time. The Black and Ambers hammered away with the advantage after a Quin had been spotted by Mr. Newman trying to enter a ruck from the wrong side. When no obvious advantage had accrued Mr Newman called play back. With added time gone, the bonus point in the bag and the straightforwardness of the kick, it was no surprise when Rhys Jenkins pointed at the posts. Matt O’Brien slotted the three points as the final whistle went leaving a final score of Quins 12 Newport 29.
It’s always enjoyable when there is a debate about the Man of the Match award. Matt O’Brien, Elliot Frewen and Kyle Tayler could all, easily, have been awarded it but Tom Pascoe was thought to have shone that little bit brighter on this occasion. Some of his running with and without the ball created gaps for his mates, his tackling looked punishing while his handling could be either subtle or bold, depending on the situation.
Newport are next in action on Sunday September 9th at Rodney Parade when Bargoed RFC pay us a visit for a Principality Premiership game. Kick-off is at 2.30pm. Bargoed acquired prop John Lavender from Newport in the close season so you can be sure that he will be bursting to perform against his old teammates. It should be an intriguing game.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Tom Pascoe
FINAL SCORE _ Carmarthen Quins 12 Newport RFC 29Match Pictures from Simon Latham: click