Newport RFC v Pontypool RFC 3rd September 2023 by John Evans
It’s been twelve years since Pontypool RFC last visited us, on September 24th, 2011, here at Rodney Parade. They were despatched back up the valley with a 36-20 defeat, with Newport’s scores coming via four tries, by Hugo Ellis, Ifan Evans, Alan Awcock and replacement Rhys Jenkins. Kicks came from the boot of Lewis Robling. However, it may mainly be remembered for the all-in brawl on 78 minutes, when Pooler prop Luke Dyckhoff, already sent off, re-entered the field of play to join the melee, while, embarrassingly, coach Mike Hook walked onto the field and feigned being punched by James Leadbeater. Hook threw himself to the floor, while Leady looked on, slightly bemused! However, Pooler had the last laugh that season as they triumphed 27-17 in the return fixture in April 2012. That win wasn’t enough to prevent their relegation from the Premiership which, despite a legal challenge, saw them spend the next eleven seasons in the Championship until their eventual promotion in April 2023. And now, they’re back, and they were presented with the fixture that they craved, a chance to have a crack at the Black and Ambers. It was promising to be a fascinating afternoon of no-holds-barred rugby.
The news filtered through, pre-match, that club legend, David Watkins, had passed away, aged 81, that morning. The word legend is bandied around very easily these days; in Watkins’ case, it’s absolutely justified. He had a stellar career in both Union and League, whilst still being a lovely, humble man. The club sends its sincere condolences to Jane and the family, and David’s many friends.
So, to the rugby. It was a beautiful evening at Rodney Parade as S4C’s cameras broadcast the game live on their Clic channel on YouTube. The Pontypool squad, having dominated the Championship for years, arrived at the ground with the scent of blood in their nostrils; this is the fixture that they have craved all this time, a chance to put one over the Black and Ambers, especially in their own back yard. The Compeed Stand was opened for a Newport game for the first time in quite a few years and this was justified as the Pooler supporters travelled in numbers to witness their team’s first Premiership game in a decade.
Henry Palmer led the Newport team out on the occasion of his 150th game for the club. Well done, Henry, congratulations! Carwyn Penny kicked off the new Indigo Premiership season for Newport, with the Black and Ambers attacking the school end. Elliot Frewen did well to retrieve possession but a pass out to Josh Reid was unsympathetic, the back row man getting isolated as he tried to correct his body position. Pontypool tried to establish themselves, but soon found that defences in the Premiership are much fiercer than in the Championship. A pass out by Pooler 10, Matthew Jarvis, was easily picked off by Lloyd Lewis, who sprinted half the field to score in the corner. That made the score Newport 5 Pontypool 3 with 3 minutes played.
Pontypool responded well and a tidy break by wing Huw Anderson had Newport in trouble. Number 8, Ieuan Jones, went very close, but Newport full back Ioan Davies was on hand to mop-up, with Elliot Frewen arriving to assist. However, top marks to prop Thomas Davis for securing possession and allowing Newport to clear.
Matt O’Brien was judged to have been off his feet whilst challenging Pooler’s Ben Moa on the deck, the referee, Mr Gareth Newman, awarding a penalty right in front of the posts, which Matthew Jarvis nailed, making the score Newport 5 Pontypool 3 on 8 minutes.
Pontypool got their noses in front minutes later after Matt O’Brien inadvertently spilled a pass. A terrific kick ahead by scrum half Morgan Lloyd had Newport in deep trouble, as only Elliot Frewen was available to track back ahead of Pooler’s Ben Moa and Ewan Rosser. Frewen was powerless to prevent Rosser scoring the try. Matthew Jarvis added the conversion to make it Newport 5 Pontypool 10 on 12 minutes.
A powerful Newport scrum splintered the Pooler pack, with a penalty quickly coming. Matt O’Brien banged Newport to the corner where Barny Langton-Cryer took the line out at the tail. With a well-executed planned move, the ball switching between players until an obvious overlap was created on the right, space enough for Lloyd Lewis to take the final pass and hare in for his second try. Matt O’Brien kicked the conversion to take the score to Newport 12 Pontypool 10.
Pontypool roared back as Newport were pinged for offside, on their own 22. Quick-witted Morgan Lloyd took the tap and ran as the Black and Amber defence had to backtrack. Lloyd was tackled but was able to pass off the ground to centre Joel Mahoney running in support who had an easy try to score. Matthew Jarvis kicked the conversion to make the score Newport 12 Pontypool 17 on 20 minutes.
Pontypool were giving a good account of themselves. In Morgan Lloyd, they had a lively, effective player who was on the lookout constantly. A kick to the corner for Ewan Rosser almost paid dividends, had Ben Roach not been back to cover with Matt O’Brien as back-up.
Carwyn Penny made an outside break that would have had David Watkins purring, splitting the Pooler backs apart and dashing through them. Elliot Frewen was in support and arrowed towards the sticks, turning full back Matt Bancroft inside out as he did. Pooler 8 Ieuan Jones downed Frewen, Dafydd Buckland being first there to keep the move going. However, a spilled ball by a forward didn’t give the move the finish it deserved. To their credit, Pooler wing Anderson had a go at running out of defence, but judged it best to kick for touch, getting his team just inside the halfway line. Pontypool were justified in being confident enough to run at Newport, but second row Lance Randall probably hadn’t been hit quite as hard as Elliot Ferriman hit him for quite some time. Mr Newman, however, deemed Ferriman offside. Matthew Jarvis gestured towards the sticks and put his team ahead by 12 points to 20 on 31 minutes.
Just as Pontypool should have felt confident about the situation, they let Newport straight back in. Ieuan Jones was tackled as he caught the re-start and penalised for holding on. Going to the corner, Ben Roach had the rolling maul set up on him, before it ominously rumbled towards the line, Thomas Davis being the man in possession as the ball hit the ground. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer to make it Newport 19 Pontypool 20 on 34 minutes.
Pooler had failed to learn their lesson just minutes later as they were penalised for not rolling away. Newport went to the corner again; Ben Roach took responsibility for setting the maul again before it splintered. Dafydd Buckland burst right but was held up. Newport retained the ball as it made its way back infield. A series of drives and charges, Joe Westwood getting very close indeed, before it went left to Roach, with assistance from Josh Reid, to barge over near the sticks for the bonus point try. The conversion was easy meat for Matt O’Brien, the score now reading Newport 26 Pontypool 20.
Pontypool were spiralling and needed to get to the dressing room, but it would get worse before they could. The restart went out on the full, good awareness by Lloyd Lewis to leave it, before the Newport scrum did its job on their opposite numbers. Matt O’Brien punted the inevitable penalty to the left corner. The Black and Ambers powered forward before O’Brien spotted Ben Roach, customarily lurking wide out. He cross-kicked to him, Dafydd Buckland being omnipresent in situations like this, and he was on hand to pop the ball up to Joe Westwood to dive across in the corner. Matt O’Brien added the conversion making the score Newport 33 Pontypool 20 as the players jogged down the tunnel for a well-earned drink.
Half Time Newport RFC 33 Pontypool RFC 20
The early evening sun began to dip but was still giving off a lot of heat. The pace of the first half surely couldn’t continue.
Newport were judged offside, an annoying trait that would continue throughout the half. Matthew Jarvis went to the corner for Lance Randall to take, but Pooler couldn’t create much out of the situation. A series of close drives by the men in red, white and black, but the fierce resistance by Newport was heartening. Eventually, it was Elliot Frewen who had the ball in hands, snarling as he sank his knees to the ground to complete the tackle and try to get Newport clear.
Pontypool conceded a rarely seen penalty, these days, as they were found to have jumped across the line at a line out. Newport went to the corner again. Elliot Ferriman went up and Newport drove forward. Dafydd Buckland broke but was frustrated as he was held up over the line.
Pontypool had executed a clear change of priorities as they chased the game. Kickable penalties were spurned for corner kicks, to try and blast their way through the Black and Amber curtain. Lance Randall took a ‘funny’ as he caught the lineout ball at chest height, but this didn’t fool the Newport defence. The pressure was maintained on Newport as Garin Harris was offside, but the resultant scrum powered Pooler backwards and Ben Moa was wrapped up as he retreated with the ball. However, Mr Newman lost patience when it was Rhys Jenkins who was straying offside. He was shown the yellow card and invited to sit on the naughty step. Pontypool got the reward they deserved when replacement prop Sam Cochrane crashed through. A series of drives kept them in the danger area, but Cochrane’s run was well judged and the big man was nigh on unstoppable from close range. Matthew Jarvis added the two-points to make the score Newport 33 Pontypool 27 on 57 minutes.
Matt Bancroft, at full back for Pontypool, kicked the ball directly to touch from his own 22, giving Newport a golden opportunity to put clear daylight between them and the visitors from up the A4042. The rolling maul set from the line out and rumbled forward, before the ball whipped out to Joe Westwood, who evaded the tackle and scored his second try of the game. This left the score at Newport 38 Pontypool 27.
Rhys Jenkins was in further trouble with Mr Newman when he was found to be lying over a tackle. A second yellow equals a red, and Jenkins was out of the game.
Pontypool never gave up and worked hard to earn something from the game. Another try would earn them two points, but the Newport defence stood up to whatever Pontypool could muster before Che Hope smashed the ball into touch to secure the win for Newport.
Newport have a bye week next week, and all supporters are invited to attend an open training session at Whiteheads RFC from 1pm. There will be a chance to watch the boys work, before a chat and a socialise with the squad! Following that, we’re on the road twice – on September 16th Newport visit RGC in an Indigo Premier game while on September 23rd, we are at Cardiff RFC for a Challenge Cup fixture. Our next home game is at Newport Stadium on September 30th when Swansea RFC are our visitors,
Come on, Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score – Newport RFC 38 Pontypool RFC 27
Newport RFC Player of the Match – Thomas Davis