Newport were back on their travels on the first day of meteorological winter as bitingly cold north winds ensured that the long johns had their first outing of the season for many of the hardy souls that travelled to Bargoed Park for this Friday night Principality Premiership East Conference fixture. Newport had been well and truly turned over by our hosts when they visited Rodney Parade and there was a keenness amongst the Black and Ambers to show Bargoed that that performance was not what our club are about. The team was selected with a performance in mind, to absorb Bargoed’s forward orientated attack and respond with a bit extra. Newport’s back division could take care of itself.
Bargoed’s outside half, Iain Smerdon kicked off into the still night air and Newport were on the back foot within the first minute as the referee, Mr Jason Bessant, awarded the hosts a penalty as Newport were thought to have been offending at the scrum. The penalty attempt fell short, into Matt O’Brien’s arms, and the response was a booming kick back down field to about 38 metres out. Bargoed won their line out and began a series of battering ram assaults at the Newport pack but solid defence turned to attack as the ball was ripped away from a blue shirt and moved out along the Newport backs. A poor pass to Chay Smith resulted in a knock-on but Mr Bessant then penalised Bargoed at the scrum. Matt O’Brien’s penalty moved Newport into the Bargoed half of the field.
Newport attempted to work the ball away from the line out but Geraint O’Driscoll’s kick was half charged down. The bouncing ball was claimed by Bargoed winger Luke Smalley who found himself with acres of room to work in. He sprinted off towards the Newport line only to have Jon Morris track back and take him into touch. The Newport line out was cleanly won and Matt O’Brien had no hesitation in kicking for position placing Newport some thirty metres from the Bargoed line on the terrace side of the field. Elliot Frewen worked hard to keep pace with play and ensure that Bargoed couldn’t take the quick throw in. Newport did well to win possession back, scrum half Owen Davies making a few darts around the fringes of a ruck to keep the Bargoed defence alert. The Newport forwards cleared out over Davies allowing captain Rhys Jenkins to feed a short ball to Kyle Tayler who burst through a few half-hearted tackles and sprint to the line for the game’s opening try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Bargoed 0 Newport 7 on 9 minutes.
Newport were penalised in the eleventh minute for hands in the ruck. Bargoed eschewed the three points on offer to go for the corner. The big Bargoed pack huffed and puffed as they rammed against the Black and Amber wall but to little avail. When they were offered a second penalty for Newport not releasing in the tackle they wisely took the shot at goal. Full back Matthew Lewis was successful, so the score now was Bargoed 3 Newport 7.
Newport conceded another penalty on sixteen minutes, offside this time. Bargoed kicked the ball to the 22 metre line but their line out was disrupted by Morgan Burgess climbing highest but unfortunately knocked it forward. The resulting scrum was a wake-up call to Bargoed as the Newport tight five of Lavender, Palmer, Harris, Bartlett and Partridge made sure that their hosts knew that they were in for a tough evening. Penalty secured, Matt O’Brien booted the Black and Ambers to halfway. Newport showed endeavour but the Bargoed back line moved up quickly as a unit and stifled the Newport attack. O’Brien attempted a cross kick to the waiting Jon Morris, and it almost worked, but the ball slid away from Morris’ faint grasp of the ball against his hip.
Bargoed offended at the scrum again on the 21st minute and O’Brien put in a good kick placing his forwards some eight metres from the Bargoed try line on the grandstand side. Dan Partridge claimed the throw and set up the maul. John Lavender, Owen Davies and Joe Bartlett all made thrusts at the line but Newport were patient. When the move was on the ball was fired left along the backs, past a despairing outstretched Bargoed hand, and into the path of Elliot Frewen who rarely makes a mistake from that distance. Frewen sprinted in to make the score Bargoed 3 Newport 12 with the conversion going wide.
Bargoed resorted to doing what they do best but were getting no change from a resilient Newport defence. After a few minutes of battering at the fringes, scrum half James Pizey saw little option other than a kick over the top to try and turn the defence. Newport full back Geraint O’Driscoll was on hand to sweep up and fire them back to their own 22 metre line. The Newport forwards had the appetite for battle now and were scrapping well for the ball, Kyle Tayler particularly. With possession regained Bargoed couldn’t resist dragging Joe Bartlett, hand on ball at the tail of the ruck, back into the ruck and give away another penalty. Matt O’Brien placed the Newport line out back into the corner of the park. Newport bided their time and only went when the felt the weakness appear. John Lavender thrust himself forward but was still short. Kyle Tayler had a dip at the line but placed the ball back well for Henry Palmer to scoop up and force himself across the whitewash for Newport’s third try. Matt O’Brien’s conversion ricocheted off the left hand upright to make the score Bargoed 3 Newport 19.
Bargoed were at sixes and sevens and conceded yet another penalty, on 38 minutes, with multiple players offside. Matt O’Brien nailed the three-pointer to make the score Bargoed 3 Newport 22.
The hosts were very nearly away at the end as number 8 Ieuan Jones strode away before finding wing Luke Smalley in support on his right. Newport managed to get defenders back to cover but as Geraint O’Driscoll cleared the ball away it looked as though he had been taken out in mid-air. Mr Bessant consulted his assistant and decided that no action needed to be taken and blew for half time.
Despite the nineteen point margin at the break, nobody assumed that Newport had the game in the bag, The very opposite, in fact. Bargoed have developed a reputation as a dogged, tough group of players that look to grind opponents down. If anything the Newport supporters were hoping for a flying start by the Black and Ambers to try and increase the margin. It could, therefore, be a very long forty minutes indeed.
Halftime – Bargoed RFC 3 Newport RFC 22
Matt O’Brien restarted and, predictably, Bargoed were a different animal. They were offloading out of the tackle well and steadily getting nearer the Newport line. Centre Jordan Howells skipped through half a gap to reach the Newport 22 and set up the ruck. Bargoed picked their moment when fellow centre Lewis Bowden sliced through a gap to score his sides first try. Matthew Lewis converted to make the score Bargoed 10 Newport 22 on 43 minutes. This was the start that Newport supporters had been quietly dreading.
Bargoed’s tails were up, figuratively speaking. They were revived, invigorated, and number 8 Ieuan Jones was central to anything good that they did. A knock on by Bargoed captain Rhys Morgan invited Newport to attack from broken play but the renewed vigour in the Bargoed defence soon smothered the Black and Ambers and forced a knock on themselves. The play was beginning to stagnate in the middle third of the field when Newport conceded a careless, but unintentional, penalty for a high tackle on 55 minutes. Bargoed’s Iain Smerdon kicked his side from the centre spot up to the Newport 22. The hosts battered away at the line again but spilled the ball forward. The clearing kick was charged down by Ieuan Jones and Newport were forced to scramble the ball to safety.
Newport seemed to have weathered the storm and were getting some possession of their own again. A strong run by Chay Smith, a talented young centre who appears to improve with each game he plays, took Newport across the halfway line. The Black and Ambers went on the attack but fizzled out when Matt O’Brien’s cross kick to Elliot Frewen was overcooked and bounced into touch. Newport conceded a scrum penalty moments later but the kick to the corner went dead, a decision that took a discussion between Mr Bessant and his assistant to clarify. Newport won the scrum restart and a set play took place, judging by the amount of shouts of ‘Yes’ and ‘Now’ that took place amongst the backs, which very nearly worked. The result was a deft kick by Matt O’Brien, against the grain of play, to touch on the Bargoed 22 metre line. Mr Bessant judged Bargoed offside soon after the line out was completed, so offering Newport a good chance to increase the points margin. Agonisingly, O’Brien’s shot at goal sailed past the outside of the posts. 10-22 still.
Within seconds Bargoed had conceded a penalty for not releasing the ball in the tackle but, slightly bizarrely, scrum half James Pizey ran into Mr Bessant and unbalanced him. Mr Bessant had little hesitation in offering Pizey ten minutes on the naughty step. It did seem harsh on the young man as it was difficult to appreciate if Pizey was aware who he was running into and what he would gain by it even if he was aware. Even so, off he went and Bargoed were down to fourteen players. The penalty stood so Matt O’Brien kicked Newport to about 24 metres out for the rolling maul to start moving forward. It began to crab infield before Henry Palmer burst towards the line. Multiple drives achieved little and a snap attempt at a drop goal by O’Brien drifted harmlessly wide.
Bargoed regrouped and moved forward. A ruck set up some 35 metres out and Johnathan Armitage, a replacement for the hosts, spotted the edge of a ruck unguarded. He shot through the gap and looped a pass away to Geraint Clarke in support. Clarke raced to the line and dived over for his team’s second try. James Hallett added the conversion to make the score Bargoed 17 Newport 22 on 75 minutes.
Thankfully for the travelling Newport supporters, Bargoed conceded a 78th minute penalty at a scrum. Haydn Simons, on as a direct replacement for O’Brien, stepped forward to kick the penalty to take the score to Bargoed 17 Newport 25. Newport were now two scores clear with two minutes plus injury time to play.
The Black and Ambers secured the restart and were in absolutely no rush to do much with the ball. It was down to Mr Bessant to shout ‘I have time’ as a signal for the Black and Ambers to boot the ball into the back of the stand and claim the four points. Very little added time was played and it was remarkable in that the game didn’t feature one forward pass and each and every lineout throw was a straight as a gun barrel. Well done to all the players involved.
Our next fix of Black and Amber action is next Wednesday the 20th of December, when near-neighbours Cross Keys RFC visit us at Rodney Parade for a Principality Premiership game. Kick-off is at 7.30. It should be a super game of rugby so please make every effort to come along, bring your mates and shout Newport RFC to a win! It will also be another excuse to dig out your favourite Christmas jumper and celebrate the festive season, hopefully with a Newport win behind us. Beyond that Newport RFC host our friends from Cardiff RFC on December 30th, an excellent way to break up that odd period between Christmas and New Year when your off work and nothing else really happens!
Another social occasion is this Thursday, December 7th, when a sporting quiz takes place in the Watkins Bar at Rodney Parade. It is organised between The Friends of Newport Rugby, The Newport County Disabled Supporters Association and the Dragons Official Supporters Club with funds raised being split between the three organisations. Teams of four are encouraged at £2.50 per person. Please come along to what should be a fun occasion.
Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Man Of The Match – Kyle Tayler
FINAL SCORE _ Bargoed RFC 17 Newport RFC 25