It seemed an opportune time to visit Bedwas RFC in the league. They have inhabited the lower reaches of the division for some weeks now while Newport, currently perched in the top six, put in a good performance in defeat to Cardiff the previous weekend and, without a win in 2019, looked set to kick on and cement their position in the higher reaches of the Principality Premiership.
Bedwas selected Chris Budgen at tighthead prop. Remarkably, Chris is still playing at this level of the game at the age of 45, 46 on Monday. The amount of training, time and fitness that men half his age might struggle with is astonishing when you consider it and, being honest, he cantered around the pitch on this occasion like a much younger man. He is a credit to his club and, more importantly, to himself.
The conditions at the Bridge Field were dreich, to use the Scots term, grey, damp, overcast and generally unpleasant as Haydn Simons kicked off for Newport, angling his shot towards the corner at the clubhouse end. Newport began at pace, a neat switch between Haydns Simons and Palmer brought Elliot Frewen in on the angle at pace and up into Bedwas’ 22 metre area before being tackled. Andrew Mann, continuing the experiment of playing him at ‘6’, popped a pass out of contact to Joe Bartlett but Bedwas tackled hard and closed the danger down, knocking on as they did so. The Newport scrum proved to be a powerful weapon as it simply demolished its Bedwas counterpart, earning a penalty which Haydn Simons successfully slotted to make it Bedwas 0 Newport 3 in as many minutes.
Bedwas attacked but found themselves being eased backwards between 40-metre lines. Newport regained possession when a kick was charged down by Joe Bartlett and Bedwas number 8, Nathan Hudd, was pinged for going off his feet at a ruck. Ryan James, starting as captain today in the absence of both Rhys Jenkins and Matt O’Brien, tried to inject pace into the Newport attack by tapping the penalty for Dan Preece to charge into the guts of the Bedwas defence but he was isolated by them and the penalty was awarded against Newport. Home outside half, Evan Lloyd, took a shot at goal from 45 metres but it sailed wide.
Another massive scrum on 8 minutes shattered the home pack again earning another penalty which Newport kicked to the corner. Dan Partridge gave Ryan James clean, quick ball of the top of the lineout which zipped left. Matthew Reed opted for the shortest route forward before Haydn Simons switched play to the right. David Richards’ pass to Andrew Mann was judged as forward but this only resulted in another scrum. This shattered too but, on this occasion, Bedwas could work the ball away to safety.
Newport began to turn the screw as the pack did the business again. Ryan James could pick his runners with little interruption until a shrill blast of the whistle by referee Mr Richard Deacy, brought play to a halt. He had a stern word with Bedwas second row Jonathan Davies and awarded a penalty to Newport which Haydn Simons had no trouble converting into points. The score now was Bedwas 0 Newport 6 on 15 minutes.
Bedwas centre Connor Edwards tried to make an impression on the Newport defence alongside wing Jordan Rees, both of whom were trying to unsettle Newport using old-fashioned ‘physical’ techniques, resulting in a scuffle between them and a a few Newport players. Mr Deacy ordered things be calmed down but soon awarded Bedwas another penalty when Newport entered a ruck from the side. Home goal-kicker Evan Lloyd took another shot, from about 43 metres this time, but slipped on contact, the ball dropping short of the crossbar.
Bedwas mounted a wave of attacks around twenty minutes which featured numerous unseen knock-ons before Newport were penalised again for not rolling away from a tackle. Evan Lloyd had a third penalty shot, from forty metres this time, but his kick bounced off the right hand post allowing Haydn Simons to clear.
Bedwas managed to build a head of steam in attack on 23 minutes, going through patient phases and managing to work their way into Newport’s 22-metre area. Centre Connor Edwards burst the defence and ran into the danger zone before wing Jordan Rees undid all his teammate’s efforts by taking Newport wing Andy Evans off the ball and scuffling with him. Haydn Simons relieving penalty kick was infield so Bedwas kick-returned to the Newport 22-metre line on the terrace side. Newport won the lineout but a beautifully flat pass arrowed out to Elliot Frewen from Ryan James which cut out a clutch of Bedwas defenders and allowed the Newport wing space to run into. Frewen began to angle infield finding Haydn Simons in support before Joe Bartlett got into the action. The contact area cleared away only to leave Bedwas wing Jordan Rees lying prone. Mr Deacy and his assistant conferred and it was decided that Andrew Mann had been guilty of foul play, presumably the equally old-fashioned act of subduing a lively opponent. Mann was shown the yellow card and invited to reflect upon his actions for ten minutes.
The period of dominance was rewarded on 27 minutes when a solid seven-man scrum regained possession, the ball whizzing out to Chay Smith who stepped around a would-be tackler and sprinted to the line with support runners to his left and right. Smith opted to pass left to wing Andy Evans who darted across. Haydn Simons added the two to make the score Bedwas 0 Newport 13.
Newport tried to press home their superiority up front with drives by Dan Preece, Will Evans, and Haydn Palmer following some inventive approach play. Andy Evans had a tilt at the line but was very upright. He did remarkably well to retain the ball but Bedwas had strayed offside. Newport, having faith in their scrum opted for the shove, Haydn Palmer temporarily joining the back row but Newport blew it by being penalised for boring in.
A strong 38th minute fend by Andy Evans kept a Newport move going. The two Haydns interpassed again before Haydn Simons kicked ahead and gave chase. Bedwas fullback Joe Scrivens seemed to want longer to deal with the ball than Simons was prepared to allow him. Simons scragged him and forced Scrivens to give out a pass that was hopelessly forward. When Mr Deacy awarded Newport the scrum, Scrivens took umbrage and invited Mr Deacy to turn it into a full penalty. So he did. The mighty Newport eight heaved their Bedwas counterparts up, down and backwards. Bedwas collapsed, reset and went again. The scrum turned through and angle which allowed Matthew Reed to pick up from the base of the scrum and surge over for a deserved try. Haydn Simons couldn’t capitalise so the score now was Bedwas 0 Newport 18.
Bedwas huffed and puffed in attack but couldn’t progress beyond Newport’s 40-metre line without kicking. Once they did, Andy Evans collected and protected the ball efficiently before Ryan James could pass to Joe Bartlett to step into touch and bring the half to a close.
It had been a slow but workmanlike performance from Newport so far. However, their scrum superiority was unassailable and it would only be a matter of time before Newport’s fitness paid off and the next two tries arrive for the five point win that they craved. Wouldn’t it?
Half Time Bedwas RFC 0 Newport RFC 18
Evan Lloyd restarted for Bedwas, Newport trying to run the ball straight back at them but spilling it in contact. Following a Bedwas line out being not straight, the Bedwas pack appeared to be on castors as Newport rolled them backwards at pace. Veteran prop Chris Budgen, unable to stem the tide, was found guilty of offending at the scrum and was shown the yellow card by Mr Deacy. Newport went on the attack, sniffing blood. Matthew Reed popped a pass out of contact to Joe Bartlett for him to gallop along the flank. The ball worked infield for Will Evans to have a run at the defence but he was relieved of the ball illegally by Bedwas’ Dale Rogers, formerly of this parish. Newport kicked to around twelve metres out on the stand side in order to launch a push for the Bedwas line but the home forwards dug in and eased Newport away from the line before the ball bobbled loose which Bedwas claimed. Andrew Mann, eager to retrieve the situation, dived in but conceded the penalty.
A 50th minute scrum heave brought Newport more excellent position as a penalty was kicked with splendid accuracy by Haydn Simons to Bedwas’ 5-metre line. Newport bumped and bashed their way closer to the line, Dan Preece, Tom Piper and Andrew Mann all going close but the ball bobbled around on the floor before Ryan James could steady it down and pass to Chay Smith. Smith found Andy Evans but the ball was loose and bobbling around again. The Bedwas defence was getting into its stride, the tackles seemed firmer and the mistakes were being eliminated. Newport had been playing with advantage so, once the ball had gone loose again, Mr Deacy called play back for Newport to launch another scrum. Sadly, over-enthusiasm seemed to cause the early shove which drew Bedwas a free-kick. The kick went infield and, as Newport regrouped, a booming pass from Matthew Reed out to Chay Smith was met with stubborn tackling which brought that opportunity to a crashing end. Bedwas seemed to gain some confidence from weathering that storm and Newport supporters began to suspect that the two extra tries weren’t going to come as easily as they might have hoped.
Joe Bartlett had already departed the scene holding his back. Morgan Burgess had replaced him then, on 56 minutes the entire front row was switched, giving way to Lewis Smout, Henry Palmer and Garin Harris.
Newport’s indiscipline was costing territory as well as possession and a Bedwas penalty kicked to the corner was rewarded when second row Jonathan Davies was sent crashing over for a try on 58 minutes. The conversion was missed so the score was Bedwas 5 Newport 18.
A smart break by Bedwas scrum half Luke Crane got them back into the Newport 22-metre area. Bedwas were playing with a new-found intensity and pushed at Newport as they worked back and forth across the line. The Newport defence were equal to it and, with hard work, managed to hold the black and white shirts at bay, for now. Ryan James put in a tackle and ripped the ball clear only for Mr Deacy to judge that the tackled player had gone to ground. When Bedwas took the penalty quickly, James was penalised again for not being ten metres back and he, too, was shown a yellow card. Bedwas quickly took advantage of their numerical superiority and it was Jonathan Davies again who was on hand to finish the move off it the corner nearest the changing rooms. Evan Lloyd missed the tricky conversion but the scoreboard now read Bedwas 10 Newport 18.
The Newport scrum was still dominant and earned a 70th minute penalty which was kicked to the Bedwas 22-metre line. A decent position was blown when the lineout was thrown too long and Bedwas’ Sam Cochrane came up with the ball. Newport supporters were now gaining a sense of simply hanging on for the win, never mind the bonus point.
Things didn’t improve for Newport when Henry Palmer was shown a yellow card on 74 minutes as Bedwas attacked again. Luke Crane was being afforded more space than he had all game and he wanted Newport to pay for that. He sprinted into Newport’s 22 again and Bedwas went through phases. Newport were rigid in defence and forced Bedwas to go on the narrow side but the pass out was too low and the ball fumbled.
On 78 minutes Newport won a lineout and Matthew Reed broke out but a penalty was conceded again for holding onto the ball in the tackle. Evan Lloyd took the penalty kick at goal and was successful making the score Bedwas 13 Newport 18.
Newport desperately needed a leader to emerge, somebody who, using football parlance, could put their foot on the ball. There was a worrying lack of volunteers to put their hand up for this duty.
Dan Partridge took a lineout neatly as Newport looked to secure the victory but a silly, needless penalty which saw a Bedwas player taken out off the ball, gave Bedwas the impetus for a last surge. A kick to the corner to launch a rolling maul succeeded in sucking in the Newport defence and leaving space for centre Adam Williams to cross in the corner. With time gone, Evan Lloyd lined up the kick to give his side a win that had seemed unlikely just 25 minutes previous. Newport supporters heaved a sigh of relief when his kick sailed harmlessly wide. Bedwas had earned themselves two points which was the very least that their tenacity and spirit had deserved. Newport supporters tended to look at it as three points lost. However, as the old adage goes, if you should have won a game then you should have won. Clearly, neither team had done enough to earn the ‘W’.
Newport RFC have a free weekend coming up, a time for reflection and regrouping no doubt, before the visit of Llanelli RFC to Rodney Parade on Saturday February 2nd, kick off at 2.30pm. Following that, we visit the Talbot Athletic Ground to take on Aberavon RFC on a Friday evening, kick off being at 7.15pm. Come along and support the boys!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score Bedwas RFC 18 Newport RFC 18
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Dan Preece
Report by John Evans