Newport RFC v Cross Keys RFC 20th April 2019 by John Evans
The weather on the occasion of this game had many thinking more of summer, holidays at the beach, cricket, beer gardens and suntans, rather than a game of rugby. But there was, and still is, work to do for Newport RFC this season, especially when Cross Keys come to town. Keys are having a wretched season and the fact that, were they to leave Rodney Parade pointless, then their relegation would be confirmed and they would be plying their trade in the Championship next season.
The news this week that head coach Craig Warlow was departing had supporters hoping that would spur the players into a couple of good performances to see the Boss off with. Craig has stamped a style of play on our club which is a pleasure to watch. Newport RFC would like to wish Craig and his family good luck for the future. We’re sure that Craig will pop up again somewhere. You can’t keep a good man down.
Geraint O’Driscoll, again starting at outside half, kicked the game off on a pitch that could be described as ‘firm’. Keys returned the ball allowing Newport to probe and search for openings. An improvised ‘miss one’ pass from Chay Smith found some room for Elliot Frewen to dart along the wing but the ball was spilled in the tackle.
Keys were offside as early as the second minute when a pass to centre Corey Nicholls was spooned forward as he took it. Scrum half Josh Guy found the loose ball too difficult to resist and seized it. The lineout in the corner went awry as the ball skimmed off Joe Bartlett’s fingertips and back on the Keys side. Keys entered into the spirit of things but Corey Nicholls, while trying to run out of defence, showed his naivety by trying to run through Jonny Morris. The ball spilled towards outside half Jacob Botica whose kick forward simply ended up with a Newport 22 drop-out.
Keys had infringed again by five minutes when they held on to the ball in a tackle. Newport went quickly, good running by debutant wing Brandon Wood and super handling by Henry Palmer eased Newport up to the Keys 22 metre line but the move broke down as the Keys pack defended their line.
A searching kick by Tom Pascoe had Jonny Morris and Brandon Wood in pursuit with just Keys’ Josh Guy back as cover. Guy was isolated and the referee, Mr Dewi Phillips, put and arm out for a penalty, but as Newport were then turned over the penalty seemed to evaporate .
Cross Keys were having ample possession but weren’t especially creative with it and had real trouble cracking the Black and Amber defence. Josh Skinner, playing at number 8 for Newport, reached out a hand to try to intercept a pass but knocked on. Mr Phillips decreed that was a deliberate attempt at a knock on and reached for his yellow card. The resulting penalty was kicked to the Newport 22 metre line. With possession regained, centre Tiaan Loots managed to skip through a tackle and get within metres of the Newport line. Keys took advantage of their numerical superiority and found a gap out wide for wing Rory Budina to cross in the corner of the Hazell Stand side. Outside half Jacob Botica added the conversion to make the score Newport 0 Cross Keys 7 on 16 minutes.
Cross Keys continued to press Newport and a 21st minute penalty, when Henry Palmer strayed offside, allowed Keys to kick to the corner again. With the ball retained, Tiaan Loots angled in and got close to the Newport line, prop Gary Carpenter got even closer. As the ruck formed, flanker Chris Johnsey picked up and dived through an unguarded space to score a try. Jacob Botica added the two points to make it Newport 0 Cross Keys 14 on 23 minutes.
Newport gained a 30th minute penalty for a Keys deliberate knock on which, by Mr Phillips’ own definition, warranted a yellow card. Apparently not. There then followed a slightly bizarre sequence of events as Rhys Jenkins charged down Botica’s clearance attempt. As the ball went left for Newport, following another deliberate knock down, the ball reached Elliot Frewen who chipped ahead only for defending wing, Rory Budina, to clearly palm the ball dead. Mr Phillips had to deliberate with his Assistant Referee as to which decisions to reach. There were two, possibly three, yellow cards at stake here. It was, quite possibly, Budina’s misfortune to transgress last and nearest the Assistant for it was he that was shown a yellow card while all the other infringements were disregarded. Newport managed to fluff their lines, however, as Joe Bartlett took the lineout but dropped the ball backwards, while facing his own line, but Mr Phillips decided that was enough for a knock on.
It took until the 37th minute for Newport to register a score. That followed patient play by the backs as Tom Pascoe took contact. Prop Garin Harris found himself out in the open before he made a super pass out to Elliot Frewen allowing the Wing Commander to fly in to the corner for a hard-earned try. That made the score Newport 5 Cross Keys 14.
Newport tried to go for more scores after Jonny Morris won a penalty after taking a high tackle. The ball was kicked to around 37 metres out and Josh Skinner was up at the tail to take the lineout but the maul was wrapped up and Keys won the turnover as half time arrived.
There was plenty of work to do but plenty to work on. Keys hadn’t looked especially sharp, relying on the bludgeon rather than the rapier. An old chap with a Cross Keys polo shirt on was heard to say “Don’t worry, Newport will be alright. This is how we’ve been this season. An hour of fury and then we collapse.” We would see.
Half Time Newport RFC 5 Cross Keys RFC 14
A tactical change at half time as scrum half Tom Lucas, so busy and industrious in the first half, was replaced by Ryan James for the second, possibly as much for his ability to get inside the referee’s ear as his tactical awareness and abilities.
Jacob Botica started the second half with Keys attacking the North Terrace. Geraint O’Driscoll returned the kick with interest to their forty metre line. Newport started the second half quickly as Elliot Frewen took a long Keys kick. He passed to Jonny Morris while Keys centre Tiaan Loots hit him with a high shot. The ball went loose but, critically, backwards as Elliot Frewen continued running. Frewen kicked the ball ahead, bouncing up nicely for him to take and sprint in near the posts for his second try. Geraint O’Driscoll added the conversion to make the score Newport 12 Cross Keys 14.
Tiaan Loots demonstrated what wan excellent player he is at this level by bursting Newport wide open on fifty minutes. He sprinted forward but was downed by the backtracking Jonny Morris. The Keys back up arrived swiftly to move the ball right. Gary Carpenter, the Keys prop, almost killed the move stone dead as his pass was more ‘bouncing bomb’ than aerial but Rory Budina managed to scoop the ball up and dash across the Newport line for their third try, despite the attentions of Dan Partridge. Jacob Botica added the conversion to make the score Newport 12 Cross Keys 21.
Newport gained a 53rd minute penalty for Keys hands in the ruck. Geraint O’Driscoll kicked to just eight metres out on the Bisley side. Joe Bartlett took the lineout but the maul was wrapped up far too easily by Keys. The visitors conceded another penalty soon after when a stray hand hooked around Ryan James’s arm as he passed. The fact that Geraint O’Driscoll’s kick went dead was an obvious delight to the Cross Keys team.
Newport conceded a 59th minute penalty themselves as they illegally sealed off a ruck. Jacob Botica took the kick at goal to make the score Newport 12 Cross Keys 24.
And here we were. At the hour mark.
Cross Keys prop Richard Cornock was the latest to knock on while trying to intercept a pass, but no yellow cards. Search me for what the difference between that and Skinner in the first half was. Lennon Greggains, a welcome addition to the Newport squad for the day, bashed his way forward with Kyle Tayler and Matthew Reed, on as a replacement for Josh Skinner, carried on gaining the hard yards. Reed set up a ruck on the edge of the County’s penalty box. The ball went out to Haydn Simons, on for Tom Pascoe, who ran right and reset the ruck. Ryan James tracked left inviting Chay Smith to burst through the angle before dancing around the solitary last defender and scoring a good try on 62 minutes. Geraint O’Driscoll added the two points to make it Newport 19 Cross Keys 24.
Matthew Reed ran the restart back from deep. Haydn Simons sliced through a gap before being grounded. Chay Smith kicked ahead with the ball ending up in touch just five metres from the Keys line. The visitors gained possession but elected to try running out of defence themselves. They made no distance forwards at all, simply crabbed left under the posts before Newport turned them over. Tom Piper, on for Garin Harris, popped a pass out to Geraint O’Driscoll who barged into the two covering defenders on the line and managed to ground the ball for the bonus point try. O’Driscoll converted his own try to make the score Newport 26 Cross Keys 24. When was the last occasion that both Newport RFC tighthead props gave scoring passes in the same game?
Jacob Botica kicking the restart out on the full only compounded the visitors’ woes. Newport were beginning to pour through a leaky Cross Keys defence. Matthew Reed was strong going forward, Kyle Tayler proved elusive, Tom Piper carried hard into contact making good ground before Chay Smith did the same. The ball spun wide and left out to Jonny Morris who scrambled over in the corner but was judged to have been held up by Keys. The attacking five metre scrum was solid. Matthew Reed controlled the ball at his feet nicely as the scrum began to edge sidewards. Before the referee had a chance to penalise anybody for anything Reed picked up and charged at the line between two half-hearted defenders for a classic number 8’s try. Geraint O’Driscoll added the conversion to make the score Newport 33 Cross Keys 24 on 70 minutes.
Cross Keys’ replacement Chris Francis first action of the game was to be ripped of the ball by Kyle Tayler who fed the ball out to Chay Smith. Smith ran and found a huge overlap to his left. He found Haydn Simons running in support. Simons was caught but he managed to pass to Jonny Morris, running at top speed, who blazed his way to the line and touched down elegantly while still airborne. The conversion drifted wide of the posts making the score Newport 38 Cross Keys 24.
Newport were unstoppable now, Cross Keys had no answer to this style of play. The ball was zipping around easily between forwards and backs as Newport gained ground. A Cross Keys scrum, just metres from their line on 78 minutes, was in all sorts of trouble as the front row of Matt Prosser, Evan Whitson and Tom Piper had their opposite numbers on the rack. The ball squirted out of the back of the scrum. Ryan James reacted quickest, picking up the ball and jogging backwards, inviting runners on to him. Matthew Reed was there second, took the pass and ran an angle into the corner for a second try. Again the conversion was missed making the score Newport 43 Cross Keys 24.
Cross Keys were out on their feet. Newport conceded a late penalty for no release in the tackle but Keys seemed unsure what to do with the ball. The Black and Ambers regained possession and had a final thrust at the line. Chay Smith provided the go-forward but Jonny Morris was bundled into touch to bring the game to an end.
The old fella was right.
Cross Keys’ failure to earn any league points from the game cemented the relegation to the Championship for next season alongside already-relegated Neath RFC and Bargoed RFC who lost to Merthyr. We at Newport RFC wish Cross Keys luck in their future endeavours and hope it won’t be too long before we meet again.
Newport’s final home game of this season is on Saturday May 4th when Llandovery RFC visit for a Principality Premiership fixture. Both sides enjoy playing fast, running rugby. Hopefully we can have a good crowd to cheer the Black and Ambers to another victory.
The End of Season dinner is approaching too. That is on Friday May 17th and is in the Business Suite at Rodney Parade. Please get in touch with the club if you would like tickets to this enjoyable evening.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score Newport RFC 43 Cross Keys RFC 24
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Elliot Frewen