Llanelli RFC v Newport RFC 6th March 2022 by John Evans
Newport RFC were on the road again, this time down to the other end of the M4 and, hopefully, more clement conditions than we encountered at Ebbw Vale. Parc Y Scarlets would seem like playing on a snooker table compared to the sticky mess that Eugene Cross Park descended into in the last Indigo Group Premiership fixture.
The team showed a few changes from the last outing. Young Dragon Che Hope made his first start for the club with Luke Crane on the bench for impact. Captain Matt O’Brien, so influential for the Black and Ambers this season, was also excluded with Cameron Lewis moving infield to 12 and Jonny Morris slotting in at 13. Josh Reid resumed his openside piracy role following the injury to Kyle Tayler at Ebbw Vale.
At least it was dry. Cold, with a stiff breeze that the stadium mainly sheltered from the game, but dry. Will Reed kicked off with Newport playing from left to right. Llanelli set up the maul for outside half Iwan Evans to kick away. Dai Richards ran back at the home defence before picking out Ben Roach who navigated a path through the onrushing defence. He passed left to Che Hope, who had Josh Reid marauding up in support, but Reid was tackled, and the move foundered. A powerful Newport scrum battered the home unit, but number 8, and home captain, Nathan Hart managed to carry the ball away and the ball was cleared to about 20 metres out. Sospan conceded a penalty at the lineout, for pulling it down, encouraging Will Reed to kick to the corner. Josh Skinner claimed the lineout ball and Newport set up a drive. Josh Reid pushed ahead; Dai Richards had a dip but was illegally tackled by home centre Amir Jiwa-Walji, tipping him beyond horizontal. Playing with the advantage the ball spun back left, Will Reed placing a delicate kick for Elliot Frewen and Ben Roach to combine and put Jonny Morris in at the corner. Will Reed added the conversion while Llanelli’s Jiwa-Walji was invited to sit down for ten minutes. Llanelli 0 Newport 7 with 3 minutes played.
Newport were over the line again on 13 minutes when Dai Richards appeared to have put Elliot Frewen over but the referee, Mr Rhys Jones, spotted a knock on in the build-up. However, the five-metre home scrum was utterly devastated by the Black and Amber pack, to the extent that the ball appeared on the Newport side allowing Ben Roach to pick up the ball and cross for a try, draped in desperate Llanelli defenders. Will Reed added another conversion to make it Llanelli 0 Newport 14 on 16 minutes.
Hooker Will Griffiths was an early casualty for Newport with a lower leg injury. He’s been terrific this season and one can only hope this isn’t the end of it for him. Henry Palmer came from the bench to replace him.
From the restart, Dai Richards tried to run into attack but was snared. The ball moved wide but a slack pass in midfield was picked off by Sospan wing Harrison Button who sprinted in unchallenged for a try. Iwan Evans added the two-pointer to make it Llanelli 7 Newport14 on 19 minutes.
Another terrific scrum on 22 minutes won Newport a penalty. Will Reed put Newport in the corner again. Josh Skinner took Henry Palmer’s throw before a solid rolling maul was set and Palmer, as per the Hooker’s Rulebook, coupled onto the tail of the maul and barged his way across the line for Newport’s try number three. Will Reed added the extras to make the score Llanelli 7 Newport 21 with 22 minutes played.
Newport were playing good rugby and a move that sadly came to nothing, but deserved a score, came soon after. Josh Skinner won another lineout around 35 metres out. Matthew Powell came off his wing to join the line and punctured Llanelli effectively. His pass out to Elliot Frewen was good, but Frewen still had too much to do, and his attempted offload infield was simply scooped up by the home defence.
It took the best part of half an hour before Llanelli took the fight to Newport and, when they did, proved that they were quite a capable team. Newport conceded a penalty which second row Ashley Hyndman took well from the resulting lineout. The rolling maul started to creep forward, despite Newport’s efforts, but, as Hyndman himself reached for the line, he was held up and conceded a penalty in doing so. Will Reed’s relieving kick, though, failed to find touch, and wing Lloyd Williams was eager to play. The Black and Amber wall of defence was effectively pinning the home team on the halfway line until a good pass to flanker Ellis Thomas saw them enter the Newport half. As the Black and Ambers tried to rescue the situation, a stray hand was spotted going into the ruck, leading to a further penalty. Iwan Evans kicked his team to the Newport corner. Second Row Christian Long took the ball but, as the maul broke up, him and Josh Skinner found themselves embroiled in a heated discussion which resulted in fisticuffs. Mr Jones consulted with his assistant and agreed that such roughness would not be tolerated, and both would be invited to sit out ten minutes of play. As the game resumed, the rolling maul had hooker Rhys Cherry go close while Nathan Hart managed to spill the ball in the act of scoring allowing Newport to boot the ball away. However, Llanelli fullback Rhodri Jones reached the ball first and moved his team back upfield. Elliot Frewen worked hard in defence, getting underneath hooker Cherry to prevent a score. Llanelli recycled possession and appeared to have created an overlap, but Matthew Powell burst out of the defensive line, harrying Sospan wing Button, whose fabricated pass spooned forward, killing the attack stone dead.
Deep into first half stoppage time and Llanelli had another opportunity to score. Will Reed fell offside at a ruck, and the penalty was compounded by chopsing, which added another ten metres to the territory gained. Iwan Evans kicked to the corner, Hyndman, the second row, took the catch and a strong rolling maul was capitalised on by hooker Cherry who claimed the touchdown. Iwan Evans’ long-range conversion thudded against the right-hand post, so the score was Llanelli 12 Newport 21 on 40+6 minutes.
Play restarted and, following a scrum, Elliot Frewen set off on an arcing run into midfield. He found Dai Richards, but there followed a sickening challenge on the Newport fullback by Llanelli flanker Ellis Thomas, in what may be the clearest red card offence any of us will ever see. Heads clashed and Richards appeared to be unconscious before he hit the grass. Thankfully, the Newport physio team were onto him in a flash, and he could leave the field under his own steam. Play resumed, Jack Brooks replacing the stricken full back but only for another few phases before halftime was called.
Half Time Llanelli RFC 12 Newport RFC 21
With the prospect of playing a half with a player short, Llanelli would need superhuman levels of self-belief to get anything out of the game. Iwan Evans restarted for Sospan, and they started quite well as they looked to take the fight to their visitors. Sadly, for them, this didn’t last and there were spells during the half when they resorted to chasing shadows. Llanelli held onto the ball too long in the tackle and shipped a penalty. Will Reed kicked to the corner, but Newport failed to win the lineout. As Llanelli cleared, Jonny Morris took the catch and determinedly ran infield. He set up a situation where Elliot Frewen could scythe through and into the Llanelli 22 metre area. Che Hope kept the pace up as he switched play finding Cameron Lewis, bristling with intent, as he cleaved his way to the line to pop the ball to the supporting Ben Roach for his second try of the game. This also secured Newport’s try-scoring bonus point. Will Reed added the conversion to make the score Llanelli 12 Newport 28 on 46 minutes.
Llanelli seemed to make a raft of changes in order to mitigate tiredness and remain competitive in the key areas, Newport only changing their props voluntarily, Garin Harris and Louis Jones giving way to Harry Fry and Dan Suter. Sadly, Newport were forced into another replacement on the hour when talismanic second row Joe Bartlett picked up a nasty looking leg injury and needed to be stretchered off, head in hands. Andrew Mann was summoned from the bench to fill in at second row.
Che Hope was full of running and a neat kick ahead produced a knock on from Sospan fullback Rhodri Jones. With a dominant scrum, the ball was won and fed out to midfield where Cameron Lewis was proving too hard to handle for the Llanelli backs as he generally need two players to bring him down. Matthew Powell set up the ruck out wide and it was down to Jonny Morris to break a despairing Sospan tackle, motor towards the line and put in a simple pass to his left to provide the scoring pass to Che Hope. Will Reed added the conversion to make it Llanelli 12 Newport 35 on 62 minutes.
Llanelli infringed at a scrum prompting Will Reed to go to the corner again. The Newport rolling maul set well but failed just shy of the line. The ball popped out to Luke Crane, on for the youngster Hope, who put in the simplest of passes to Josh Skinner, who swatted the half-hearted challenge from Llanelli’s Ifan Beynon-Thomas away embarrassingly easily and flopped over the line for Newport try number six. Haydn Simons, on for Will Reed, added the conversion to make the score Llanelli 12 Newport 42 on 68 minutes.
Llanelli were entirely undone on 72 minutes. Three players failed to deal with Elliot Frewen at fullback and allowed him to set Newport on the attack. They then allowed the Newport backs acres of space to pass along the line unchallenged, Brooks to Lewis to Skinner. Josh Skinner had Ben Roach immediately to his left, passed to him and Roach barrelled through a lacklustre challenge to create and instant four on one overlap. The simplest of passes and Jonny Morris was away to dot down, making the score Llanelli 12 Newport 47.
Llanelli did salvage some respectability when Mr Jones virtually gifted them a try by Joe Hutchings. Following a period of pressure by Sospan, the ball spun out to the replacement centre but the blocking by number 8 Hart went unpunished, presumably Mr Jones felt that Llanelli had suffered enough already. Iwan Evans added the conversion to make the score Llanelli 19 Newport 47 on 75 minutes.
The Black and Ambers, even 28 points ahead, were willing to defend, their stubbornness and discipline here being quite admirable qualities. Llanelli now had the target of a try-scoring bonus point in their sights and set about it with verve. Then, with Elliot Frewen yellow carded for an offence while defending, it suddenly seemed a lot more achievable for them.
Josh Skinner was proving to be the spike that the Llanelli line out was getting caught on, as he either pinched their ball, made it difficult for them or just made a nuisance of himself. Newport swarmed over a series of Llanelli attacks until, finally, Joe Hutchings used his power to cross for their fourth, and bonus point-securing try, which Iwan Evans duly converted to make it a final score of Llanelli 26 Newport 47.
Llanelli, on balance, shouldn’t be begrudged their bonus point; they attacked well, when they had the ball, but were flimsy in defence at times. Newport, however, can be rightly pleased with their efforts; scoring seven tries at Llanelli is not to be sneezed at. Newport have sent teams rammed with Welsh internationals and Lions and been embarrassed down here. We can only hope that, considering the injuries, that it’s not a pyrrhic victory. However, it did prove, whatever the locals here tell you, West is not necessarily Best.
Full Time: Llanelli RFC 26 Newport RFC 47
Newport RFC are next in action in another Indigo Group Premiership, this time against our oldest rivals, but greatest friends, Cardiff RFC. This game will take place at our ancestral home of Rodney Parade and NOT at Newport Stadium. All ticketing arrangements remain unchanged.
Following this, the Black and Ambers travel to Swansea RFC and their famous St. Helens ground. The Whites seem to have found a bit of form of late and are proving difficult to beat; Newport will need to be at their very best to beat both of these teams. The Friends of Newport Rugby are running a bus for supporters to the Swansea fixture. Seats are still available so, if you’d like to travel, please email Steve Bennett on email@example.com to book. Come on, Newport!
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Che Hope
Final Score – Llanelli RFC 26 Newport RFC 47