Swansea RFC v Newport RFC – 6th January 2018 by John Evans
Following on from the decent performance against Cardiff RFC Principality Premiership action was put to one side for a while to allow Newport to start their WRU National Cup campaign. A visit to the idiosyncratic St Helens ground is always a pleasure, despite some of the fearful batterings that Newport teams have received there over the years. With the structure of the league being what it is this season it was also a first opportunity to clash with a team from the western conference. With all due respect to our fellow clubs in the east, it was nice to go somewhere a little different.
Swansea were led onto the pitch by their second row Sam Kiley on the occasion of his 200th appearance for the Whites who were, indeed, wearing a traditional white kit with maroon socks.
Matt O’Brien got the game underway for the Black and Ambers, attacking the ‘City’ end of the ground. The ball was received by the Swansea forwards but the clearing box kick by Whites scrum half Rhodri Wells was untidy allowing Jonny Morris to take the ball and set off with Chay Smith in support. Morris sprinted across halfway before feeding Smith who went wide before being hauled down. Flanker Kyle Tayler was first on hand and drove on into the Swansea defence before being unceremoniously dumped into touch. Swansea executed a strong driving maul from the line out allowing Rhodri Wells to execute a much better kick for his wing Andrew Claypole to chase. Newport flooded back but the referee, Mr Aled Evans, felt that Ryan James had strayed offside so awarded Swansea a kickable penalty after just three minutes which their outside half, James Davies, duly despatched to make the score Swansea 3 Newport 0.
Swansea were clearly playing to orders, the backs trying to utilise the blustery wind to pin Newport into the corners. A line out that was not straight put further pressure on Newport as possession was handed back to the hosts. A move from the base of the scrum shuddered to a halt as the pass to inside centre Rhys Williams was spilled and Newport won back the ball. The pressure was further relieved when Swansea were found to have engaged too early at the scrum. Hooker Will Evans ran the free kick at the Swansea pack to set up the ruck. The ball was released to Tom Pascoe who made an excellent pass to release Chay Smith who carried Newport back to halfway. Swansea conceded a penalty for bodies over the ball at the ruck so Matt O’Brien, acting as captain for Newport RFC today, opted to kick for territory and place Newport some 28 metres out on the stand side. Joe Bartlett grabbed the throw before Will Evans went for the blind side but, sadly, became isolated and was stripped of the ball. Geraint O’Driscoll mopped up the kick before feeding Tom Pascoe who kicked for touch back to the halfway line.
Newport continued to thump away at the Swansea defence but, again, players were left isolated and it was Joe Bartlett penalised this time as he hung on to the ball too long in the tackle. Swansea’s Rhodri Wells over-egged the kick to touch as it was whipped away by the wind and rolled across the dead ball line. Newport happily took the scrum back on half way and worked the ball through the hands to Jonny Morris who set up the ruck. Again Swansea shirts were all over the ruck exit so they were penalised again. Alex Everett, playing at 8 for Newport RFC today, pushed ahead and, again, a white shirt was across the back of the ruck. Mr Evans, clearly growing tired of these offences, reached for his pocket to show outside centre, confusingly also named Rhys Williams, a yellow card. Matt O’Brien pointed at the posts before levelling the score to three apiece on 14 minutes.
Newport sniffed blood. After a heavy tackle, Swansea prop Fenton Holder was also out of the game whilst the ball was ‘live’ so the hosts were effectively down the thirteen players. Newport’s Elliot Frewen tried to burst through tackles before finding the willing Kyle Tayler on his shoulder. Tayler sprinted away to the try line but was hauled down and spilled the ball with two white-shirted defenders on his back.
A very loose Swansea line-out saw the ball bounce free allowing Newport flanker Maxfield George, son of the former Newport captain and official Hall of Fame legend Glenn, pounce on the ball and put in a surprising turn of speed to get near the halfway line. The ball was spirited away from the ruck onto the Swansea side but the Black and Amber defence rushed up to put Swansea under pressure, more pressure than they could handle in fact as passes were rushed and, as one pass went to ground, wing Elliot Frewen toe-poked the ball ahead and dived on it for the visitor’s opening try. Matt O’Brien added the extra two points to make the score Swansea 3 Newport 10.
Newport were beginning to exude confidence with the backs running from all angles. O’Brien, Frewen and Smith were all prominent in making inroads into the Swansea defence but were not usually able to bring their adventure to bear fruit.
With the clock ticking towards halftime Swansea felt it best that they have a good go at taking full advantage of the strong wind. They camped in the Newport 22 metre area for fully seven minutes before coming away with a solitary penalty after Newport were judged to have been off their feet at a ruck. Swansea number 8 Jon Fox had gone close, Sam Kiley had a dart at the line but was too upright and was easily dealt with by the Black and Ambers. The backs biffed away at Pascoe, Smith, O’Driscoll and Frewen but got no quarter from them so it was just the penalty that James Davies scored to show for their efforts. This made the score Swansea 6 Newport 10 on 37 minutes.
Newport had a last tilt at the Swansea line for this half of rugby, Elliot Frewen wriggling into space but the pass to him was declared forward. As the whistle was blown and both teams jogged up the steps to the cricket club changing rooms it felt as though if Newport clicked in the second half then Swansea wouldn’t have the firepower, figuratively speaking, to deal with them. If they didn’t, however, it could be a long forty minutes.
Halftime – Swansea RFC 6 Newport RFC 10
Swansea’s James Davies re-started the game and it was Newport’s turn to utilise the conditions. The Whites had tinkered with their tactics and were now looking to turn scrums and take the Newport back row away from the game. They got it badly wrong on 47 minutes, however, when the scrum wheeled left. Ryan James could scarcely believe his luck with the ball at his feet and nobody around him. He passed to the flying Elliot Frewen who scarpered up field while the Swansea back row stood up from the scrum to try to ascertain what was going on. Frewen was stopped just metres from the try line. Matt O’Brien was next on hand but he too was held up. The ball went right to Geraint O’Driscoll who dived across the put Newport in command of the game. Matt O’Brien added the very tricky conversion to make the score Swansea 6 Newport 17.
O’Brien attempted an audacious penalty two minutes later, fully from 49 metres, the ball only just dipping below the crossbar. As Swansea restarted, O’Brien cheekily tried a pair of drop goals from half way, both inaccurate but a message to the home side that any offence in their own half would be punished. As Swansea tried a restart again, the superiority of Newport was emphatically displayed as Max George took the ball and passed to Tom Pascoe. He, in turn, passed to Chay Smith who hared off along the wing before putting in a beautifully soft pass to Jonny Morris who glided in for Newport’s third try. Matt O’Brien again added a difficult conversion to take the score to Swansea 6 Newport 24 on 53 minutes.
They say that you can’t kid a kidder and that’s true of scrum half Ryan James. Newport conceded a 57th minute penalty so James calmly picked up the ball and held it to his chest. Swansea’s Rhodri Wells impetuously pushed James in the back giving Mr Evans reason enough to reverse the penalty and allow Newport to keep the pressure on Swansea. Matt O’Brien kicked for the corner and Newport bashed away at the line but it was Swansea prop Tom Sloane who came away with the ball only to knock on and give it straight back to Newport. Unfortunately for Newport nothing came of this pressure and it was Swansea centre Rhys ‘yellow card’ Williams who came away with the ball. They even had Newport in some danger briefly as wing Dan Howells appeared to be on course for a try but Mr Evans decided that the final pass was forward and Newport were given the scrum. Haydn Simons, on for Matt O’Brien put in a massive relieving kick, taking Newport from their own 22 metre area to the home 22, Elliot Frewen doing the unglamorous tracking work along his wing to ensure that Swansea didn’t try any funny business.
Mr Evans was forced to reach for his yellow card again on 69 minutes when Newport’s Rhys Cresswell couldn’t resist putting boot to ball when on the wrong side of a Swansea ruck.
Newport were still backing themselves when eighteen points ahead and a player down. Haydn Simons made a half break and passed to his half back partner, replacement Ryan Bates but the pass was frustratingly forward. Even at 6-24, a Swansea supporter was heard to say that the score flattered the Whites. Arguably he was correct.
Swansea went close in the 77th minute when Rory Gallagher made a charge for the Newport line but, again, the pressure was relieved when Newport replacement prop Matt Prosser expertly wrapped up the ball legally and forced the penalty.
Swansea did eventually breach the Newport line on 78 minutes when Rhys ‘yellow card’ Williams wriggled through a half-hearted tackle and crossed near the posts. Swansea fullback Gareth Walters added the conversion to give the score line a level of respectability at 13-24.
Into added time and Swansea’s Owen Howe tried to kick a penalty for position only for it to fall short and into the arms of Jonny Morris who set off towards halfway before losing the ball in contact. Swansea spread the ball wide before centre Rhys ‘yellow card’ Williams kicked ahead. Elliot Frewen calmly fielded the ball and skipped around a few challenges before clumsily feeding the ball to Geraint O’Driscoll. O’Driscoll, on the end of a ‘hospital’ pass somewhat, endeavoured to secure the ball but was isolated. Swansea passed the ball across the line and, with the Newport defence at sixes and sevens, Jedd Evans managed to cross the line for a try with the last move of the game. Full back Gareth Walters took the conversion to make the final score Swansea 20 Newport 24.
Newport will look back on the performance with a level of satisfaction. The ethos of the coaching team is coming through as this set of young men brim with confidence to back themselves and try things that don’t appear to be possible. Also, history was against Newport on this occasion. It was the Black and Ambers first win in the cup at St Helens and the first win away at a fellow Principality Premiership side since the 21-14 defeat of Bedwas on 16th February 2008. However, the lapses in concentration in the last two minutes of the game, while having little effect on this occasion, demonstrate that there is still work to be done. Well done Newport, we now wait for the cup draw which takes place on Tuesday 9th January.
There has been some movement of Principality Premiership games which needs the attention of your diary. We now meet Ebbw Vale at home on Sunday 4th February at Rodney Parade at 2.30pm. Also the home tie against Llanelli RFC will be on Friday 16th February ay 7.30pm while the away game at Bridgend RFC will now take place on Friday 16th March, again at 7.30pm.
Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Come on Newport!
Newport Man Of The Match – Kyle Tayler
FINAL SCORE _ Swansea RFC 20 Newport RFC 24Match pictures from Simon Latham: click