Cardiff RFC v Newport RFC 23rd April 2023 by John Evans
Newport’s splendid run of form during 2023 was rewarded with a second consecutive Indigo Premier Cup Final appearance. Could the club emulate its achievements against Aberavon in 2022 and return east with a cup in the bag? A powerful and determined Cardiff RFC stood between the Black and Ambers and the tall, silver trophy.
Ty Morris and his coaching team had some big calls to make regarding team selection; who would slot in to play the type of game that would be needed to defeat our biggest rivals from along the A48?
Dan Fish kicked the game off at the Principality Stadium as the roof began to slowly block the natural light and make it an indoor game. Newport fielded the ball well and secured their position as the sides began to feel each other out.
Cardiff conceded a 3rd minute penalty for slowing the ball down as they came over the top at a ruck. Matt O’Brien booted Newport into the corner as the Black and Ambers worked the phases. Ryan Woodman and Rhys Jenkins took the ball into contact, but the ball was lost, and Cardiff were able to clear.
Newport were taking the game to Cardiff, but the Blue and Black defence was equal to whatever Newport could create. Dafydd Buckland was recycling the ball quickly, keeping Newport going forward as Matt O’Brien could look at his options, but Craig Hudd was tackled, and the ball knocked on as he was rucked over.
Cardiff conceded another penalty for slowing the ball down at the ruck on 11 minutes allowing Matt O’Brien to put Newport towards the corner again. Henry Palmer looped around but the pass to Elliot Frewen, coming in off his wing, was spilled as the greasy surface told on the ball.
Cardiff began a spell of possession on 13 minutes where they attacked hard, and Newport struggled to win the ball back, but the defensive effort was tremendous and the Blue and Blacks were held on the 22-metre line, Cardiff having to put boot to ball to try and break the Newport line. A penalty was conceded, though, and Cardiff, playing with an advantage, couldn’t break through. Dan Fish took the shot at goal, and he put Cardiff 3-0 ahead on 17 minutes.
Newport almost responded with interest as Newport regained the ball from the restart. Thomas Davies carried into the heavy areas before Dafydd Buckland and Matt O’Brien conspired to get Newport moving. They went wide quickly, Lloyd Lewis motoring into the line, but his pass out to Chay Foster-Smith, haring along the touchline and, in all probability clear to the line, but the pass as over-ran and the ball sailed harmlessly into touch.
The Cardiff lineout was struggling to function well as the ball was thrown in not straight. The Newport scrum was solid as the ball went wide. Harri Ackerman flashed the ball at his opposite number before streaking through the gap with Daf Buckland to his right. All Ackerman had to do was draw and pass before final defender Dewi Cross. Cross reached out with one hand, knocking the ball forward. The referee, Mr Dewi Phillips simply gave a knock-on. There was outrage in the stand as it was felt by Newport supporters that the knock-on was deliberate and could have even been considered as a penalty try. Having viewed the incident again on the big screen, Mr Phillips stuck with his decision.
A knowledgeable man in front of me muttered “You watch Newport get a penalty at this scrum, the ref knows he’s mucked it up”. And, lo, it came to pass.
Matt O’Brien opted to take the kick at goal and level the scores at 3-3 on 25 minutes.
Mr Phillips found fault at the Newport scrum on 26 minutes for pushing too early. Dan Fish lined up another shot at goal to restore the lead at Cardiff 6 Newport 3.
Cardiff attacked again, being proficient at relieving Newport of the ball in contact. Dan Fish put an intelligent kick to the corner, but Matt O’Brien allowed the ball to run harmlessly to the corner before winning a penalty to clear their lines.
The work Newport have done on their defence this season was obvious on this occasion, as a smothering Black and Amber wall rushed forward to suffocate Cardiff, forcing them to put boot to ball, where the likes of Ioan Davies could easily scoop up possession and counter-attack.
Cardiff got worryingly close on 33 minutes as Alex Mann carried the Blue and Blacks into the Newport 22. They powered forward, but a combination of Ryan Woodman and Ben Roach wrapped up the attack and turned over the ball to nullify the situation.
Matt O’Brien demonstrated his powers of observation on 37 minutes when a loose period of play had Newport pop up with the ball. He spotted Cardiff hooker Ethan Daniel hanging around deep in defence, so walloped the ball in his direction with Elliot Frewen pressurising him. Predictably, he made a mess of his clearance. Newport threw everything into going forward, but the Cardiff defence muscled their way out of danger. Daniel then shipped a penalty as he flopped over the ball. Matt O’Brien put Newport back into the corner. Henry Palmer found Ben Roach jumping front as the maul set. Daf Buckland moved the ball away as the phases set up. Ryan Woodman, Rhys Jenkins, and Craig Hudd all carried hard into contact, but, again, Cardiff managed to spirit the ball away and, with time now up, Dan Fish simply turned and kicked the ball behind his own 22 to bring the half to an end.
Half Time Cardiff RFC 6 Newport RFC 3
Matt O’Brien restarted the game with Newport attacking ‘Glanmore’s Gap’. Cardiff conceded a 41st minute when Aaron Pinches was found guilty of high-tackling Dafydd Buckland. Matt O’Brien took the shot at goal, but it went right of the posts.
Matt O’Brien’s kick was fielded by full back Cameron Winnett, but he found Lloyd Lewis and Matt O’Brien bearing down on him. The penalty was gained as Winnett failed to release, so Matt O’Brien punted to the corner. Lineout completed, Daf Buckland called for the ball to be released. Lloyd Lewis looped around to carry the ball just metres from the Cardiff line. Matt O’Brien was on hand to take over, but Cardiff crept offside as Craig Hudd went to make the carry. With a penalty advantage, play got sloppy as the ball went right and Cardiff pushed up. Newport sensed that there was something on here; rather than opt for the predictable shot at goal, Matt O’Brien tapped and ran. Thomas Davies and Nathan Evans worked in concert to drag Newport millimetres short of the Cardiff line, but Ben Roach made sure as he followed up and dotted the ball onto the line despite the heavy presence of two Cardiff back-rowers. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Cardiff 6 Newport 10 on 46 minutes.
Ryan Woodman did well at a 48th minute lineout to disrupt Cardiff ball allowing Daf Buckland to clear. Cardiff ran back at the Black and Amber wall, but the suffocating defence was successful, and Newport could work away from danger.
James Beal found himself in the Newport 22 after a terrific break by the Cardiff backs, but astonishing defence by Newport pushed Cardiff back into centre-field as the Blue and Blacks looked around desperately trying to crack this unyielding wall. A kick across field by Dan Fish tried to unlock Newport but Daf Buckland got himself in the way and almost turned defence into attack as his clearing kick, being pursued by Elliot Frewen, bobbled into Cardiff territory, but the ball rolled into touch.
Newport nearly shot themselves in the foot on 53 minutes when a booming cross-field pass didn’t quite find its intended target. Cardiff’s Dewi Cross got nearest to it but couldn’t control the ball which, if he had, would have been a canter across the line and a sure-fire five points.
Cardiff flanker Alex Mann was pinged on 57 minutes for side entry at a ruck. Matt O’Brien punted Newport to the corner and went on the attack. Ryan Woodman rumbled forward but a loose presentation from a subsequent ruck saw Daf Buckland pickpocketed, and Cardiff could relieve the pressure on their line.
Cardiff attacked on 63 minutes but, in a moment of indiscipline, Newport went over the top at a ruck and then conceded a further ten metres for chopsing at Mr Phillips. Dan Fish opted to take the shot at goal but lost his footing as he took the kick, pulling the kick across the face of the posts and leaving the score at Cardiff 6 Newport 10.
Rhys Jenkins was working tirelessly in the backrow as he garnered a 67th minute penalty for Newport when Cardiff had transgressed at the ruck. Matt O’Brien kicked Newport up to the 22-metre line. Che Hope, on for Daf Buckland, released the ball wide quickly. Elliot Frewen almost skipped through a tackle as the Newport Heavy Gang kept thumping forward. Unfortunately, as Rhys Jenkins took the pass, Newport were penalised for crossing and Cardiff were off the hook.
Cardiff were patient. They kept playing rugby, probing for opportunities, but the Newport defence was more than equal to everything thrown at them. Morgan Allen kept barging into tackles, Dan Fish went through his repertoire of kicks and passes, but each set was met with stubborn Black and Amber resistance until Arron Pinches skipped into the Newport 22 on 72 minutes. The ruck set up, one phase moved on, before Dan Fish called for the ball to go right. His long pass out found Joe Goodchild on the wing, catching Newport short on numbers in defence. He sprinted and dived at the line, above Ioan Davies’ despairing tackle to touch down, one-handed, for a, frankly, astonishing try. It took a touch-down, described on S4C as ‘world-class’, to break the Newport defence. Fish added the conversion to make the score Cardiff 13 Newport 10.
Newport battled on bravely, but Cardiff simply shut up shop. They know how to keep hold of the ball and simply wound down the clock. Their experience of playing us in January gave Cardiff the warning of how dangerous Newport could be when they’re down by a few points. Interestingly, Cardiff turned down a 78th minute penalty shot to go to the corner, the theory being that a kick would certainly give Newport the ball to play with, whereas a lineout gave Cardiff the ball back just metres from the Newport line. The Blue and Blacks set up pod after pod and, eventually, with time up, they popped the ball out to Dan Fish who lofted the ball into the stands.
Congratulations to our friends at Cardiff RFC on their cup win, they were certainly worthy winners.
Full Time: Cardiff RFC 13 Newport RFC 10
So, it wasn’t to be. Nobody in a Black and Amber shirt deserved to just receive a finalists medal on the day, the level of discipline and effort was outrageously high, but the very nature of sport is that there a winners and losers and today just wasn’t our day. However, we need to taste defeat, sporadically, to remind us just how sweet victory is. We will get that taste again, and it will be amazing.
Newport RFC are straight back in the saddle with a big game against Llanelli RFC at Newport Stadium, this coming Saturday 29th April. Kick-off is at the earlier time of 1pm, so come early to be sure of seeing the action! It’s important to Newport RFC as a win would seal the club into 4th position and, therefore, into the final play-off position. Our season isn’t over yet!
Following this, we have the final Indigo Premiership league game of the season on May 6th when the Drovers of Llandovery RFC visit us at Newport Stadium. As it’s the last home game of the season, why not join us in wearing your oldest Newport RFC jersey?! Whether it’s your old Bobby the Beaver shirt, a classic Bisley or even this season’s offering, cheer on the boys against Llandovery and let’s make Newport Stadium a wall of Black and Amber!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Dafydd Buckland
Final Score – Cardiff RFC 13 Newport RFC 10