Pontypool RFC v Newport RFC 23rd December 2023 by John Evans
Newport haven’t ventured this far up the A4042 for a league game since April 14th, 2012, when they were despatched back home with a 27-17 defeat under their belts. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and Pontypool, it’s fair to say, have proved a lot of people wrong about their ability to compete in the Indigo Premiership. They aren’t fourth in the table through luck, but hard work and a dogged belief in their gameplan. They slipped up last time out though, falling short at Bridgend, so their focus would be 100% on this fixture, the one that they craved most of all.
Ty Morris largely kept faith with the squad that beat Bridgend in front of the cameras last week, just tinkering with the props, Thomas Davies and Nathan Evans starting with Tom Workman and Dan Suter providing fresh legs off the bench, Oli Andrew deserved his start after a hat-trick of tries at Bridgend, Lloyd Lewis coming off the bench, whilst George Young was brought in to start, Rhys Jenkins making way to become an impact player.
To their credit, Pontypool RFC suggested that a minutes applause was appropriate in the wake of the sad news about the passing of Newport RFC club legend Brian Price. Brian’s passing has left many who knew him with a real sense of loss. There is little point going over Brian’s achievements in rugby here, they are legion. He did everything, and he did it well. He was a man generous with his time and had many great friends at our club. Newport RFC offers its sincere condolences to his wife Dorothy and his wider family.
Matt O’Brien kicked off, Newport playing right to left in front of the Ray Prosser Stand. Pooler gaffed straight away by leaving the ball, assuming it was going direct to touch, only for it to bounce in. Josh Skinner competed at the lineout before Elliot Frewen caught the lofted kick. Jonny Morris surged down the right-hand side of the field drawing a high tackle. Matt O’Brien booted Newport to the corner, but the Pooler lineout defence was solid, and the move came to nothing.
A loose kick from the base of a Pontypool scrum was easily secured by Elliot Frewen, who took in his options and ran back at the upcoming defence. Harri Ackerman broke the line with Che Hope in support. George Young was next in support before being hauled down. The Pooler scramble defence was solid, but Elliot Frewen kept playing before being downed. A penalty was awarded to Newport and, rather than the sensible option of gesturing at the sticks, Matt O’Brien went quickly, tapped to himself, and burrowed over for a smartly taken try. O’Brien converted his own score to make it Pontypool 0 Newport 7 with 5 minutes played.
Newport were penalised for tackling a player off the ground. Matthew Jarvis, the Pooler 10, booted his team up to the Newport 22 on the Bank side. Ben Roach got fingertips to the lineout ball before Oli Andrew broke along his wing. Pooler flanker Mike Herbert did well to catch the Langstone Flyer, but Kyle Tayler was, as usual, omnipresent, and carried the move forward. Newport kept possession well before Elliot Frewen and Harri Ackerman found space on the left. Frewen spotted his line, took it, before passing inside to Jonny Morris who hurtled over to score a terrific try. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer to make it Pontypool 0 Newport 14 with 9 minutes played.
Pontypool responded instantly. Matt O’Brien’s clearing kick was charged down, the bounce of the oval ball evaded Oli Andrew and it was home centre Pat Lewis who was first to react, dotting the ball down over the Newport line. The score now was Pontypool 5 Newport 14.
The hosts did themselves no favours when scrum half Morgan Lloyd fumbled Matt O’Brien’s restart. Ben Roach popped the ball from the base of the ensuing scrum to Che Hope, who had a fine dart at the line, but Pontypool were penalised in defence. Matt O’Brien kicked the penalty award to make the score Pontypool 5 Newport 17 on 15 minutes.
Newport were penalised themselves on 17 minutes, Matthew Jarvis helpfully kicking the ball dead allowing Newport a scrum back where the ball was kicked from. Despite being under some pressure, the ball worked away from the scrum. A cheap, late shot by Pooler captain Scott Mathews, shoulder barging Matt O’Brien long after the ball was kicked, was met with a chuckle and a smile from the outside half. Pooler would have their work cut out keeping him quiet today, and it would take more than that.
Pontypool entered a good spell of possession, going through phase upon phase, edging their way upfield, but a forward pass brought that to an end, further compounded when prop Kelvyn Williams’ knee hit the ground in the scrum, giving Newport a penalty.
The Black and Ambers got a shove on at the scrum, but Scott Matthews managed to get the ball away to Morgan Lloyd who sprinted clear, before passing to wing Walker Price. Price kicked ahead, but Elliot Frewen was first back to calm the situation. The dropout that followed was poor, but Pontypool could only huff and puff in possession before Che Hope got hands on it and kicked the ball clear. But Pooler weren’t to be denied. Their heavy gang got into rhythm, ball carrier after ball carrier taking contact, soaking up the Newport defence until, eventually, Scott Matthews had enough momentum to crash over next to the right hand post. Matthew Jarvis added the simple conversion to make the score Pontypool 12 Newport 17 with 30 minutes played.
Sorcery by Rynard Landman regained possession for the Black and Ambers as they set about attacking the Pooler 22. Jonny Morris and Henry Palmer carried hard, but Newport were penalised when a ball-carrier was isolated. Pooler kicked for the lineout but managed only to knock on. Josh Skinner entered into the spirit of things, launched a rapid attack. Matt O’Brien kicked long and dropped back to wait the kick-return, which duly came. A long pass out to Ioan Davies, inside his own 22, and the fullback was off, stepping around tackles before releasing Oli Andrew. Andrew fair flew along his wing before Che Hope called his support, took the pass, and scampered across the line for a breathtaking Newport try. Matt O’Brien improved it further making the score Pontypool 12 Newport 24 on 36 minutes.
Newport could see that the scores were coming from stretching Pontypool in defence at every opportunity, so they kept going. Oli Andrew’s sprint came to nothing, despite him being taken out once the ball had been kicked ahead. Pooler kicked clear, but Matt O’Brien took the contact, sucked the defence in before Jonny Morris, Ioan Davies and Henry Palmer all carried Newport back into the Pooler half, Palmer doing commando rolls as he went. Sadly, for Newport, he was isolated and, a couple of penalties later, Pooler are banging on Newport’s front door. From just 5 metres, Scott Matthews lurched forward, while centre Amosa Nove proved a handful, but the Black and Ambers wrapped him up, gaining the penalty before Matt O’Brien kicked the ball dead for half time.
Half Time Pontypool RFC 12 Newport RFC 24
Matthew Jarvis restarted the game, with Pontypool having it all to do. Jonny Morris took the catch before Matt O’Brien punted the ball long. Josh Skinner was up, making a nuisance of himself, but Pontypool gathered possession and pushed forward. However, they seemed loose and disconnected, allowing Newport to wriggle free and escape.
Matthew Jarvis was penalised for a petulant shove following a tackle. The referee, Mr Simon Mills, wasn’t best pleased and spoke to both captains. Matt O’Brien kicked Newport into the Pooler 22. Lineout won, the ball slipped neatly through the hands and Harri Ackerman powered across to score, but the try wasn’t given as Mr Mills thought that he had spotted a forward pass in the build-up.
Newport conceded a needless penalty on 47 minutes, Pooler going for territory. Scott Matthews and hooker Sam Scarfe showed up well in attack, the Black and Amber forwards putting in a mighty shift in defence. Another penalty was conceded but Morgan Lloyd, emulating Matt O’Brien, tried to take the penalty quickly before passing to Amosa Nove, but the pass was poor, the ball knocked on and their opportunity lost.
Harri Ackerman turned over the ball on 54 minutes before Mr Mills awarded Newport a penalty anyway. Sizing the situation up, and being Matt O’Brien, doing the very thing that you think he wouldn’t do, put in an accurate cross-field kick-pass for Oli Andrew to run onto, dodge the cover and dive over for a try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Pontypool 12 Newport 31. Bearing in mind that Matt executed that same move, to devastating effect, live on TV last week, it represented a complete switch-off in defence.
Ty Morris started making changes on the hour, Brodie Coghlan replacing Henry Palmer and Nick Thomas coming on for Rynard Landman. With a tidy buffer, Newport tried playing smarter, rather than harder. Matt O’Brien was booting Newport to the corner at every opportunity.
Thomas Davies was relieved of duty, after a mammoth shift, by Tom Workman and Rhys Jenkins came on for Kyle Tayler as Che Hope, a player in terrific form for Newport RFC these last few games, put in a mighty kick of his own to pin Pooler back in their own territory.
Newport delivered the killer blow to faint Pontypool hopes on 64 minutes when Jonny Morris bagged his second score. A loose kick was held by Oli Andrew who passed out to the overlapping Ioan Davies. He broke the line before setting up the ruck. A neat, rolling kick ahead was set for both Harri Ackerman and Jonny Morris to hunt down, and it was the Ninja Warrior who got their first, making the score Pontypool 12 Newport 36 on 64 minutes.
The Black and Ambers were still hungry, Nathan Evans putting in a superb shift as he turned over possession on 67 minutes.
Pontypool had the final score, however, through replacement back row Dan Hill, briefly of this parish. The red, white, and black shirts went through their familiar pick-and-drive routine, progressing glacially slowly, when the ball mistakenly made its way to the backs, whereupon Pooler made about 30 metres in 10 seconds. The forwards soon arrived, though and slowed everything down to walking pace again. Phase upon heavyweight phase eventually found a crack in the armour and Hill dived over for the try. Matthew Jarvis added the conversion to make it Pontypool 19 Newport 36 on 71 minutes.
Che Hope left the field on 72 minutes, his work for the afternoon done, as light misty rain began to drift down the valley and onto the pitch. Luke Crane took his place.
In stoppage time, a try by Rhys Jenkins was ruled out. Newport snaffled the ball from a Pontypool attack and launched a counter-offensive quickly. Matt O’Brien, now at centre, enabling Carwyn Penny a run out, put in a cross-kick to Lloyd Lewis, having newly relace Elliot Frewen. Lewis cut in and out, sprinting upfield before passing to Luke Crane who had Rhys Jenkins loping up in support. A final pass saw the back-rower run clear to score. However, Mr Mills paused and then, puzzlingly, jogged back to award Pontypool a penalty on the Newport 22. Assuming it was an infringement spotted by one of Mr Mills’ assistants, it seemed to be an awfully long time between that and the ’try’ being scored.
With the chance of a try-scoring bonus point on offer, Pontypool threw caution to the wind and trusted their backs. They tried to stretch Newport, but the Black and Ambers had thrown the shutters up on their 40-metre line and were, slowly but surely, battening them tight.
Pontypool would have to wait for their next win over their old foes.
Newport RFC are next in action away at Swansea RFC on January 13th, 2024. Our next home game is the week after, on January 20th, 2024, when the Wizards of Aberavon RFC come visiting. Come along and support the boys!
It just remains for us at Newport RFC to wish all Black and Ambers, everywhere, a peaceful Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2024.
Come on, Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score – Pontypool RFC 19 Newport RFC 36
Newport RFC Player of the Match – Jonny Morris