After some of the recent weather conditions it was something of a relief to be granted a bright, still and dry afternoon up at Bargoed Park for this Principality Premiership fixture between Bargoed RFC and Newport RFC.
It was fairly obvious that Bargoed were going to target this fixture as ‘winnable’. They were second-bottom in the table and desperate for league points in an attempt to stave off relegation. Their team sheet read somewhat like a Dragons Premiership Select side having recruited some notable players in the summer, a few of whom would be well known to Newport supporters; James Leadbeater, Bryce Morgan, John Lavender to name but three. There was no chance of the Newport coaches taking this game lightly. The team themselves would have to contend with Bargoed’s heavy forwards and their direct and hard-running backs. It could be an interesting afternoon.
Newport ran onto the field led out by Geraint O’Driscoll on the occasion of his 150th appearance in Black and Amber. Congratulations to him, and I’m sure that we all hope he features in many more games for our club.
Matt O’Brien got things underway and a vigorous start by the Newport forwards saw them claim possession quickly and be awarded a scrum, centre-field on the Bargoed 22-metre line. Sadly the position was lost when Newport were found guilty of dragging the scrum down and Bargoed were offered a relieving penalty.
Bargoed enjoyed a threatening spell of possession with some neat touches, a pass from full back Calum Jones to wing Jordan Purcell being particularly tidy. Centre Darren Humphries high-stepped his way through a few Newport tacklers before flanker Ben Fry finally punctured the Newport 22-metre line with a darting run. Newport managed to retrieve the ball but then tried to play out of danger rather than clear to touch and managed to lose the ball. This allowed the Bargoed scrum to set up in an almost mirror image position to Newport’s first scrum. The Black and Ambers were penalised at the scrum again resulting in Bargoed outside half Josh Prosser a straightforward kick at goal to make the score Bargoed 3 Newport 0 on seven minutes.
A potential error by Newport paid dividends soon after when a bouncing ball was watched, leaving Bargoed wing Duane Dyer to gather and move the ball inside to Josh Prosser. Prosser, in an attempt to mix the game up, put in a cross-field kick which evaded his wing, Jordan Purcell and ended up in Matt O’Brien’s clutches. O’Brien tippy-toed along the touchline before passing inside to the already-at-full-tilt Harri Lang. Lang evaded some of the heavy gang that were looming and sprinted off towards the try line. As the Bargoed cover bore down Lang placed a delicate, rolling kick for David Richards to chase. Richards won the race and gratefully placed his hands on the ball over the touchline for the game’s opening try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Bargoed 3 Newport 7 on nine minutes.
Bargoed took another shot at goal on 14 minutes when the Newport scrum was pressurised. Josh Prosser kicked from around 27 metres to make the score Bargoed 6 Newport 7.
Matt O’Brien kept the scoreboard operator busy with a penalty kick of his own on 19 minutes when Bargoed failed to release the ball in a tackle. The score now was Bargoed 6 Newport 10.
Newport were found guilty of deliberately pulling down a maul and were penalised. Bargoed flexed their muscles and looked for cracks in the Black and Amber wall. Wing Duane Dyer did some damage as he ran fast and straight through the first line of defence only to have Newport captain Rhys Jenkins sweep behind them and chop him down. Elliot Frewen appeared with the ball and started to run out of defence but the referee, Mr Elgan Williams, had given Bargoed an advantage. Bargoed kicked to the corner but a super counter-maul from the Newport forwards completely disrupted the hosts efforts to set up an attacking platform and retrieved possession for Newport.
Elliot Frewen left his wing to join the backline at pace before being on the end of a ‘seatbelt’ tackle by Bargoed centre Darren Humphries which was clumsy rather than malicious. Newport were awarded the penalty which Matt O’Brien felt confident enough to take a shot at. It was forty metres out and a few inches inside the tramline, so a tricky kick. O’Brien was fully justified as the ball sailed cleanly between the sticks to make the score Bargoed 6 Newport 13 on 25 minutes.
Newport were off their feet at a ruck three minutes later. Mr Williams gave Bargoed the penalty which Josh Prosser kicked from around 43 metres and straight in front of the posts to make the score Bargoed 9 Newport 13.
Newport were trying to run from deep, Elliot Frewen being his customary jack-in-the-box by popping up in all sorts of unexpected positions. A Ryan James kick, which seemed to be a kick to nothing, almost came good when Harri Lang ran hard in pursuit and made it a half-decent kick. Bargoed cleared but under duress. Newport were playing with advantage but failed to make much of a dent in the blue-shirted backline. A Newport scrum on 34 minutes, left of field, made a platform for Newport to launch from. Elliot Frewen cleaved the Bargoed backs apart with his run only being stopped with a desperate last-ditch tackle. The ball rolled backwards from the contact area and was played out to Matt O’Brien who made an attempt at a drop goal. The ball clattered into the right-hand post and back into play which allowed Bargoed to clear to touch.
A 38th minute intervention by one of Mr Williams’ assistants was beneficial to Newport when there had been an ‘off the ball incident’. Matt O’Brien kicked to the corner allowing Newport to set up position to make a few darts at the Bargoed line. Tom Piper went first but was repelled. Matt O’Brien had a go, a Bargoed hand clinging to the tail of his shirt being enough to stop him before Andrew Mann powered forward. Mr Williams judged that Bargoed hadn’t released in the tackle and gave Newport the simplest of penalties for Matt O’Brien to slot and make the score Bargoed 9 Newport 16 on 40 minutes.
There was time to restart, indeed, Bargoed were playing keep-ball well but not really getting anywhere. A flick pass from centre Darren Humphries to wing Duane Dyer was forward bringing the first half to a close.
Half Time Bargoed RFC 9 Newport RFC 16
Bargoed had a change at half time that proved to have a profound effect on the game. Prop Alex Gardner-Key had been seen receiving attention late in the first half and went off at half time holding his cheek. He was replaced by former Dragons prop Keagan Bale, who had played a few times for Newport a few seasons ago. Bale’s style of scrummaging appeared to be far more to Dan Preece’s liking than his previous opponent’s and Newport notably began getting the upper hand at the scrums.
Josh Prosser restarted for Bargoed and the home side soon got into their stride, progressing until an oddly stationary pass from Prosser out to wing Duane Dyer gave Newport’s Chay Smith half a chance to hit him down and slow the move up. The good work was undone by a Newport high tackle which allowed Bargoed to kick to the corner. Bargoed’s Bryce Morgan climbed high to catch the throw and set up Bargoed on a series of thrusts. Hooker Rhys Buckley had a few tilts at the line as did prop Rhys Morgan but it was the rapier rather than the bludgeon that did the trick. A pass inside from centre Barney Nightingale, formerly of this parish, to wing Jordan Purcell saw the winger scamper across the Newport line under the posts for a neatly taken try. Josh Prosser added the simple two-pointer to level the scores at 16 points apiece on 43 minutes.
Dan Preece had his opposite number in all sorts of trouble winning a penalty on 45 minutes when Keagan Bale folded at a scrum. Matt O’Brien unfortunately overcooked his kick and it went dead. Newport regained the territory and possession but sadly squandered it when a support runner ran across Henry Palmer’s line and conceded a penalty for crossing.
Former Newport player John Lavender took the field for Bargoed on 50 minutes looking twice the man he was before he left our club. He had little effect on the scrum and Piper, Palmer and Preece continued their ascendency in this area.
Newport were looking for space around the hour mark as it became apparent that Bargoed had had enough of running around. Their big forwards appeared less interested in doing the hard work that they had been so effective at in the first hour. Their act of self-immolation occurred on 59 minutes when hooker Rhys Buckley, on being told that it wouldn’t be a Bargoed line out but a Newport penalty, threw the ball away and was shown a yellow card. Buckley then took it upon himself to offer a fulsome precis of Mr Williams’ performance thus far, earning himself a straight red card in the process. Buckley offered a similar rundown of the Assistant referee’s afternoon on the way past before being seen to retrieve his kit bag and drive away. An interesting afternoon indeed.
Newport capitalised straight away when Matt O’Brien kicked the ball to ten metres out. Joe Bartlett caught the ball in mid-air before Newport worked the short side. A gap eventually appeared which allowed Andrew Mann to charge forward, unfurl his arm and touch the ball down over the line. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Bargoed 16 Newport 23.
A 65th minute overthrown lineout offered a chance for Kyle Tayler who seized the loose ball. Tayler skittled defenders away before being downed near the line. Sadly the pass to the supporting Josh Skinner didn’t go to hand and the try-scoring chance was lost.
The Bargoed coaches eventually freshened up their team with a raft of new faces which did add some vigour back into their play. Josh Prosser put Bargoed close to the Newport line on 69 minutes following a penalty. Bargoed set up a rolling maul following a successful lineout take and ponderously began to move towards the Newport try line. An unseen hand, however, had other ideas and the ball appeared on the Newport side. Newport RFC love a broken field and nobody loves it more than Elliot Frewen. The ball went to him and off he set, pinballing his way through would-be tacklers, dodging and jinking before he was clear, all within the Newport 22 metre area. Frewen threw his head back and opened the taps, 75 metres to go with only Bargoed’s Duane Dyer and James Leadbeater in pursuit. To Dyer’s credit, he almost caught Frewen but the angle of the run made the corner-flagger’s job impossible. Frewen dived in at the corner for a super individual score which put Newport clear. Matt O’Brien couldn’t add the two points so the score now was Bargoed 16 Newport 28.
Matthew Reed, on in the back row for Rhys Jenkins, was pulling up trees in his performance. The Newport pack, particularly the loose forwards, were dominating the field and ensuring Newport a steady stream of loose possession. Their graft wasn’t required for the fourth try which earned Newport a precious bonus point. Bargoed were trying to play out of defence but a pass out to wing Duane Dyer was absolutely awful and left him in all sorts of trouble. He couldn’t recover his position before Elliot Frewen flashed up, dinked the ball over the line and gleefully dived onto it for a try. Haydn Simons, on for Matt O’Brien, couldn’t make the conversion, unfortunately, but the scoreboard was now a very healthy Bargoed 16 Newport 33 on 78 minutes.
Bargoed had the last word when a steady scrum went out to their backs and a lovely ‘no-look’ pass from Jordan Howells put wing Jordan Purcell in for a try similar to his first. Josh Prosser added the simple conversion to make the score Bargoed 23 Newport 33 at the final whistle.
The win leaves Newport in an enviable position as we step into Christmas, laying in fifth position with fifty points under their belt with the majority of away games done and a lengthy list of home fixtures to come. Fingers crossed that 2019 really is a Happy New Year for all connected with Newport RFC.
Newport RFC are next in action on December 29th when we travel the short distance to Pandy Park to play Cross Keys RFC in a Principality Premiership fixture. It’s a great opportunity to blow some cobwebs away, shout for Newport RFC and support the boys as they go into an always difficult away fixture.
The club would like to wish all Black and Amber supporters and sponsors a Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2019. There are plenty of opportunities in the coming months to support the Black and Ambers at Rodney Parade. If you don’t come to many games, why not try to attend a few more? Your support is vital to the continued progress of Newport RFC. We’d love to see you there.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Report: John Evans
Final Score Bargoed RFC 23 Newport RFC 33
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Elliot Frewen