Ebbw Vale RFC v Newport RFC 26th December 2022 by John Evans
It didn’t take much excuse to leave the house, after overindulging in chocolate, beer and the Great Escape on Christmas Day. The weather was bright and crisp and a trip up the Western Valley was on offer as Newport travelled to Ebbw Vale for an Indigo Premiership fixture. Newport had let themselves down in the home fixture at the start of the season, taking a 22-25 loss when they ought to have done much better.
There was bright sun over Eugene Cross Park as the game drew closer, belying the heavy downpours that we had travelled through in the Abercarn area on the way up.
Ebbw’s Evan Lloyd got proceedings underway, with Ebbw attacking the clubhouse end, but his kick, carelessly, went directly to touch. Newport won their scrum over the centre spot allowing Will Reed time to drill the ball deep into the Ebbw half. The Vale defence dealt with it well before Luke Crane found himself bundled into touch.
Evan Lloyd gestured to the sticks on 4” following a penalty award for a high tackle. The shot, from about 45 metres out fell just short of the crossbar, but Newport failed to react quickly enough as Ebbw wing Carrick McDonough flashed onto the scene, but, thankfully, he failed to hold onto the ball, and Newport were let off the hook.
Garin Harris was the recipient of a high tackle himself on 8”. Will Reed booted Newport up into the 22 as Ryan Woodman caught the ball at the tail of the line. This allowed Reed and Matt O’Brien to choose their passes and runners as the Black and Ambers made inroads into the Ebbw defence. Woodman, himself, reached just a few metres short, with two green jerseys hanging from him, but with an advantage being played, and none coming, the referee, Mr Adam Jones, brought play back, prompting Matt O’Brien to give Will Reed his first shot at goal for the day. The kick, from 20 metres out, was duly slotted and Newport were ahead 0-3 with 12” played.
Ebbw scrum half Jon Evans, formerly of this parish, broke from a scrum and got himself into the Newport 22 before being wrapped up and turned over, expertly held and robbed by Luke Crane.
Ebbw drew level with a penalty of their own on 17”, when a no-arms tackle was penalised. The kick was successful, the scoreboard now reading Ebbw Vale 3 Newport 3.
Ebbw flanker Lewis Young got a hand to a Newport line out on 22”, slapping the ball back his side, but Jon Evans failed to control it before falling over his own feet. Kyle Tayler was over him in a flash, relieving him of possession. A Newport scrum provided Matt O’Brien the opportunity to put a chip kick in for Chay Foster-Smith to pursue, but Ebbw winger McDonough was there first.
Ebbw Vale had a real chance to provide some menace as full back Morgan Richards angled a diagonal run across field. He declined to pass, which made defending easier for Newport, but Ebbw maintained possession well, getting closer and closer to the Newport line, until Kyle Tayler picked his moment and stepped across his old mate, and former back-row compatriot, Andrew Mann, wearing 5 for Ebbw on this occasion, and Will Reed could boot the Black and Ambers clear of danger.
Ebbw were pinged at a scrum on 29” prompting Newport to go wide quickly. Elliot Frewen joined the line from fullback to release Jonny Morris, who was snagged around the 22-metre line area. Newport kept working and Matt O’Brien found some clear space to run into before being swallowed up. Newport maintained their hold on possession following another scrum as Oli Andrew and Lennon Greggains carried hard before Elliot Frewen was kind-of-released on the left wing but was bundled into touch before taking the pass, Newport gaining the throw at the line out. Henry Palmer showed up well as Newport drove on but, ultimately, Lennon Greggains was isolated in possession and gave up the penalty.
I’ve no idea what the actual possession and territory stats would have been at this point in the game but, to the casual observer, one may guess that Newport were at least ahead in both. However, their inability to create much with all that ball, particularly on a notoriously glue-pot pitch such as Eugene Cross Park, may come back to haunt them.
Half Time Ebbw Vale RFC 3 Newport RFC 3
Will Reed restarted the game, kicking deep into the Ebbw half, which was returned. Elliot Frewen caught the kick, passed infield to Matt O’Brien who lofted it high. With a huge chunk of fortune, the ball was touched in flight by an Ebbw player. Jonny Morris had the simple task of drawing the defender and releasing Ryan Woodman, with Lennon Greggains outside again, for insurance, to gallop over for the try. Will Reed couldn’t add the two-pointer, so the score read Ebbw Vale 3 Newport 8 on 41 minutes.
Ebbw were determined to hit back directly and almost made inroads when Jon Evans caught Newport napping at a scrum. He scorched through a sleepy defence and kicked ahead before Jonny Morris was back to touch the ball down. Newport kicked out from under their own posts, but Evan Lloyd’s response kept Newport on the ropes, for now. Thankfully, for Newport, Luke Crane’s clearance was touched in flight and the Black and Ambers could begin to work their way clear.
Jonny Morris fielded a kick on 46” and began looking for an exit. Chay Foster-Smith was lurking outside, and he burst clear of the defence, but his pass inside, to an onrushing Luke Crane was deemed forward, and the promising situation came to nothing.
Newport’s Craig Hudd got on the wrong side of Mr Jones on 50”, when he was judged to have made a no-arms tackle. He had the referee reach for his pocket and show a yellow card. Ebbw were trying to press an advantage, but nothing seemed to come for them and the Black and Ambers soaked up the pressure with little problem, despite only having fourteen players. Indeed, on 54” Newport extended their lead following a deliberate knock down by Ebbw’s Ethan Phillips. Matt O’Brien stretched every sinew to pump the ball into Ebbw territory as far as possible, but Ebbw fullback Morgan Richards made sure by helpfully spilling the ball into touch just five metres out, just to make sure. The rolling mauls from the lineout kept coming, but with no real headway being made, Newport opted for the shot at the posts. Will Reed nailed the kick and put Newport into the lead of 3-11 with 58” played.
Ebbw Vale did manage to hit back on 62” when Morgan Richards crossed in the corner. Ebbw had been making all the running. An out-of-sorts Matt O’Brien, having fumbled a pass in midfield, gave Ebbw a platform to attack from. Jon Evans kept Newport on their toes as he sniped a quick tapped penalty, before the ball went wide from Evan Lloyd, with a deceptively flat-looking pass to flanker Lewis Young who simply fed Richards the simple pass to score. Evan Lloyd added the conversion to make the score Ebbw Vale 10 Newport 11. Game on.
Andrew Mann returned the compliment, following his earlier stripping of possession by Kyle Tayler, as he expertly got across the Newport ball-carrier and emerged with the ball. The pass was away to Evan Lloyd who ghosted through a tackle before releasing wing Carrick McDonough who sprinted in for a well-taken try with Jonny Morris breathing down his neck. The conversion was missed, making the score Ebbw Vale 15 Newport 11 on 68”.
A despondent Matt O’Brien was withdrawn from the game on 71” to make way for the bustling firepower of Harri Ackerman, but that was overshadowed somewhat when Newport went full-Pantomime season and gifted Ebbw the four league points, nicely wrapped up with a bow tie and everything. Ebbw Vale kicked long, and, looking at the situation, it all seemed in order. Jonny Morris seemed to be back in position to cover, even with closing-down Ebbw players. However, Morris slipped and helped the ball over the try line. In an effort to make amends he threw a limp pass to the supporting Elliot Frewen. The ball dropped short and Ebbw centre Dom Franchi, also once of this parish, pounced and claimed the try, to the understandable delight of the Ebbw supporters. Elliot Frewen maintained, post-match, that he had grounded the ball and, looking at it again on film, he might be right. However, Mr Jones was having none of it. Evan Lloyd kicked the conversion to make the score Ebbw Vale 22 Newport 11 with 72 minutes played.
Newport had blown the game in that fifteen-minute “thud and blunder” section but now, being cast adrift, focussed a few minds. Newport put themselves into the corner and proceeded with a few catch and drives at the Ebbw line. Ebbw kept pulling the maul down and, frustratingly, Mr Jones would only ‘have a word’ with the offenders, rather than use the sanctions available to him. Eventually, the Black and Ambers muscled-up and Ellis Shipp wrestled the ball over the line to put Newport into losing-bonus point territory. Will Reed added the conversion to make it Ebbw Vale 22 Newport 18 on 78”.
Newport, heads cleared, had a late dip at nicking the win as Jon Evans was nailed and wrapped up. Will Reed booted Newport into the Ebbw 22 metre area. Ryan Woodman, having another terrific game, took the ball in the lineout, but Ebbw successfully wrapped the ball in tight and claimed the victory.
Full Time: Ebbw Vale RFC 22 Newport RFC 18
Newport RFC get another weekend free of rugby, over the New Year holiday, but are next back in action on Saturday January 7th 2023 when they face RGC in an Indigo Premiership game at Newport Stadium. Kick off is at 2.30pm, so bring your mates and cheer on the Black and Ambers!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Ben Roach
Final Score – Ebbw Vale RFC 22 Newport RFC 18