Newport Hold On

Newport RFC v Neath RFC 15th March 2024 by John Evans

Neath RFC.

The very name used to cause disquiet in many teams. It was said that some players used to suffer from ‘Neath-itis’ on the eve of a fixture with the feared Welsh All Blacks.

Move forward to 2024 and Neath sit flat last in the semi-pro league, having spent a few seasons in the Championship. They started the evening 9 points adrift of twelfth place Carmarthen Quins and they’ve only won three Indigo Premier games all season. During the lead-up to the game, Neath RFC dismissed their coaching team of Patrick Horgan and Aaron Bramwell, promoting Tim Ryan from within. They have unsuccessfully applied to join the Elite League competition next season and have resubmitted, having been declined whilst the WRU waited for Cardiff RFC to get their act together. What happens next is anybody’s guess..

Like Pontypridd, who Newport played recently, Neath have acted as a standard bearer in the game in Wales for many years; at one point the Welsh XV was, basically Neath with Steve Ford on the wing. Quite how they find themselves in this situation is open to conjecture.

Ty Morris shuffled his deck of cards for this fixture. With a play-off place secured, and games against Ebbw Vale and Llandovery looming, some front-line players were given the weekend off with some wider squad members given the opportunity to impress.

In their traditional black kit, Neath received Jac Lloyd’s kick off before scrum half Gruff Williams booted the ball into touch. Newport looked to play from the lineout, Jac Lloyd trying a cross-kick to Ben Roach, lurking out wide, Lewis David was eager to get into contact while Josh Skinner neatly provided Kyle Tayler with the ball to push forward, drawing a penalty from Neath. Jac Lloyd put Newport into the corner.

Following a little attention to Tyler Olding’s head, the lineout was taken. Kyle Tayler cleaned up before Ben Roach spun through the tackle allowing Josh Skinner to power forward. Neath had strayed offside prompting Luke Crane to take the quick penalty, but he was held up in the tackle and turned over. However, the Newport front row of Workman, Olding and Harris were keen to stamp their superiority, heaving the Neath pack backwards, earning another penalty. Newport opted to scrum again. The Black and Amber front row dug in, got the forward momentum allowing Ben Roach space to pick up and barge over for the opening try under the posts. Jac Lloyd added the straightforward conversion to make it Newport 7 Neath 0 with 7 minutes played.

Newport defended forcefully, pushing the Welsh All Blacks back 20 metres while they had possession. Each carry into contact with a black jersey gained ground and Newport were almost winning possession at will. This was rewarded with a try on 18 minutes for full back Lewis Bates. From a line out, Lewis David smashed into contact before Newport liberally worked the ball from side to side of the Newport Stadium. Garin Harris was bullish in attack as Newport built a head of steam. Iestyn Galton broke through from the centre before Chay Smith drew his opponent, whipped a pass out to Elliot Frewen who had Bates charging up in support infield. Jac Lloyd added the two-pointer to make it Newport 14 Neath 0 on 20 minutes.

Neath had barely troubled the Newport half and, when they did, they found it hard going. Visiting full back Steff Williams broke from deep but found himself dumped on his backside by wing Iwan Pyrs-Jones, spilling the ball forward as he did so.

Neath seemed to be able to do little right at this point. A direct kick to touch gave Newport a line out 30 metres out on the terrace side. They then compounded this by straying offside giving Jac Lloyd the opportunity to place Newport much nearer the try line. A quick line out, followed by a dynamic rolling maul and it was Tyler Olding getting the pats on the back as Newport powered over for their third try. Jac Lloyd added the conversion to make it Newport 21 Neath 0 on 26 minutes.

Neath centre Sean Wilcox was snagged in possession on 31 minutes, affording Newport another penalty. Neath managed to snaffle the resulting lineout before working their way forward. A crafty snipe by Gruff Williams put Neath into the Newport 22 for the first time in the game, but the scrum half was met with a Black and Amber wall and relieved of possession.

As positive an action by Gruff Williams as that was, he followed it up with an absolute belter just five minutes later. The Neath scrum was creaking badly and in retreat when Williams, possibly distracted for half a second, allowed the ball to fumble from his grasp. Luke Crane was all over the situation, hacking the ball forward before gathering. Kyle Tayler was equally alive and sprinted up in support to take the pass and race under the posts for the bonus point try. Again, Jac Lloyd improved the score to make it Newport 28 Neath 0.

Neath did rally a little before the half ended as Newport conceded a penalty. Outside half Kristian Jones put his team into the corner for the lineout, but their attempt at rolling mauls were crabbed across field. Playing with an advantage, hooker Chris Morris tapped and ran quickly, but he, too was flattened as a Black and Amber curtain was thrown up. Again, with an advantage, Neath kept going, playing through the phases, but they were slowly being eased away and, almost inevitably at this point, Neath knocked on and had no reward for their efforts.

Half Time Newport RFC 28 Neath RFC 0

Kristian Jones restarted the game, Neath now attacking the Cricket Club end. Iwan Pyrs-Jones was scragged as he tried to run out of defence. Possession retained, a loose pass out had Lewis Bates struggling and he knocked on. Neath tried to play, and a penalty conceded allowed Neath to kick to the corner. However, things still weren’t going well for them when Chris Morris delayed his throw-in and let Newport off the hook with a free kick.

Following the lineout Kristian Moris was pickpocketed comfortably as Jac Lloyd, Elliot Frewen and Iwan Pyrs-Jones combined to launch Newport forward again. Ben Roach was snared, but Neath hadn’t rolled away in the tackle. Jac Lloyd put Newport into the corner and, following Elliot Ferriman’s dominant claim, a rolling maul powered across the line with Tom Workman emerging as ball-carrier. Jac Lloyd registered his only miss at goal, making the score Newport 33 Neath 0 on 44 minutes.

Alex Webber was introduced for Newport, allowing Lewis Bates to withdraw, while Ben Roach had done enough, Louis Pullen replacing him.

Tom Workman possibly had his finest performance for Newport so far, scrummaging well at prop and acting like a supplementary blindside flanker in the loose. His claim of the ball, as he wrestled it off Neath’s Matthew Davies, was outstanding. This allowed Jac Lloyd to set off on a Frewen-esque run, jinking, and twisting through half of the Neath pack before Frewen himself linked with Alex Webber. Play returned infield, Garin Harris biffed forward, but Newport had stepped offside and the thrilling play by Jac Lloyd didn’t get the score it deserved.

With the win in the bag, seemingly, Ty Morris opted to replace his front row, with the trio of Workman, Olding and Harris being replaced, en bloc, by Clay Gibbons, Tomoya Adachi and Thomas Davies.

Newport were penalised at a scrum, Kristian Jones taking the opportunity to kick his team deep into the Newport half. This worked well as Neath managed to set a strong rolling maul which stormed towards the line. The referee, Mr Jason Bessant, had a moment to consider his options before awarding the visitors a penalty try and showing Elliot Ferriman a yellow card for pulling down the maul. So, at 58 minutes, it was Newport 33 Neath 7.

Matt O’Brien and Dafydd Buckland came off the bench to replace Iestyn Galton and Luke Crane on the hour.

Neath were beginning to stir into life as a kick forward, for wing Jon Bayliss to chase, proved to be too heavy, the winger ending tumbling onto the running track. However, the Welsh All Blacks were distinctly in the ascendency, adding a second try on 72 minutes. Just as Elliot Ferriman returned to the field, they won a penalty as Newport strayed offside again. Back into the corner they went and, like the Neath of old, backs came running from across the field to join the maul and ensure it crossed the line. Replacement prop Jack Powell was credited with the score which fullback Steff Williams improved on. The score now was Newport 33 Neath 14.

Newport had become horribly disjointed. Any fluidity in their passing had evaporated and it was a case now of simply closing the game out and securing the win. However, that proved to be trickier than it needed to be.

A super kick ahead by Dafydd Buckland should have been a precursor to a match-winning try, as the wicked bounce meant that the Neath defender was forced to carry the ball over his try line and ground the ball. A fabulous attacking scrum 5 opportunity couldn’t be capitalised on, sadly.

Iwan Pyrs-Jones turned on the turbos as he sprinted into contact on 79 minutes, but the ball was lost in contact. Neath gambled and went for gold. A kick ahead and the ball bounced up beautifully for replacement Louis Rees to catch and sprint over the line. Steff Williams added the conversion to make it Newport 33 Neath 21 with full time looming.

And then, somehow, Neath caught Newport with their defensive pants down. A Neath lineout, taken by Matthew Davies, fed them clean ball. Kristian Jones had looped around and found himself wide, taking the pass to gallop in for a try which gave the visitors not only a 4 try bonus point, but a point for finishing within 7 points. Steff Williams missed the conversion to make the score Newport 33 Neath 26.

Fair play to Neath for sticking at it but, by this point, Newport were so far out to sea that they were no longer picking up VHF radio transmissions. However, the win was in the bag and it was the team’s tenth straight win with a bonus point, which is a heck of an achievement, if you think about it.

However, the club have two critical, season-shaping games to come. Next Saturday, 23rd March, we visit our ‘friends’ at Eugene Cross Park when we take on Ebbw Vale away. Following that, and live on S4C’s Clic YouTube channel, is the visit of Indigo Premier League leaders Llandovery RFC. The Drovers have been terrific this season, but so have we. The one imponderable that could be the difference is your support. A big, noisy crowd can spur the Black and Ambers on to greater things!

Come on, Newport!

Onwards and upwards Newport.

Your City. Your Colours. Your Club


Final Score – Newport RFC 33 Neath RFC 26

Newport RFC Player of the Match – Kyle Tayler