by Rhys Owain Jones
The Black & Ambers have reached the WRU Premiership Cup Final for the second consecutive season.
Tyron Morris’ men will return to the Principality Stadium on 23 April thanks to a 26-10 win against Pontypridd at Bridgend’s Brewery Field, their biggest-ever Cup semi-final win.
This will be Newport’s seventh appearance at a Cup final in the capital, having previously lifted the trophy three times, including last season’s narrow victory over Aberavon last April.
They had already beaten today’s opponents this season on a cold November Friday night at Newport Stadium and were quickly off the blocks in this encounter.
A mixture of costly Pontypridd errors and stoic Newport steals in the lineout gave the Black & Ambers some valuable early momentum in the first ten minutes, before a huge ‘50-22’ kick by none other than Matt O’Brien put his side in a great position to open the scoring.
A simple catch-and-drive from the resulting lineout led to prop Thomas Davies’ first try since joining in the summer and O’Brien’s first of six points for the afternoon.
The lead was soon doubled when a simple phase in the backs was ignited as Chay Foster-Smith broke through the fragile defence and eventually found debutant Sam Jones (on permit from Merthyr) who raced down his wing, cut inside leaving the ‘Ponty’ defender helpless on the deck, and reached the end zone.
Pontypridd weren’t going down without a fight, and they soon utilised their forward power to force Newport onto their own five-metre line. A series of scrums with the B&As on the back foot resulted in Dafydd Buckland being sent to the sin bin for holding in the tackle and eventually gave Iestyn Griffiths the opportunity to cross over on the left wing and halve the deficit with Joseph Scrivens’ conversion.
Despite lacking a man, it was Newport who had the better chances and could easily have extended their lead, with both Sam Jones and Ioan Davies each coming close to a score. However, fresh from a ten-minutes’ rest, it was Buckland, formerly of Pontypridd, who got his side’s third try to rub salt in the wounds of his former employer.
The move was orchestrated by Elliot Frewen, whose antics with the ball regularly fools us into believing he’s much younger than 35. The ‘Hall of Famer’ though easily shrugged his way past two defenders, before feeding Ioan Davies who quickly offloaded to Buckland for only his second try in Black & Amber.
HANNER AMSER: B&As 19-5 Pontypridd
Whatever Morris said to his players at half-time worked to a tee, with less than 45 seconds since the restart, Newport had kicked off, forced a turnover and bagged their fourth try of the afternoon.
As the ball was spread out towards the right wing, Harri Ackerman, having recently impressed in a dismal Six Nations campaign for Wales U20, found a huge gap in the Pontypridd backline before feeding Jones for his second of the afternoon. O’Brien’s conversion gave his side a 21-point lead.
A few more chances came the Black & Ambers’ way, with the backs putting on a show for the travelling faithful. Highlights included Davies catching a poor Scrivens kick into open play and dancing his way through a pack of defenders, and an O’Brien chip finding winger Jones who came close to bagging an incredible debut hat-trick.
For the most part, the rugby matched the typical Welsh weather at Bridgend. What began as a glorious day at the Brewery Field turned dull and miserable halfway through the second half, thus drawing the curtain on any more exciting play to be witnessed.
Errors from both sides became more apparent, but Pontypridd were determined to find some way back into the tie. With minutes remaining on the clock, Dale Stuckey earned his team a consolation try resulting from some poor discipline on Newport’s part. A failed attempt at a quick conversion, however, meant the men from the Taff valley were still in need of three scores to salvage any kind of result, with time running out.
After some five minutes of injury time, the referee blew the final whistle much to the delight of the Black & Amber Wall. The victorious players were then quick to turn their supporters on the terrace to thank them for their incredible support today and throughout the campaign so far.
SGÔR TERFYNOL: B&As 26-10 Pontypridd
Newport are heading to another Principality Stadium Cup final, looking to repeat the feat of last season’s trophy win against Aberavon.
The opponents this year will be our friends from Cardiff, who comfortably beat RGC 1404 in today’s other semi-final. Some of our older supporters will have fond memories of the 1977 Cup Final at the National Stadium, and not so fond memories of the 1986 Final, but we’ll all be hoping our third Cup Final showdown against the ‘Old Enemy’ will yield another famous day in our great club’s history.
However, we’re not quite done with Pontypridd just yet! We’ll be visiting Sardis Road this coming Thursday (30 March) for the latest round in the Indigo Premiership, with kick-off at 7.30pm. Take your place once again in the Black & Amber Wall and show your support for Your City, Your Colours, Your Club.
SEREN Y GÊM: Nathan Evans