Newport RFC v Pontypridd RFC 18th November 2022 by John Evans
It was something of a blessing that the weather was so clement for this fixture. After the biblical amounts of rain that had fallen over the last few days, the temperature dropped, the wind calmed, and the conditions were set for a tidy game of rugby.
Pontypridd were below Newport in the Indigo Premiership standings before the match, but that shouldn’t be used as a measure of them not being “any good”. Whilst nobody would pretend that the Sardis Road crew are the force that they were a few years ago, they’re still more than capable of giving anybody a bloody nose. They seem to be playing quite well but are unable to close games out; a facet that will surely come for them. Let’s hope tonight wasn’t that night!
Before kick-off there was a minutes silence for the passing of two men, former player and, probably more famously, coach of the 1977 cup-winning team John Ryan. Also, popular supporter Simon Randell passed away a year ago and that awful anniversary was marked with a respectful quiet period.
Pontypridd’s penchant for kits that are challenging to look at seems to continue unabated. This latest confection, a melange of white, red, and black, seems to resemble the result of an explosion in a British Legion club.
Ponty’s 10, Matt Bancroft got proceedings underway as Newport defended the SDR end of the Newport Stadium ground. A mix-up in communication saw the ball bobble loose on the ground before Pontypridd claimed possession. Centre Ceri Morris pirouetted into contact but was pinged for holding on and Newport could get the ball clear before any damage was done.
Pontypridd gained a 7th minute penalty for a high tackle which Bancroft pushed to the corner. Captain Kristian Parker rose in the lineout as the driving maul formed but the Black and Amber pack repelled it well, eventually forcing a knock-on in an excellent display of aggressive defence.
Newport were attempting to create some go-forward in their own half on 13 minutes before being caught in possession, yielding a penalty to the visitors; Bancroft stepped forward to get the scoreboard rolling by putting his side 0-3 ahead with a shot from 40 metres.
Just as it was being discussed amongst supporters that Newport had barely troubled the Ponty half of the field, they did so with great result. Newport burst into life as Ben Roach athletically took a pass and hared off along the wing. The visitors Niko Matawalu caught the big number 8, but Ponty coughed up a penalty themselves as flanker Cally James was laid across the ruck exit. Matt O’Brien put Newport in the corner when George Young jumped at the front. Henry Palmer biffed the ball toward the line as Daf Buckland struggled to release the ball from the ruck. Once claimed, he popped the ball to Dan Hill who powered across the line at close range to touch down. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer to make it Newport 7 Pontypridd 3 on 19 minutes.
Newport were finding their rhythm. Matt O’Brien plonked Newport into the corner again as Oli Andrew flew into contact and Cameron Lewis looked to burst their back-line open, but the Black and Ambers were flooded in contact and conceded possession.
The Pontypridd lineout was stuttering, providing Newport with a stream of welcome ball. Daf Buckland almost got away when he took a bouncing ball, only a despairing hand on the waistband of his shorts dragging him back stopped him streaking through for a score.
Pontypridd piled through a ruck illegally on 31 minutes allowing Matt O’Brien a penalty shot. The position, about 37 metres out but central, was meat and drink to O’Brien, and the score now was Newport 10 Pontypridd 3.
Newport’s re-starts weren’t great, a few seeming to cannon off breastbones and the like. One of these got Newport into trouble as Daf Buckland and Jonny Morris worked together to clean the mess up. The kick away wasn’t great as it was charged down. Pontypridd number 8 Aled Ward carried the ball forward before passing left to Joel Raikes for the try. Matt Bancroft evened up the scoreboard with the conversion, making it 10-10.
Newport got themselves ahead on 37 minutes with something of a wonder try by Oli Andrew. The visitors were looking to clear their lines and create something themselves. A cross-kick across intended for winger Matawalu was claimed by the tall Newport winger and he stepped, before scorching the grass with a mesmerising run from 40 metres to score, to the apparent disbelief of the Pontypridd back-line. Matt O’Brien added the difficult conversion to make it Newport 17 Pontypridd 10 on 37 minutes.
As the game entered added time, Pontypridd kicked themselves to the corner, stand side, with a penalty. The Newport defence was sound as the attacking phases made no ground whatsoever. However, the referee, Mr Gareth Newman, deemed Newport to have infringed directly in front of the posts. With no time remaining, Matt Bancroft pointed at the posts, took the three-point gift and made the halftime score Newport 17 Pontypridd 13.
Half Time Newport RFC 17 Pontypridd RFC 13
Newport restarted the game looking energised, Oli Andrew hunting down the ball while Daf Buckland mugged Ponty’s Joel Raikes, who seemed to want ages to get the ball away from the ruck. They couldn’t take advantage, but it did seem to be a marker that the Black and Ambers were going to put a lot more energy into the game.
The Newport pack seemed to be having a tough time with Mr Newman’s interpretation of the scrum laws. Around 50 minutes, virtually every contact was picked up for something, despite it appearing a fairly even contest physically. Eventually, predictably, a penalty was awarded well within kicking range, Matt Bancroft taking the easy option and putting his team to within a point of the hosts. Newport 17 Pontypridd 16 with 51 minutes played.
Newport extended their lead just three minutes later with a terrific play that Pontypridd couldn’t cope with. Che Hope, on at 9 for Buckland, fabricated a terrific pass away while under pressure. Cameron Lewis stepped into the first receiver role with Matt O’Brien outside him. Flypaper handling, with Oli Andrew joining the line at pace off his wing, burst Pontypridd apart and Andrew screamed in for his second try. The conversion drifted wide, making the score Newport 22 Pontypridd 16 on 54 minutes.
There were mutters of concern as our talismanic forward, big Josh Skinner, was left on the grass, writhing on 66 minutes with, what looked like a lower leg injury. The amazing Newport medical team attended quickly, as always, and Skinner was assisted off the field. Hopefully it’s not an injury that’s as bad as it looked. However, it did give the opportunity for fit-again Elliott Ferriman to lead from the front and demonstrate his worth to a bustling Newport pack. This he did, stealing the odd lineout, while generally throwing himself into the melee; it’s good to have him back.
To his obvious displeasure, Pontypridd fullback Lloyd Rowlands fluffed a regulation kick inside his own 22, giving Newport an attacking scrum in prime position. Newport punched through the phases before the defence were judged guilty of not rolling away from a tackle. Matt O’Brien opted to kick at goal, wisely putting another score between Newport and Pontypridd. This was completed with the minimum of fuss and Newport now led 25-16 on 68 minutes.
From the restart, Newport found space om their left. The ball went through the hands until Pontypridd centre Tommy Morgan reached out, one-handed, and knocked the ball forward, just outside Newport’s 22. Mr Newman took a moment to process what he had seen before reaching for his yellow card and inviting Newman to the sidelines.
Matt O’Brien pumped Newport forward, to around the 40-metre line in the Ponty half. Jonny Morris skipped into traffic and was held. The ball returned nicely to Matt O’Brien whose laser-guided cross-kick bounced nicely in front of the lurking Ben Roach, virtually undefended on the left wing. Roach is a terrific player, and a try was just reward for another splendid display by the big man. The conversion was missed, but the try-scoring bonus point was in the bag, at least. Newport 30 Pontypridd 16 on 71 minutes.
The visitors lineout was a real component in this Newport victory. It was so erratic that it became unreliable for Pontypridd to function off and almost became a fairly steady stream of Newport ball, however scruffy. One can imagine what Ponty’s training will mainly consist of during this coming couple of weeks.
With a frantic end to the game, possession changing hands regularly, it came down to a last play when Pontypridd’s Garyn Daniel was found not rolling away from a tackle. With time up, Matt O’Brien gestured to the posts and there was an extra special reason for this; O’Brien is a clever man, and he knew, full well, that a successful three-pointer would move him to a total of 1036 points and put him ahead of the legendary Shane Howarth as Newport RFC’s third highest points scorer. This was completed with a tricky kick, about 37 metres out and on the 5-metre tramline, left-hand side. Llongyfarchiadau Matt!
Full Time: Newport RFC 33 Pontypridd RFC 16
Newport RFC have a weekend off now, due to the Wales v Australia fixture next Saturday. They’re next back in action on Saturday December 3rd when they host Llanelli RFC in a Premiership Challenge fixture. This is followed by an away day to Merthyr on Saturday December 10th when the Indigo Premiership swings back into action. We’re then home again on Saturday December 17th, when we host Llanelli once more, this time in an Indigo Premiership fixture. Come along, bring your mates, and support the boys!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Oli Andrew
Final Score – Newport RFC 33 Pontypridd RFC 16