Saturday’s torrential rain put paid to Newport County’s fixture with standing water on the pitch making play impossible. With Newport RFC playing on the Sunday and the competing ‘attractions’ of Christmas shopping and Liverpool vs Manchester United on the box, combined with a scepticism that the game would be on at all, it was pleasing to see a healthy and enthusiastic crowd assembled for Newport’s first home game since November 9th, and a similarly moist meeting with Swansea RFC,
Newport, turned out in their change strip of red jerseys to save clashing with the visitor’s red, black and amber hooped jerseys, defended the North Terrace in the first half as Quins outside half Steffan Marshall kicked the game off. With the rain thundering off the roof of the Bisley Stand at Rodney Parade, it threatened to become an error strewn game as had the fixture against the Whites. Quins soon put boot to ball but Elliot Frewen was up to make the catch, proving that the weather doesn’t matter when you have the talent. Quins did threaten to retrieve possession until the referee, Mr Adam Jones, spotted a Quins arm wrestle around a Newport neck and awarded the Black and Ambers a relieving penalty.
Quins number 8 Lewys Millin broke well from a scrum deep in their own half and managed to wrap an arm around his tackler to release wing Matthew John to sprint on before kicking ahead but David Richards was well placed to snuff the threat out at fullback for Newport, giving the Black and Ambers a drop-out 22 restart after he had grounded the ball over his own line.
Newport were found guilty of a penalty in the fifth minute allowing Quins outside half Steffan Marshall a routine shot at goal for three points. He succeeded, making the score Newport 0 Quins 3.
The rain was coming down like it does in the films now, when they put a few gallons of milk into a tank of water so that it shows up on screen. Both teams were putting on a display of handling which was pretty good, given the conditions. A fine kick by David Richards was improved when Chay Smith pursued and pressured the Quins, putting Newport in a decent attacking position on eight minutes. Kyle Tayler came up with the goods from a maul again when he turned over possession and, with nobody in front of him, sprinted away towards the Quins line. As fast as Tayler may be, however, he wasn’t about to outstrip the Quins backs. They caught him, but Tayler managed to spirit the ball away to Matt O’Brien who found Joe Bartlett outside him, but Bartlett’s pass was slightly behind Elliot Frewen and the opportunity was, briefly, lost. Mr Jones had spotted Quins offside and Matt O’Brien launched the ball towards the corner. Newport, with the lineout won, hammered away at the Quins defence. Tom Piper had a charge, Dan Preece did similar before Henry Palmer was held up over the line. Newport tried again from an attacking scrum 5. Geraint Watkin, at scrum half for Newport, tried to ride the tackles before being brought down short. The ball switched back left but the slippery ball made knocking on far too easy to do and that particular chance had gone.
The scrum was beginning to steam, literally, as Quins tried to break away from their own 22 with ball in hand but a super smothering tackle by Rhys Jenkins made them think again. Newport had the opportunity to go through multiple phases but found no change from the Quins defence as they bolted the defensive door. Chay Smith burst through the line but the ball slipped from his grasp like a bar of soap
Quins managed some territory of their own by 21 minutes as a rolling maul threatened to suck in the Newport defence. They elected to go wide but it was Quins Steffan Marshall who fumbled at a critical point in their attack. Quins’ luck may have been in, however, when Henry Palmer hooked at the scrum only for the ball to seemingly rebound off somebody’s shin and roll through the Quins legs and appear on their side. Andrew Mann, enjoying a rare start for Newport in the back row, rectified the situation when he expertly isolated the Quins ball-carrier and claimed a penalty for Newport.
Quins were getting their fair share of ball-in-hand time, but the Black and Amber defence was equal to it. Quins chose to kick but the ball was well charged down. Unfortunately, Joe Bartlett, first on the scene to the spinning, bouncing ball, tried to gather it to play rather than hack ahead and simply managed to knock on.
Steffan Marshall spotted an option out wide to cross-kick to wing Matthew John, but the ball simply gathered pace on the sodden surface leaving John with no chance.
Quins breakthrough came deep into stoppage time, four minutes in to be precise, when a Quins rolling maul edged ominously forward. Kyle Tayler got amongst the forwards to make them play positively. The ball worked out to Steffan Marshall who had fullback Clayton Blommetijies motoring up to his left. The pass, which appeared to be slightly forward, was taken by Blommetijies at pace and he scampered over for a well-taken try. The conversion went wide making the score at halftime Newport 0 Quins 8.
Halftime – Newport RFC 0 Carmarthen Quins RFC 8
The introduction of Ryan James at halftime promised to be an inspired move. These were the conditions in which James’ attritional game might thrive. The decision paid off within three minutes after James had taken a series of quickly taken penalties, pushing Newport within touching distance of the Quins line. A blockbusting run by Rhys Jenkins was tackled short as play carried on with advantage to Newport. Inspired by James, Matt O’Brien took a quick tap and tried to make the wet surface work for him by sliding in. He was held up short but drew enough cover to open a gap for Ryan James to find Joe Bartlett barrelling through for Newport’s opening score. The conversion sailed to the right of the posts to make the score Newport 5 Quins 8 on 43 minutes.
Ryan James’ timely entrance hit the jackpot five minutes later when he spotted a large, unguarded area on the Quins right. A kick for Harri Lang to chase seemed to have been covered by the talented Quins fullback Blommetijies but he managed to spill the ball. The Newport cavalry arrived en masse as the ball pinballed around between legs until it was controlled and popped up into the path of the bullocking Dan Preece who took the pass, sprinted over the line and dived in for a try. Matt O’Brien added the two points to make the score Newport 12 Quins 8 on 48 minutes.
Quins regained a foothold in the Newport half but super Newport defence kept them at bay until splendid work by Henry Palmer managed to make some room around the ball for Ryan James to step in, reclaim and make the situation safe.
The turnaround was complete on 56 minutes after excellent work by Newport. Kyle Tayler was proving to be a nuisance to the Quins as he appeared with the ball from a Quins maul again and set off towards the try line. Tom Piper did some strong work backing up and carrying on before the ball went left for Geraint O’Driscoll to put his centre partner Chay Smith clear. Chay grasped the pass, with Quins defenders clinging to him and slid in for a well-deserved try. Matt O’Brien again added the conversion to make the score Newport 19 Quins 8.
Quins worked hard at getting themselves back into the game. A penalty on 67 minutes saw them head for the corner but the throw to captain Lee Taylor couldn’t be taken. Quins fielded the kick and ran back at the Black and Ambers and went through phase upon phase but, in the firestorm of Newport defence, no-one could blame Quins prop Steff Phillips for knocking on.
In marked contrast to the first half, Newport appeared to be thriving in the conditions at times. Matt O’Brien angled a kick towards the unguarded corner causing some consternation amongst the Quins defence. Josh Skinner, on for Dan Partridge late in the first half, got a hand to the Quins throw and allowed Newport to launch attacks at the Quins line. Quins were enticed offside offering Matt O’Brien a relatively straightforward shot at three points, which he duly bagged, to make the score Newport 22 Quins 8 on 75 minutes.
As the game drew to a close, Newport offended and Quins took the option of going to the corner. Aled Thomas, formerly of this parish, kicked with precision, putting his forwards on the Newport five-metre line. The lineout was completed and Quins heaved their way over the Newport line for a late try. Aled Thomas added the two-pointer to earn Quins a losing bonus point and the scoring finished at Newport 22 Quins 15.
Newport RFC are next in Principality Premiership action next Saturday, December 22nd, when they visit Bargoed RFC at Bargoed Park. Bargoed are short of points this season and you can guarantee that they will be targeting this fixture as ‘winnable’. Our boys will have to make sure that it is Newport that take home the points as we go into Christmas. Beyond that is our annual festive jaunt to Pandy Park where Cross Keys RFC lay in wait, always a keenly contested fixture. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running a bus for supporters to Bargoed, please get in touch if you would like to book a seat.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Newport Man Of The Match – Joe Bartlett
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 22 Carmarthen Quins RFC 15