Newport RFC v Pontypridd RFC 17th November 2019 by John Evans
Following a satisfying performance by our talented squad against a lacklustre Bridgend RFC, it was time for the Black and Ambers to face up to an altogether different proposition, Pontypridd RFC and their vocal band of travelling supporters. They may not be the force that they were four of five seasons ago but, at this level, they’re still a pretty potent outfit that demands respect.
Newport were led onto the field by captain Rhys Jenkins making his 150th appearance, a remarkable achievement which would, no doubt, have been surpassed long ago were it not for his tribulations with injuries, a testament to the whole-hearted nature in which Rhys plays the game – full-on and committed.
Matt O’Brien kicked off with Newport attacking the school end. Pontypridd, wearing a red and white strip that recalled their ‘90s “Ponty Bridge” kit, set about attacking Newport before young Brodie Coughlan, available to play after his superb performance at Llandovery, drifted offside. Pontypridd’s Diggy Bird, starting at 10 for the visitors, angled the ball to the corner on the Hazell side but their position was lost when their talismanic captain, Dafydd Lockyer, underlined his reputation for ball-handling allowing Newport to scramble the ball away and clear.
Both sides indulged in some enterprising play. Dai Richards burst through some half-hearted tackles before passing on to Brodie Coughlan in support. Andrew Mann cleared out the ruck like a bulldozer moving loose rubble allowing Matt O’Brien to choose his options, looking for deeper runners to strike. Jonny Morris pushed ahead but his popped pass to Luke Crane was overrun just as it was about to get interesting. This just allowed Pontypridd to move the ball around and then boot it back to the corner and return the ball to within a few feet of where the passage of play had begun.
Following a kick out on the full by Diggy Bird for the visitors, as he tried to release wing Alex Webber, Pontypridd won the lineout ball back. They tried to play their way forward but met stern Black and Amber defence and made little headway. A firm hit on scrum half Jamie Hill dislodged the ball, but Hill couldn’t suppress his instinct to regather from an offside position allowing Matt O’Brien the opportunity to take a shot at goal and open the scoring, which he duly took. This made the score Newport 3 Pontypridd 0 on 13 minutes.
Our visitors balanced the scoreboard within two minutes following Dai Richards’ gathering the ball but becoming isolated and failing to release. Diggy Bird took the kick and made the score Newport 3 Pontypridd 3 on 15 minutes.
Newport burst back into the Pontypridd half but were undone by a side entry at ruck. Pontypridd booted clear but failed to make touch. Matt O’Brien took a kick cross-field for Jonny Morris and Dai Richards to chase. The red and white shirted defender took the ball cleanly but was nailed and failed to release the ball. The presented Newport another opportunity to kick at goal which O’Brien took with aplomb from around 35 metres. The score now read Newport 6 Pontypridd 3 with 20 minutes played.
Diggy Bird’s restart barely cleared five metres giving Newport a scrum over the centre spot as the floodlights switched on to relieve the gloom. Matt O’Brien powered through an attempted tackle with Luke Crane supporting to his right. Pontypridd’s Kristian Parker batted the pass down but Luke Crane was alert enough to regather and continue the move. The pass out to Matt O’Brien was unusually fumbled and the move petered out. Alex Webber, the visiting wing, made good ground for his team, weaving a run between Black and Amber jerseys before he boomed a pass forward to fellow wing Dale Stuckey. Clearly the pass wasn’t forward enough to register with the referee, Mr Adam Jones, and play continued. Newport flooded back to stem the advance but were penalised again for failing to release a tackled player. Diggy Bird added another three-pointer for Pontypridd to make the score Newport 6 Pontypridd 6 with 24 minutes played.
Pontypridd were the first side to register a try following a lineout for them on halfway. The ball moved out to Dafydd Lockyer who, naturally, attracted defenders before a ruck formed in the shadow of the Bisley stand. Jamie Hill, the Ponty scrum half, spotted a three-on-two on the blind side and made a break. As he was tackled into touch he smartly got the ball away to wing Alex Webber who was able to sprint in to score. Diggy Bird added the conversion to make the score Newport 6 Pontypridd 13 on 25 minutes.
Newport went back on the attack as Andrew Mann ploughed into the heart of the Pontypridd defence. Matt O’Brien made a break before finding Luke Crane who was ankle-tapped just as he made it into the visitor’s 22. Pontypridd were guilty of side entry at Crane’s breakdown and were penalised. Matt O’Brien kept Newport in touch kicking the penalty making it Newport 9 Pontypridd 13 on 27 minutes.
A flashpoint occurred on the half hour as Brodie Coughlan was gang-tackled into touch in front of the Bisley stand. The three Pontypridd players involved seemed to take delight in rubbing Coughlan’s face in the ground and slapping him on the head. Coughlan, only being human, took exception and snarled, grabbing hold of wing Alex Webber. Webber responded by lowering his head, engaging with Coughlan’s head and pushing away. Generously, one could call it a head’barge’ rather than a head-butt. Either way, it was head to head contact initiated by Webber, taking place right in front of one of the Assistant Referees. He consulted with Mr Jones and the net result was a display of ludicrously weak refereeing. Both players received a finger-wagging and the lineout went ahead.
Luke Crane worked a pass away from a scrum on 34 minutes which developed into something special as flat, finger-tip passes flew across the line. Dai Richards broke the defensive line with Crane sprinting in support. Harry Griffiths and Josh Skinner were sprinting hard in support left-field as Richards angled inwards towards them. Pontypridd were helpless as the pass to Griffiths was good and the big centre loped in for a well-taken try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 16 Pontypridd 13.
The visitors closed the half with an attack at the Newport line. They passed the ball around well but centre Corey Sheppard wasn’t closed down well enough; he was able to sneak a pass out to scrum half Jamie Hill flying up in support who dived over untouched for a try which Diggy Bird converted to make the score Newport 16 Pontypridd 20 on 37 minutes.
As the half closed, Newport launched an attack. Dai Richards leapt for a high ball but was unbalanced in mid-air. Mr Jones saw nothing to concern himself with, awarding Pontypridd the knock-on as time ticked away.
Half Time Newport RFC 16 Pontypridd RFC 20
Diggy Bird’s restart for Pontypridd bounced into touch without a hand being laid upon it. Newport attempted to ease themselves away but a decent kick by fullback Morgan Richards somewhat pinned Newport into the corner momentarily. Matt O’Brien’s clearance only reached the Newport 22, however, Josh Skinner came up trumps again and burgled the lineout allowing Newport a way out. Pontypridd attempted to play their way forward but an offload from Jamie Hill, the scrum half, simply went to touch. Elliot Frewen reacted quickly and boomed a pass to Matt O’Brien. Mr Jones encouraged play on as the ball swept across the back line before a rapid flat pass to Jonny Morris gave him space to motor. He entered the 22 before Andrew Mann arrived to carry the ball further before he was downed. The ball whipped left quickly to Brodie Coughlan who had a gap before him to gallop in for a try to the left of the posts. Matt O’Brien added the two points to make the score Newport 23 Pontypridd 20 on 46 minutes.
It was Newport’s turn to hand out a quick one-two sucker punch. A super break by Harry Griffiths saw the tall centre run from deep at pace, stepping out of an attempted tackle by defender Kristian Parker. Griffiths had Luke Crane and Jonny Morris flanking him. Griffiths selected to pass left to Crane who quickly spotted the better option of Morris out wide. The ball whipped out to the Ninja Warrior who sprinted to the corner for a cracker of a try. The conversion was a scruffy attempt at goal which wobbled away from the posts making the score Newport 28 Pontypridd 20 on 48 minutes.
A tricky kick from Jamie Hill, the visiting scrumhalf, pinned Newport into the corner. The lineout was won but Matt O’Brien slipped as his clearing kick was launched. The kick landed with Alex Webber, the Ponty wing, who ran hard but was tap-tackled in the Newport 22. Dafydd Lockyer tried a chip kick but Dai Richards showed quality positional sense to make a good ‘mark’. Pontypridd continues to work hard but Newport eventually were pinged for a high tackle. Diggy Bird kicked the penalty from around 38 metres to make the score Newport 28 Pontypridd 23 on 55 minutes.
Pontypridd began to turn the screw as Diggy Bird controlled their attacks. Dai Richards was turned over on the Newport 22 but the red and white shirts met a stubborn blanket of Black and Amber defenders. Bird dropped back for a drop goal attempt but the kick was charged down by Rhys Jenkins allowing Dai Richards to gather and make a terrific clearing kick.
Kyle Tayler purloined a lineout ball at the tail and popped the ball out to Joe Bartlett. The ball went right via Evan Whitson, on for Brodie Coughlan, and Geraint O’Driscoll before Harry Griffiths again showed his potential and strode through the Pontypridd defence. Griffiths almost got as far as the line before being tackled. Luke Crane popped the ball up to Matt O’Brien who shipped it forward to Rhys Jenkins to crash over and suitably mark his 150th game for Newport RFC with a try. Matt O’Brien kicked the conversion to make the score Newport 35 Pontypridd 23 on 64 minutes.
Newport were buoyant and in control as a good switch move in midfield brought Elliot Frewen into the attack drawing a penalty in the tackle. Newport played with the advantage but, with none accruing, they went back for the kick. Sadly for Newport, Matt O’Brien’s effort went wide leaving the scores as you were.
Seventy minutes in, Newport were in charge and twelve points ahead. What could possibly go wrong?
Mr Jones spotted a knock-on by Elliot Frewen that he deemed deliberate. A yellow card was shown and Frewen was left to cool his jets while the game continued. Bizarre, though, how a deliberate knock-on is, by this referee’s tariff, more punishable than head contact, but here we are.
A free kick was awarded against Newport for closing the gap at a lineout. Pontypridd work left then right as Newport struggled to even out the numbers. A looped pass to second row Sean Moore which evaded the desperate lunge of Joe Bartlett saw the big man canter in. Diggy Bird added the conversion to make the score Newport 35 Pontypridd 30 with 73 minutes played.
Pontypridd could sense nervousness. Their able backs punctured the Black and Amber wall as full back Morgan Richards sprinted, chipped ahead then gathered his own kick to crash over under the posts for a well-taken try. Diggy Bird added the conversion to make the score Newport 35 Pontypridd 37 on 75 minutes.
Newport worked themselves into a position to rescue the situation but a wobbly lineout throw scuppered that. They were thrown a lifeline by Pontypridd themselves when they inadvertently kicked the ball to touch from inside their own 22. Newport pounded away but the Pontypridd defence was rock solid and the 22 remained unbreached. Eventually Newport knocked on. Pontypridd were aggressive in defence as they pushed Newport back to halfway. The visitors became slightly over-vigorous in defence when they were penalised. Mr Jones made it clear that time was up. The only viable option was Matt O’Brien to take a shot at goal from halfway. O’Brien lined up the optimistic kick as the Bisley stand held its collective breath but the kick sailed wide to the delight of the vocal travelling support.
Newport RFC have an opportunity to right the good ship Black And Amber next Saturday when they travel along the M4 to visit Llanelli RFC in another Indigo Group Premiership game. Kick-off is at 2.30pm at Parc Y Scarlets and a good turnout of support would be appreciated, I’m sure. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running a bus for supporters so, if you’d like to travel with them then get in touch to book on the FunBus!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club