It was something of an occasion for Matt O’Brien and Tom Pascoe too, making their one hundredth and fiftieth appearances in Black and Amber respectively. Storm Callum had arrived in Wales and wreaked a level of havoc. The journey north was tricky as one had to travel at reduced speed and avoid the odd fallen tree branch along the A49 in Herefordshire and Shropshire. The forecast into the Saturday was unpromising too. If anything, the rain was heavier but RGC1404 managed to provide an eminently playable surface with any standing water being away from the main playing area; full marks to their groundsman and their team. The offshore windfarm in the North Sea was invisible in the heavy cloud and ‘whiteout’ conditions.
Congratulations to them both, let’s hope we see many more! Matt was also captain for the day in the absence of Rhys Jenkins.
RGC, playing in red shirts with thin gold hoops, black shoulders and black shorts, kicked off with outside half Billy McBryde with RGC playing right to left in front of the main stand at Stadiwm ZipWorld. Tom Lucas, starting at 9 for Newport took the kick and put it firmly into touch. When RGC hooker Evan Yardley overthrew the ball, Will Evans was on it like a flash to push Newport forward. Garin Harris carried the move on before Matt O’Brien kicked to touch. Morgan Burgess jumped front of line to try and disrupt the RGC line out and achieved just that as he took the ball and Newport could press again. The ball spun across the line and back, allaying supporter’s fears about the amount of knock-ons we were going to see. It came to an end when Newport were penalised. RGC cleared to five metres inside the Newport half. RGC moved the ball around, feeling out the Newport defence, but found little progress. The Gogs resorted to kicking, full back Dion Jones successfully taking the catch but Elliot Frewen was onto him, held him up until the cavalry arrived and ensured a Newport turnover.
RGC won a lineout and set about moving the ball. A series of drives by the forwards sucked the Newport defence in until a two-on-one appeared on the right. Dion Jones drew the last defender, Jonny Morris, and found wing Iolo Evans outside him to gallop across for the try. The conversion was, understandably given the conditions, missed making the score RGC 5 Newport 0 on seven minutes.
The Gogs fumbled the restart but the referee, Mr Ben Breakspear, found fault with Garin Harris’ technique despite the hosts Curtis Reynolds appearing to having collapsed the scrum entirely.
Another scrum in Newport’s half went unpunished as Will Evans popped his opposite number skyward. Gog captain, and number 8, Tim Grey broke but the penalty came when Mei Parry, their blindside flanker, flopped across the ruck. The Newport lineout was secure but there was a lack of penetration as Newport went from side to side culminating in a Merino-esque pass to Tom Pascoe. Newport were more than holding their own against the fancied home side. Gog Scrum half Cam Davies had the ball ripped from him and Newport were away, the ball moving across to David Richards, deputising at fullback for the unwell Geraint O’Driscoll. RGC conceded a penalty as the defenders flew in at Richards illegally. Matt O’Brien put in a booming kick that placed the Black and Ambers deep inside the RGC 22 metre area. The lineout functioned well and Newport launched a series of drives at the try line. Willing carriers battered into the defence until the ball popped left to Matt O’Brien who tried to slide in under his marker but spilled the ball on the ground and RGC could temporarily clear their lines. Newport won their line out and retraced their steps upfield. Will Evans ran hard at the defence, followed up by Garin Harris and Morgan Burgess but a forward pass took the play back to penalty advantage. Matt O’Brien put Newport back in the corner. With the line out secured, a powerful rolling maul eased toward the RGC line. As it inched closer the home defence became more desperate to halt it. Mr Breakspear had seen enough and awarded the Black and Ambers a penalty try with the addition of a yellow card for RGC second row Robin Williams. This made the score RGC 5 Newport 7 on 18 minutes.
RGC hooker Yardley conceded another penalty for taking a Newport player out off the ball. Newport worked hard to break away from the middle third of the field where play was settling. They made little headway until Tom Lucas aimed a kick to the corner which agonisingly rolled to the left of the corner flag rather than the right bringing play all the way back into the Newport half. Newport eased the home pack backwards but RGC retained possession. Thankfully for Newport, the Gog’s big, lumpy ball carriers were thoroughly predictable and taking passes at a standstill so were easily dealt with. RGC finally opted to kick and gathered a penalty when Newport didn’t release the ball in the tackle. RGC had worked themselves into the Newport 22 metre area but were dealt with comfortably and it was the hooker, Evan Yardley, who let Newport off the hook with a fumbled pass.
RGC opted for a 28th minute shot at goal when scrum half Davies found Garin Harris offside, illustrating his point by passing the ball to Harris’ backside. Billy McBryde stepped forward for the kick but the ball drifted wide.
The Gogs did threaten again when Elliot Frewen’s chip-kick was charged down by RGC wing Iolo Evans. He regathered the ball and made the yards upfield but, predictably, a fumbled pass, by centre Rhys Williams this time, saw Newport able to clear. Jonny Morris received something of a hospital pass which had the RGC loose forwards licking their lips as they thundered across him but their tendency to flop into rucks flared up again and Newport could boot the ball to safety.
Newport mashed an RGC scrum earning a penalty on RGC’s 22 metre line. Matt O’Brien took the kick at goal and, in doing so, took his personal points tally to 601 for the Black and Ambers. Congratulations Matt! This made the score RGC 5 Newport 10 on 39 minutes.
From a steady scrum platform Matt O’Brien spiralled a beautiful kick into the corner but couldn’t capitalise as Mr Breakspear blew for half time.
Half Time RGC1404 RFC 5 Newport RFC 10
By all accounts, coach Craig Warlow’s message to the players at half time was brief and to the point, along the lines of “let’s not blow this, nothing fancy, get the win”.
Matt O’Brien restarted the game and Newport conceded a penalty instantly. RGC kicked to around 25 metres but Joe Bartlett was on hand to steal the throw. Tom Lucas tried to nurse the touchline but was judged to have been outside his 22 as the ball went in ‘on the full’. RGC then reciprocated by closing the gap at the lineout handing Newport a free kick. A spell of aerial tennis ensued until Elliot Frewen, literally, put his foot on the ball, scooped it up and set off. Frewen reached halfway before being downed, but RGC’s Rhys Williams was pinged offside. Matt O’Brien signalled for the, frankly, optimistic shot at goal. It was a poorly struck effort which had plenty of length but little height. However, RGC’s handling let them down again as fullback Dion Jones fumbled as they tried to break out. From the scrum Newport tried a planned move; Lucas to Pascoe, back to the looping Lucas and out to O’Brien. O’Brien’s grubber kick cannoned off RGC’s Iolo Evans and Newport were awarded the knock on. However, RGC did some scrum blitzing of their own as Newport were marched backwards resulting in some ‘handbags’. Mr Breakspear spoke with both captains before RGC were awarded a penalty.
Kyle Tayler got in amongst a static RGC attack but was found to have knocked on as he snared flanker Mei Parry and the ball. Mr Breakspear found fault with Lewis Smout at the scrum and awarded RGC a kickable penalty which Billy McBryde slotted making the score RGC 8 Newport 10 on fifty minutes.
Both sides were trying to play rugby, to their credit, despite the incredibly trying conditions. The game had a stoppage on 62 minutes when RGC flanker Mei Parry took a heavy knock with the stretcher being called for. Thankfully, Parry walked off the field as the rain returned with a vengeance.
Dan Partridge made his first appearance for the season in Black and Amber, coming off the bench, and was instantly back to his best as he took a lineout ball with ease. Joe Bartlett led the drive forward before Will Evans launched himself forward. Kyle Tayler committed himself to attack and finally drew a knock on from the Gogs, putting Newport in the promising position of an attacking scrum, five metres out and right under the posts. Will Evans was prominent again as he lunged forward, Kyle Tayler was just inches short before he was hauled down and Tom Lucas spread the ball right. It went through the hands out to the ominous Jonny Morris on the wing. Morris took the pass and opted for the early dive towards the line. Mr Breakspear briefly consulted his assistant referee before awarding the try. Matt O’Brien, again understandably, skewed his conversion to make the score RGC 8 Newport 15 on 69 minutes.
Morgan Burgess was causing the host’s lineout problems again. Newport tried to play but David Richards was snagged and relieved of the ball. The RGC forwards passed the ball around among themselves until Matt O’Brien popped up in the middle of them, intercepted a pass then earned Newport a penalty when the Gogs didn’t release him in the tackle.
A strong 76th minute scrum by the North Walians won them a penalty that Billy McBryde kicked to around 28 metres from the Newport line on the stand side. Newport compounded that by conceding another penalty for pulling down the maul. RGC made multiple substitutions, each player bigger and taller than the last, but to no avail as the lumpy carriers were all static and easily swallowed up. Coupled with the increasingly juvenile attempts by the match announcer on the public address system to boom out random music or exhort the locals to chant “RGC, RGC”, Newport should be commended for keeping their concentration. RGC eventually knocked the ball[KJ1] on and Tom Lucas was on hand to hack the ball away for Elliot Frewen to chase. RGC conceded a penalty in their desperation to keep Newport in touch. Matt O’Brien booted the ball up to the RGC 22 metre line. Joe Bartlett won the lineout which RGC didn’t contest. Newport tried to wind the clock down by launching a series of short drives which did okay until a pass to Elliot Frewen was too far in front of him and he couldn’t help but knock it forward. Newport then leaked a free kick as the scrum was found to have driven too early. The ball went across the RGC back line but the pass to wing Sam Jones was forward. Newport then repeated the short driving tactic to wind down the clock. With 86 minutes played and Newport disciplined in driving the ball into contact, the match announcer bellowed “There’s five minutes of injury time left! Come on RGC!” Oh, how we laughed when Matt O’Brien hoofed the ball into touch seconds later to record a cracking win for Newport in very difficult conditions.
It was a mark of RGC’s frustration with their own performances this season that they awarded their Man of the Match to Matt O’Brien on the basis that “none of their players stood out”, a remarkable thing for the club to do. We look forward to welcoming them to Rodney Parade on January 5th 2019 when we face RGC1404 in the first round of the Welsh Cup.
Newport are next in Principality Premiership action on Saturday 20th October when Bridgend come to Rodney Parade. The Ravens are doing better than some may have expected this season, defeating Llandovery in their last game. Newport will need to be alert to the challenge that they’ll deliver if they want to win. An interesting prospect for sure. Following that is a visit to the Gnoll to play Neath RFC on Saturday 27th October. Come and support the boys, add your voice and cheer on the Black and Ambers!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score RGC1404 RFC 8 Newport RFC 15
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Will Evans