Newport RFC v Swansea RFC- 18th February 2023 by John Evans
Following the double disappointments of consecutive losses on the road, it was time to, hopefully, bring a team home to Newport Stadium and get a result. Swansea have already beaten Newport in the opposite league fixture at St Helen’s, a poor performance from a Newport point of view, so this game was certainly not a given. The Whites, celebrating their 150th season, are usually a handful and very rarely roll over. It would be a tremendous surprise if they did so today, being only one position in the league below Newport, but fourteen points adrift.
Swansea, making their first visit to our new home, took to the Newport Stadium pitch in their full maroon coloured change strip as a fine, hazy rain was blown in gusts across the grass. The floodlights were lit early to try and dispel the gloom.
There was an impeccably observed minutes silence for Tony ‘Charlie’ Faulkner, coach of Newport RFC between 1982 and 1988, leading the club to a cup final appearance in 1986. Charlie, famously, of course, played 19 games for Wales as well as representing the Lions on their 1977 tour of New Zealand.
Swansea outside half James Davies kicked off, with Newport defending the cricket club end. The Whites opened well with some determined carrying, setting their stall out early with some good rugby. Their big men were taking contact, sucking the Newport defence in before Davies made an overlap on the right-hand side. Wing Matthew Jenkins popped the ball out of contact to his counterpart, Cori Lewis-Jenkins, allowing the young man time and space to sprint past the cover and around nearer the posts for an early try which would have had klaxons sounding among the Newport players. James Davies added the two-pointer to put Swansea into a 0-7 lead with just 5 minutes played.
Newport slowly began to exert pressure of their own, Matt O’Brien expertly popping a pass to Chay Foster-Smith who had Walker Price sprinting outside him, but he was bustled into touch. Back for a penalty advantage and opting for the scrum, Newport had the Swansea front row in trouble as they conceded a free kick. Luke Crane went left quickly as the ball reached Elliot Frewen who danced along the touchline but he, too, was forced out of play.
Newport got the scoreboard ticking on 16 minutes when Elliot Frewen crossed out wide for a try. With Matt O’Brien pulling the strings and George Young making big carries and getting close to the line, the scene was set to make an opening. Nathan Evans smashed his way forward and set up a ruck, Matt O’Brien went through his rolodex of passes before finding the right one, a long, quick pass to Henry Palmer, across the face of the maroon-shirted phalanx, which was improved by beautiful soft hands from the hooker to move the ball one more stop along the line to the lurking predator that is Elliot Frewen. Matt O’Brien’s conversion was equally good as the ball sailed between the sticks to level the score at 7-7.
Swansea were regularly getting into decent positions but were let down by their lineout, the throwing-in of Owen Thomas being chief suspect. When he sorts that out, some team, somewhere, are in for a rude awakening. A powerful Whites scrum splintered the Newport pack, wheeling them at a pace that made uncomfortable viewing. The referee, Mr Steffan Edwards, had no hesitation in awarding a penalty to the visitors that James Davies promptly despatched to make the score Newport 7 Swansea 10 on 28 minutes.
From the restart Swansea goofed by kicking the ball out on the full. Craig Hudd took the lineout ball on the Whites 22. Swansea crept offside, so, with the advantage in the back pocket, Matt O’Brien tried crosskicking to Elliot Frewen, but it was too long. Using that advantage, the lineout reset. The rolling maul was set up and nudged towards the Swansea line before gathering momentum and powering across the line. Henry Palmer had hold of the ball and, once Mr Edwards had consulted with his Assistant Referee, the try was awarded. Demonstrating a proficiency with either boot, Matt O’Brien’s conversion was a good as the first, only from the opposite side of the field. This made the score Newport 14 Swansea 10.
Newport conceded a penalty on 37 minutes allowing Swansea to go to work on their hosts. Phase upon phase was held out, but the Whites were getting closer. Only an overambitious pass from scrum half Gareth Rees broke the pattern, allowing Newport a scrum and an opportunity to release the pressure.
As the sun shone for the first, and only, time of the day, and long shadows were cast across the field, Mr Edwards blew for half time.
Half Time Newport RFC 14 Swansea RFC 10
Matt Bancroft restarted the game for Newport as Swansea flexed their muscles and forced their way into the Newport half. A surging run by Cori Lewis-Jenkins had Newport panicking in defence but the move broke down. Lineout won, Newport then compounded the problem by kicking to touch on the full and handing the ball back to the visitors. Thankfully, they, too, fluffed their lines as Josh Reynolds popped the loose ball out and across the line. Chay Foster-Smith straightened the run up, scything through the defence with fullback Ioan Davies to his right. Davies carried on the good work, cleverly angling a grubber kick infield for Luke Crane and Matt O’Brien to hunt down. Crane kicked the ball ahead to the try line for O’Brien to try and touch down but, with Swansea hooker Thomas and scrum half Rees all over him like a cheap suit, Mr Edwards had no issue with jogging under the crossbar, awarding Newport a penalty try and Gareth Rees a yellow card. That left the score at Newport 21 Swansea 10 on 45 minutes.
Swansea responded excellently just minutes later with a try through centre Osian Knott. The Whites forwards were keeping it tight, driving at the Black and Ambers, until James Davies put in a Rugby League-style kick through the defence for Knott to chase. The ball sat up beautifully for the centre who had the simplest job in the world. Davies added the conversion to make the score Newport 21 Swansea 17 on 48 minutes.
Newport joined Swansea in having 14 players on the field on 51 minutes, when Elliot Frewen was yellow carded for going off his feet at a ruck.
Swansea appeared likely to take the lead on 56 minutes when they worked a 3-on-2 overload on their left, but solid work in defence by wing Walker Price had Osian Knott spill the ball forward.
Newport were penalised at scrum time again, for wheeling this time. James Davies put his team into position, only for Ben Roach, jumping front of line, to pick-pocket the ball and spoil the party. Swansea briefly regained possession, but a loose ball was seized upon by Roach who sprinted 50 metres, ball in hand, utilising all his 7s speed and skill, as the Swansea defence streamed back to stop him. They could only do so illegally, so Matt O’Brien pumped Newport into the corner. George Young was lofted high before setting up a dynamic rolling maul which steamrollered across the line, earning prop Nathan Evans a try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion, making the score Newport 28 Swansea 17 on 63 minutes, and the Black and Ambers had at least one league point in the bag.
Elliot Frewen burst out of defence before Che Hope, on for Luke Crane, ran and kicked ahead, forcing Swansea to carry the ball into touch. Ben Roach took the lineout ball, but the rolling maul quickly collapsed. Newport went through the phases but Geraint O’Driscoll, on as a replacement for Matt Bancroft and playing at ‘12’, was isolated and Osian Knott was able to step across him and retrieve the ball.
Following a series of injuries, Swansea were forced to request passive scrums on 71 minutes, which caused a few moments of confusion as Mr Edwards clarified the situation. With play back underway, Swansea were looking to take something from the game, which they thoroughly deserved. Dafydd Buckland was unfortunate to ship a penalty as he was trapped after making a tackle. James Davies skipped around a tackle before popping the ball left for Osian Knott, again, who pounced for a second gift of a try. Davies quickly took the conversion to make the score Newport 28 Swansea 24 with 78 minutes played.
It was squeaky bum time.
Kyle Tayler, the Deck Master, on as a replacement, proved his worth again by doing more unseen work on the floor before the ball suddenly appeared on ‘our’ side and Newport were away. Ben Roach moved the ball on, Matt O’Brien drew the defence before Geraint O’Driscoll made a pass that was utter quality; it was quick, long, and low, forcing Walker Price to stoop to take it and glide in for the match-winning try.
With the conversion sailing wide, that made the score Newport 33 Swansea 24 and Newport supporters could breathe a little easier.
Swansea huffed and puffed to rescue a point out of the fixture, a try would have earned them two points, but it wasn’t to be as double knock-ons brought the end of the game.
Full Time: Newport RFC 33 Swansea RFC 24
Newport have next weekend off, although they may well be lining up to represent Wales versus England at the Principality Stadium if the WRU don’t pull their collective fingers out! The next Indigo Premiership game for the Black and Ambers is the troublesome trip away to Aberavon on Saturday March 4th. The Wizards always provide a good test of Newport’s credentials, and an entertaining game usually results. Following on from that is the rearranged home fixture against Carmarthen Quins, again in the Indigo Premiership. This game takes place on Wednesday evening, March 8th, and kicks off at 7.30pm at Newport Stadium.
Also, please note that the Hall of Fame Dinner is taking place on Friday April 14th at the Business Suite at Rodney Parade. It costs £45 per person and is always a terrific night of Black and Amber history! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Henry Palmer
Final Score – Newport RFC 33 Swansea RFC 24