Aberavon RFC v Newport RFC 4th March 2023 by John Evans
The last Newport RFC outing saw them achieve their objectives, a win, and five precious league points against an able Swansea RFC team. Today would be no different, although Ty Morris would surely have had concerns about the softness of at least two of our visitors scores last weekend. That would, no doubt, have been passed onto the players.
Aberavon, while far from being in “free-fall” as some have suggested, are certainly not having a happy time of it this season, with some surprising reverses, much the same as our side, I suppose. Whatever, the Wizards are to be always treated with respect; they are a good, well-coached side that can beat anybody in the division on their day and would still end the day higher in the table than Newport RFC, whether they won or lost.
The Newport coaches’ selection was interesting, with player injury and unavailability reaching a critical mass, a very attack-minded squad was named for the game. Matt O’Brien reverts to his outside-half berth, while the pairing of Ferriman and Hudd in the second row looked promising. The move of Ioan Davies to the wing, alongside the Flying Frewen and introducing a steady hand in Geraint O’Driscoll at fullback looked like it might work well.
Aberavon kicked off, outside half Aled Thomas getting things underway. Ben Roach caught the ball and launched a Newport attack. Home centre Brad Roderick briefly caused panic amongst the Newport ranks as he intercepted a pass, but his pass onward was poor and went to ground, Elliot Ferriman easily gobbling up possession allowing Newport to kick long. This was a good move as Wizards’ number 8, Andrew Waite, had a day to forget under the high ball, spilling this one, gifting Newport an attacking scrum 30-metres out. Ben Roach carried hard into the red and black defence but, playing with a penalty advantage, Newport opted to punt to the corner. Ben Roach, again, took the ball in the lineout before the maul set, rumbled forward, allowing Henry Palmer the luxury of coupling onto the tail, and crossing for an early try. Apparently, Henry’s dad, in an effort to encourage his boy to score tries as a kid, offered him the incentive of paying him £20 a try, something which has carried on to this day. He’s probably the only person who can’t wait for Henry to retire! Matt O’Brien’s conversion, from the left-hand tramline was unsuccessful, leaving the score at Aberavon 3 Newport 5 on 3 minutes.
The Wizards were working hard in attack, but Newport worked equally hard in defence, an invisible barricade thrown up along the length of their 22-metre line. Brad Roderick’s flat pass almost had scrum half Iwan Temblett through, but he couldn’t hold on to the pass.
Newport prop Nathan Evans saw yellow for a late tackle on 11 minutes, Aled Thomas punting his team into Newport’s corner. The Wizards called a ‘funny’ at the lineout as flanker Lloyd Evans palmed the ball into the path of hooker Luke Davies as he barrelled towards the corner, but he was quickly flattened and relieved of possession.
Newport were caught with another penalty following a high challenge. Aled Thomas quickly lined up his kick at goal and got the Wizards off the ground with a simple penalty, 18 metres out, directly in front of the posts. Aberavon 3 – Newport 5 on 13 minutes.
Newport had a decent opportunity on 16 minutes when Wizards’ flanker, Joe Tomalin-Reeves high-tackled Dafydd Buckland. O’Brien punted Newport to the corner again. Lineout won, the rolling maul split but soon ran out of momentum. Daf Buckland whizzed the ball away, but Chay Foster-Smith was unable to take the pass and Aberavon could run the ball out of defence.
Aberavon won a free kick from a scrum, Wizards’ 9, Temblett, cleverly jogging into space and putting in a terrific kick to pin Newport into the corner. Unfortunately for the Wizards, Temblett’s quick-thinking was let down by the hooker’s blunt throwing-in. George Young was hoisted up and picked off the aerial ball, allowing Newport to sniff an opportunity. The ball went across the line until Elliot Frewen outflanked his opposite number and dinked the ball into centre-field. Ioan Davies gathered the ball, popped it on to Matt O’Brien who had centre Cameron Davies scorching up in support. Davies took the ball, sprinted to the line and dived over for a coast-to-coast try that would grace anybody’s highlights reel. Matt O’Brien slotted the straightforward two-pointer to make it Aberavon 3 Newport 12 on 25 minutes.
Wizards’ wing Aled Rees was penalised for not rolling away from a tackle. Newport went to the corner again. Craig Hudd took the lineout ball, but the maul didn’t form well. George Young took the ball into contact but was isolated, outnumbered and the turnover was inevitable. Aberavon then coughed up a penalty at the resulting scrum allowing Newport to reset. Another ‘funny’ saw Ben Roach up, angle the ball down to George Young, looping to the right before handing on to Henry Palmer, in the hope of another £20. Unfortunately, ‘Avon prop Rhys Fawcett was on hand to manoeuvre Palmer into touch.
Newport were turning the screw, with regard to territory, as they set up camp within the Aberavon 22. A massive shove, with the front row of Nathan Evans, the aforementioned Palmer, and Thomas Davies pouring on the power to splinter the Wizards’ pack. The same routine, to the corner, Roach up, but Thomas Davies’ break from the tail of the maul was a second too soon and he was downed on the line. Newport recycled but Elliot Ferriman couldn’t hold on to the pass and Aberavon were off the hook again.
Aberavon eventually broke free of Newport’s shackles and launched attacks of their own but were unable to capitalise as Ben Roach got fingertips to each lineout of the Wizards. They launched a strong scrum and won a penalty but failed to learn their lessons as Ben Roach upset their possession again. Eventually, ‘Avon prop Geraint James earned the ire of the referee for boring-in at the scrum allowing Newport to clear for halftime.
Half Time Aberavon RFC 3 Newport RFC 12
Luke Yendle replaced Nathan Evans in the Newport front row as Matt O’Brien booted the ball long. Newport attacked from the outset before setting up a lineout just metres out. This time it was Aberavon who read the throw, intercepting in mid-air. Luke Davies mopped-up for the Wizards and gained a penalty when he was not released in the tackle.
Aberavon moved forward methodically but it became pedestrian and predictable, fullback Chris Banfield ultimately being easily ushered into touch. Aberavon did glimpse light in between the Black and Amber wall as Aled Thomas had the unlikely figure of prop Rhys Fawcett rumbling up in support. Daf Buckland was heroic in defence as he downed the big man and earned the penalty as the Wizards failed to release the ball in the tackle.
Aberavon upped their tempo as they worked to gain something from the game. Newport were desperate to clear but unfortunate knock-ons hampered their efforts. They came close on 56 minutes when Iwan Temblett went right before passing to centre Joe Thomas and on to wing Jay Baker, who managed to drop the ball in the act of scoring. The referee, Mr Tom Spurrier, was advised by his assistant that the try should not be allowed. Things were not going to get any easier for Mr. Spurrier; whatever us supporters say, or think, about referees, Mr. Spurrier was about to get a thorough examination of his knowledge of the laws of the game. He was given rather a lot to unpack!
With Nathan Evans replaced and, now, Luke Yendle injured, Newport were forced to call for uncontested scrums, sacrificing the services of Rhys Jenkins under the current rules. Thomas Davies returned to the field but, being a loosehead, was unable to fully scrummage as a tighthead. Replacement Rhodri Cole ran right, Chris Banfield was flattened but, following phases of possession, second row Shay Smallman pounced for a try. Aled Thomas added the conversion to make the score Aberavon 10 Newport 12 on the hour.
Newport retorted, George Young and Ben Roach were very involved, taking the game to the Wizards. Matt O’Brien’s fingertip passing kept the move alive before a chip-kick went in for Elliot Frewen to pursue. Chris Banfield reached the loose ball first then earned the penalty as he was prevented from getting up to his feet.
There was a gasp of disbelief on 73 minutes when Matt O’Brien missed a regulation-looking penalty, easy meat, one would think, for him; the little magician looked a little taken aback! It was, however, a fitting end to a shabby period of play when neither team appeared to want the ball, both Newport and Aberavon appearing to have forgotten how to handle a rugby ball. Dafydd Buckland chipped ahead but was blocked by a tardy Wizard. The missed penalty saw that offence go unpunished.
Geraint O’Driscoll, in his first start at 15 for 3 years when one could believe that he had played there just last week, put in a lofted kick that sounded scuffed but worked out perfectly. Matt O’Brien caught the ball and scurried up into the Aberavon half. Chay Foster-Smith moved the ball on, only for an Aberavon hand to palm the ball backwards, into the path of Elliot Frewen. Frewen kicked ahead for Ioan Davies to take the ball and cross out wide, despite the last-gasp cover. The conversion was missed making the score Aberavon 10 Newport 17 on 75 minutes.
The Wizards launched an attack on 78 minutes where they made their numerical superiority count, but the final pass from fullback Banfield was glaringly forward and their chance had gone.
Replacement Alex Grey put in great work on 80+1 minutes when Andrew Waite ran into contact with an upright posture, holding him up and winning the ball back for the Black and Ambers.
Deep into stoppage time and Aberavon launched a final push. The emerged from a Newport maul with the ball and went across the line, but poor handling saw the ball go to ground. Newport were able to smother it and see the game out for a valuable away win.
Full Time: Aberavon RFC 10 Newport RFC 17
Newport RFC now have a quick turnaround before facing Carmarthen Quins in a rearranged Indigo Premiership league game on Wednesday 8th March at Newport Stadium, kick off at 7.30pm. They then have a rest until March 25th, the first of two interesting games against our friends at Pontypridd RFC. The first, the 25th, is the cup semi-final being held at Bridgend’s Brewery Field ground, kick off at 2.30pm. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running a bus to the game, keenly priced at just £10 per person. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your seat. The second game, on Thursday March 30th, will be held at Sardis Road, kicking off at 7.30pm, and will be broadcast live on S4C’s Clic YouTube channel.
Also, Newport RFC’s Hall of Fame dinner will be held on Friday 14th April 2023, in the Business Suite at Rodney Parade. Please email Kevin Jarvis at email@example.com for further information.
Onwards and upwards, Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Dafydd Buckland
Final Score – Aberavon RFC 10 Newport RFC 17