Newport RFC v Cardiff RFC 12th March 2022 by John Evans
Following on from the victory at Parc Y Scarlets, the Black and Ambers faced an in-form Cardiff RFC, who had defeated Aberavon at home by 41 points to 28 the previous weekend. It was first versus second in the Indigo Group Premiership, both having played six games with Cardiff registering 26 points to our 28. Both teams play a fast, open game of rugby, so there promised to be entertainment aplenty for the paying customers at Rodney Parade.
Thankfully, after some of the wet weather encountered in the previous days, it dried up nicely and, with a stiff southerly wind blasting through the old ground, the pitch had dried out satisfactorily.
The Newport squad has been ravaged by injury, with the hugely regrettable losses of Joe Bartlett and Will Griffiths to long-term injury, amongst others. It is with thanks that we could call upon the Dragons Academy to bolster the ranks and provide a competitive 23-man squad for this fixture.
Newport were led out onto the pitch by captain Matt O’Brien on the occasion of his 150th appearance for Newport RFC.
Cardiff’s outside half, the talismanic Dan Fish, kicked off with Newport defending the North Terrace. Cameron Lewis took the catch and allowed Josh Skinner, then Henry Palmer to truck the ball forward and set up the ruck allowing Luke Crane to kick ahead. Elliot Frewen was unsuccessful in gathering the ball and conceded the knock on.
Cardiff began well, poking and prodding at the Newport defence. Wing Iwan Pyrs-Jones rounded Jonny Morris but was snared further up field. Jack Maynard, the Cardiff full back, made inroads while Dan Fish pulled the strings for the Blue and Blacks. A super transfer of the ball between James Richards and Alex Everett, the former Newport loose forward, took the visitors close to the hosts line, but the defensive effort was equal to the attack until a penalty was conceded. Cardiff opted to kick at goal, Dan Fish lining up the simple kick to make it a 0-3 lead for the visitors with just 4 minutes on the clock.
Cardiff skilfully eased a rolling maul into the Newport 22 following an 11th minute lineout but, ball released, Dan Fish’s kick was straight into Will Reed who gathered and charged into his opposite number. A strong leg-drive pumped the Black and Ambers forward before the ball moved left, until Henry Palmer was pinged for regathering a spilled ball on the ground. Cardiff aimed towards the corner but Andrew Mann, filling in at second row, climbed high to spoil the lineout, while Ben Roach carried the ball away. Newport worked tremendously hard to shake off the Blue and Black grip. Unfortunately, a kick ahead by Will Reed, chased down by Elliot Frewen, came to nothing.
Newport had a stroke of luck when Dan Fish’s attempted 50:22 rolled dead, giving Newport field position and possession centre-field about 35 metres out. Newport played the ball well, moving the point of attack around until full back Ioan Davies skipped through a gap and set himself up in the Cardiff 22. While Luke Crane waited at the back of the ruck, Cameron Lewis gathered the ball, spotted a weakly guarded fringe, and ploughed through for the games’ opening try. Will Reed added the conversion, making it Newport 7 Cardiff 3 with 19 minutes played.
From the restart, a very effective counter-ruck from Cardiff won them a penalty which Dan Fish elected to kick. This made the score Newport 7 Cardiff 6 with 21 minutes played.
Cardiff knocked on in a tackle, the resulting Newport scrum being solid, but the visitors allowed Luke Crane all the time and space he needed to pick his next move. Cameron Lewis powered the ball through contact with Dan Fish before the ball swung right, ending up with young Ioan Davis at full back who gracefully skipped through the defence and found himself in a three-on-two situation with Jonny Morris and Luke Crane flanking him. He passed inside to Crane who returned the ball, thus cracking the defence wide open for Davis to glide over for Newport’s second try. The conversion was missed, so the score was Newport 12 Cardiff 6 with 29 minutes played.
The game was being played at a very high tempo, both sides trying to run the ball. Some of the big forwards, as fit as they are, could be seen gasping for breath already.
A good pass from Cardiff centre Ioan Evans put his captain Morgan Allen into space, but the Newport defence flooded back and formed a Black and Amber wall. Cardiff worked a few phases, sending the big boys up into contact, but seemed to run out of ideas fairly quickly; the result, a cross-kick to the wing, was easily dealt with by Elliot Frewen as he marked the ball. The clearing kick, a resulting line out, provided the major flashpoint in the game. Andrew Mann, whilst doubtlessly guilty of trying to drag down the rolling maul, did not deserve what came next. The shoeing that he took, to the head and upper body, was totally unnecessary and foul play should have been dealt with by the referee. However, Mr Dewi Phillips and his assistant, with whom he consulted, abdicated their responsibility and saw no reason to punish Cardiff for something which, had it happened outside a city centre pub on a Saturday night, would have ended with a night in the cells for the perpetrator. The incident can clearly be seen on the video of the game and Mr Phillips was in a good position to see it. justice, of sorts, was delivered when Cardiff hooker Yardley overthrew the line and Newport could clear again.
Deep into first half stoppage time and Cardiff launched their final attack of the half. Ioan Evans was proving especially effective at centre for them, finding himself in space often, but their lack of creative spark was proving expensive as they failed to break the Black and Amber defence again. Their last roll of the dice was having wing Iwan Pyrs-Jones join the line at pace, but his pass out to Harri Millard was high and loose and easily mopped up by the ravenous defence.
Half Time Newport RFC 12 Cardiff RFC 6
Will Reed restarted the game, Morgan Allen carrying out of defence for Cardiff, but Newport soon regained possession. Ioan Davis found a gap, but Cardiff were guilty of laying over the ball in defence. Will Reed booted the ball to the corner affording Newport an opportunity to attack. George Young took the ball at the front of the lineout before the big men began to rumble; Mann, Palmer and Young again had charges at the line. Henry Palmer was working terrifically hard to keep the ball alive before Matt O’Brien had a lunge but was millimetres short. The ball popped out and Will Reed found just enough room to wriggle through a tackle and dot the ball down for a try. He added the two-pointer to his own score to make it Newport 19 Cardiff 6 with 44 minutes played.
Cardiff tried to attack from a 48th minute lineout but their backs seemed oddly static against a steely Newport defence. Dan Fish, as talented a player as he is, had very little to work with as he, literally, ran around in circles looking for an escape plan. The pass out to winger James Beal was high and unforgiving, allowing Elliot Frewen time to snag him, knock the ball free for Rhys Jenkins to hack ahead. Frewen, as the wing commander has long done in a Newport jersey, was out of the traps like a greyhound. He caught the rolling ball up in the Cardiff 22, made a pass into the in-goal area that a Newport County player would be happy with, a dived on the ball for the bonus point try. The conversion was missed, so the score now was Newport 24 Cardiff 6.
Cameron Lewis made a 58th minute loose pass work for him as he evaded the onrushing defence, but Dan Fish managed to pick off a pass. Lewis turned and caught Fish, ankle-tapping him to the ground. Cardiff kept the ball alive and worked closer to the Newport line until second row Sean Moore came closest. Fortunately, Elliot Frewen, working as hard in defence as attack, positioned himself under the ball to prevent grounding and Newport had a goal line dropout to restart. Unfortunately, the Lewis/Fish ankle tap saw the Cardiff man injured and leave the field. Indeed, the injury count was piling up for both side; Josh Skinner went off for young Max Williams, Luke Crane for Che Hope, replacement hooker Ellis Shipp had Henry Palmer resuming duty, Elliot Frewen for Oli Andrew and it went on. It was even worse for Cardiff. At one point, they had used all their replacements and were playing with thirteen players while patching up by the medical team was in process.
Oli Andrew was soon in action as he scooped up a loose ball and hared off along the wing, eventually being caught by Iwan Pyrs-Jones. The ball was quickly recycled and a cross-kick to Jonny Morris nearly paid dividends. However, Cardiff’s proved equally adept at getting under the ball to prevent the try being scored. From the goal line drop out, Cardiff kicked left but chased up poorly, Matt O’Brien needing no encouragement to play heads-up rugby. Spotted an overlap to his right. He brought in Ioan Davis who had Che Hope outside him, the young scrum half making it look easy as he dummied his way over the line for try number 5. Will Reed added the conversion to make it Newport 31 Cardiff 6, with a kick that utilised the wind brilliantly.
When things are going your way, then, sometimes, they really are going your way. Will Reed caught the restart and put in a prodigious kick that rolled to a halt in touch back inside the Cardiff 22 for a superb 50:22 that had Cardiff wondering where on earth they could go next.
Sorry Cardiff were on their knees when Newport struck again on 77 minutes. They were down to 13 players and one of those, Pyrs-Jones, probably shouldn’t have been there either. He didn’t seem to know whether to look after the ball or his leg when the pass was made to him, so he kind of did neither. Jack Brooks scooped up the bobbling ball, passed it out to Oli Andrew who cantered in, virtually unopposed, from about 30 metres for try number 6. Matt O’Brien added the conversion, Will Reed temporarily removed from play. The score now read Newport 38 Cardiff 6 and the Black and Amber supporters were in dream land.
It could have been more. Jonny Morris had another effort disallowed deep into stoppage time. Cardiff were still offering stern resistance as the Newport backs made like the Harlem Globetrotters. Rhys Jenkins had to calm the play down, drag the ball in and reset. Matt O’Brien’s cross-kick to Jonny Morris was nearly perfect but Ioan Evans, the Cardiff centre, got himself in the way and forced Morris into a knock-on over the line. Later, a pass out to Che Hope was too high for him as the ball went over his head with the line at his mercy. It was domination.
Cardiff, to their credit, never gave up and kept hammering at the Newport defence but it wasn’t to be broken, not today. The pride that this group of players has in defending their try line is remarkable. They were putting as many hard tackles in after an hour and a half as they were in the opening moments. The chased and hassled and Cardiff had no answer to it.
The scene at full time was like a dystopian action film, broken bodies across the pitch as players licked their wounds or just tried to get a lungful of fresh air.
Cardiff will regroup. We play them again on March 26th. They will come fully loaded with the professional players once they return from South Africa with Cardiff Rugby. There’s a place in the cup final at stake, not to mention the small matter of not being the first Cardiff side to ever lose four games in a season to Newport while we, on the other hand, look like we may struggle to get 23 fit blokes on the field at the same time.
Full Time: Newport RFC 38 Cardiff RFC 6
Newport RFC are in Indigo Group Premiership action next Friday 18th March, when they make the journey down the M4 to face Swansea RFC at their famous St. Helens ground. There is a supporter’s bus going, so if you’d like to join us, please email Steve Bennett on firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your seat. Following this, the boys’ face Cardiff RFC, for the fourth time this season, in the semi-final of the Welsh Cup, on Saturday 26th March at a venue to be announced. This will be the day after the FoNR’s Hall of Fame dinner, held in the Bisley Suite at Rodney Parade. Places are still available. If you’re interested in attending this excellent event, please email Kevin Jarvis at email@example.com.
The next Newport RFC home fixture is on Sunday April 3rd when we face RGC at Newport Stadium. Kick off is at 2.30pm and we’d love you to join us!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Will Reed
Final Score – Newport RFC 38 Cardiff RFC 6