Newport RFC v Ebbw Vale RFC 30th March 2019 by John Evans
It was fantastic weather for running rugby at Rodney Parade for this Saturday afternoon fixture. Both sides are well clear of the dogfight at the bottom of the table but were now focussing on another target – a top six finish with the potential prospect, if it comes off, of fixtures against Scottish club sides in a competition at the end of next season. While nothing is definite on that front, nobody wants to miss out on that particular party.
Newport were also beginning the run-in to the end of the season with five fixtures, all at home, all tough games with the likes of Pontypridd, Merthyr and Llandovery at the top of the table alongside Cross Keys, in real danger of relegation and likely to fight like tigers, especially at our place. But first Newport RFC had the Steelmen of Ebbw Vale to contend with.
Matt O’Brien kicked the game off with Newport playing towards Maindee primary school. Tom Pascoe jumped high to attempt to take the ball but knocked ahead as he did so. Ebbw tried to play their way out of danger but conceded a penalty in the opening minute. Matt O’Brien booted Newport to forty metres out for Rhys Jenkins to take the ball at the tail of the lineout. Newport chose to soften up the Steelmen’s midfield with Lewis Smout and Garin Harris making big charges forward. Geraint Watkin spied a half gap and tried to wriggle through but was nabbed as he did so. However, Ebbw had infringed again in the contact area and, once the referee, Mr Richard Deacy, had spoked to Ebbw captain Ashley Sweet, Newport were awarded a very kickable penalty which Matt O’Brien slotted to make the score 3-0 with three minutes played.
The sun proved a problem at the restart as the ball dropped to the ground but Newport were eventually able to gather. Geraint Watkin kicked for position but the ball was gathered by Ebbw wing Paul King, who had a spell in Black and Amber a few years ago. King set off across field and began an Ebbw attacking move. An apparent forward pass was overruled as Newport were judged to have been offside anyway. Ebbw outside half Rhys Jones, another former B&A, kicked the penalty to even the scores to 3-3 with five minutes played.
Jonny Morris looped around the rear of his backline on nine minutes to prise the Ebbw defence apart. A pass out to Elliot Frewen pushed Newport up into the visitor’s 22 metre area before the ruck was set up. Andrew Mann took a short ball to hit the fringes around the ruck before the ball zipped right to Chay Smith who jinked through a dog-legged defence. Mr Deacy judged that the defence had only become dog-legged as Newport had been blocking illegally.
Ebbw Vale were trying to run the ball and, on meeting stubborn Newport defence, tried booming a pass out to wing Paul King. He was tackled by Elliot Frewen and driven back several metres before he could offload to Rhys Jones. Jones tried to play on in the same direction but his grubber kick simply bounced off Frewen’s ankle and into touch.
Ebbw scrum half Dai Jones kicked the ball long for Harri Lang to take in his own 22. Lang paused, summing up his options, before passing to Elliot Frewen. Frewen beat tacklers before being brought down around the thirty metre mark and managed to offload to the supporting Kyle Tayler. Tayler streaked away with little support initially but he managed to biff his way through a half-hearted tackle and continue his run. Rhys Jenkins was busting a lung to get in support and arrived just in time as Tayler popped the ball up to him and Jenkins could glide in under the crossbar for a well-taken try. Matt O’Brien added the two pointer to make the score Newport 10 Ebbw Vale 3 on twelve minutes.
Ebbw’s Rhys Jones skyed a kick which had height rather than distance. Nobody seemed to be able to get a fix on where it would drop, luckily for Newport it broke kindest for them as Harri Lang claimed it and passed to the already-at-speed Elliot Frewen blazing up the Bisley Stand wing. Frewen’s pass inside to his support runners looked suspiciously like a deliberate knock-on by Ebbw centre Dom Franchi, yet another with Black and Amber history, but no, Mr Deacy was satisfied that it was just a knock-on, Newport scrum. Sadly that was the last we saw of Elliot Frewen for the day as injury saw him replaced by Haydn Simons.
Ebbw kicked a penalty to the Newport 22 metre line on eighteen minutes but the Newport pack disrupted effectively at first then illegally. Ebbw then kicked to the corner to try the rolling maul for which they have become well known. Ebbw, however, in their urgency to score, infringed themselves and Newport were able to clear their lines.
Matt O’Brien tried booming a pass out wide to Harri Lang on 23 minutes but Ebbw’s Paul King read the situation and picked the pass off. Lang turned and caught King reasonably comfortably but Ebbw kept pressurising. Newport kicked clear but Paul King took the ball again. He ran towards the Newport 22 metre line before releasing the ball left. Ashley Sweet took the pass and the tackle but managed to offload to number 8 Lewis Young. Young dived across the line but the pass had been forward and Newport been caught offside again. Ebbw’s Rhys Jones took the shot at goal to make the score Newport 10 Ebbw Vale 6 on 25 minutes.
Newport were back on the attack as Henry Palmer took the ball into contact on 27 minutes. Whatever Rhys Jones, the Ebbw 10 did certainly earned the displeasure of Mr Deacey has he had no hesitation in reaching for his yellow card and showing it to Jones. Newport took advantage with the resulting penalty and Matt O’Brien added three points to Newport’s score and took his personal tally to over two hundred points scored for Newport RFC this season. Newport 13 Ebbw Vale 6.
The Newport scrum, so steady this season, was beginning to creak a little as Ebbw’s tighthead, Rob Sevenoaks, seemed to work out that the referee’s assistants seemed to have little interest in helping him at the scrum and, when Mr Deacey was stood beside Geraint Watkin at a Newport put-in, he could twist and bore-in to his heart’s delight. It really paid dividends after 32 minutes when, following a surge upfield from scrum half Dai Jones and flanker Lloyd Evans, Newport had a scrum on their own 22 metre line. The scrum twisted and the ball squirted out horribly from the side. Ebbw’s Dai Jones was first to react as he passed out to Paul King who, despite the attention of Harri Lang, managed to bustle over in the corner for a try. Dai Langdon took the conversion in the absence of Rhys Jones and equalled the score at 13 points apiece on 35 minutes.
Into stoppage time and Newport were awarded a penalty on an Ebbw put-in which Matt O’Brien duly converted into points to make the score Newport 16 Ebbw Vale 13 at half time.
Half Time Newport RFC 16 Ebbw Vale RFC 13
Ebbw Vale’s Rhys Jones restarted kicking left towards the Bisley Stand. An early Ebbw surge was ended by a fumble which prompted a Newport attack, Henry Palmer passing out to Chay Smith who booted ahead. Smith chased his own kick in tandem with Andy Evans who was on for Harri Lang. Ebbw’s Paul King was back as cover but knocked on as he took the ball. Mr Deacey penalised Ebbw for collapsing the scrum allowing Matt O’Brien another shot at goal from some 23 metres out in line with the corner of the football penalty area. The kick was good again and the scoreboard now read Newport 19 Ebbw Vale 13.
Josh Skinner took the restart well, set up a ruck for Geraint Watkin to box-kick the ball away. Jonny Morris chased and caught the kick and set up again. Haydn Simons kicked for position, Ebbw’s Dai Jones returning. Matt O’Brien took a high kick into the sun. Like a Messerschmitt the ball plummeted out of the sun’s glare and caused mayhem. Haydn Simons added to the chaos by getting boot to bouncing ball and hacking ahead. Rhys Jenkins was next to arrive as he pounded toward the Ebbw line but it was charging prop Lewis Smout who sealed the move as he crashed over for a try on 45 minutes. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 26 Ebbw Vale 13.
Ebbw responded immediately as Newport dealt with the restart poorly and some ineffective tackling allowed Ebbw’s Paul King a run in for a try in the shadow of the Hazell stand. Rhys Jones’ conversion sailed across the face of the posts to make the score Newport 26 Ebbw Vale 18.
Ebbw undid part of their previous good work when a late hit by Lewis Young on Matt O’Brien after the ball had been kicked gave Newport a penalty just inside the Ebbw half, where the ball had landed. Matt O’Brien confidently took the straight, 47 metre long penalty and added three points to his tally comfortably. Newport 29 Ebbw Vale 18 on 48 minutes.
Newport lived a little dangerously in the 51st minute when an Ebbw kick, chased by wing Daf Howells, had Matt O’Brien taking the ball in Newport’s in-goal area, pirouetting out of a tackle and kicking the ball clear. Ebbw full back Dan Haymond carried the ball back into the danger zone for Newport but Chay Smith almost intercepted, knocking on instead. Ebbw played on but a pass out to Paul King was hopelessly forward.
Newport were battling hard, a superb kick by Matt O’Brien pinned Ebbw back in their own 22 while Jonny Morris and Geraint Watkin were mixing it with the big boys in the forwards. The physicality appeared to be increasing too. At one point Chay Smith resembled a crash test dummy when being tackled. This wasn’t for faint hearts.
Ebbw won a 61st minute penalty which they booted accurately to Newport’s five metre line on the Bisley side. Their set play involved the hooker throwing the line out to the prop at the front of the line and the forwards quickly binding onto him. Newport resisted but it wasn’t enough as a morass of green, red and white shirts piled across the tryline. Mr Deacey consulted with his Assistant on that side before, eventually, awarding a try. It appeared that it was flanker Cameron Regan who was the ball-carrier on impact. Rhys Jones added the conversion to make the score Newport 29 Ebbw Vale 25 and give Ebbw the try-scoring bonus point.
Ebbw were finishing the game the stronger, Newport were having real trouble breaking the Steel defence down. Newport were penalised offside again on 73 minutes. Rhys Jones took the shot at goal from 41 metres and straight out to close the gap to a single point, Newport 29 Ebbw Vale 28.
It got worse for Newport as Mr Deacey, tiring of Newport being offside, pointed at replacement Matthew Reed and brandished a yellow card. It’s debatable that it was even Reed that was offside, he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, so to speak. Rhys Jones gladly accepted the shot at goal but the kick drifted left of the posts allowing Tom Pascoe to kill the situation.
Ebbw won a 79th minute penalty on halfway when Joe Bartlett, on as a replacement for Andrew Mann, lay across a tackled player. Ebbw patiently set about attacking but forced the pace ultimately when looking for their break, a sloppy pass bringing the move to an end. Ebbw weren’t done just yet, they pushed on and Paul King jinked inside getting perilously close to the line before recycling the ball. Cameron Regan, the Ebbw flanker charged on and all looked lost when he appeared to have a massive overlap. Instead he looked for contact and one of his mates clumsily entered the ruck from the side. Penalty to Newport, but how much longer to go? We were in the third minute of stoppage time but the referee insisted that Matt O’Brien play the ball. O’Brien kicked for touch. Surely now it was time for a throw to the front jumper, walk the ball into touch, all over, let’s go for a pint. Wasn’t it? The ball sailed past Rhys Jenkins’ outstretched arm at the tail of the lineout into the hands of Ebbw’s Joe Franchi. He bustled forward, set up the ruck before the ball fired backwards to Rhys Jones who spiralled an excellently hit drop goal which sailed agonisingly through the posts and gave Ebbw Vale a deserved win.
The Newport supporters were deflated, almost in disbelief, while the noisy Ebbw contingent celebrated heartily. It was Ebbw’s first win at Newport since October 2014, bizarrely by the same scoreline.
Newport are next in Principality Premiership action next Sunday, April 7th, when they face Pontypridd RFC. Newport can have a big say in where the title ends up this season as they still have to face the top three. Come along, bring your mates and shout for Newport in what is sure to be an entertaining game against another side that plays open, running rugby. It’s bound to be a cracker.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score Newport RFC 29 Ebbw Vale RFC 31
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Kyle Tayler