Newport RFC v RGC 1404 RFC 3rd April 2022 by John Evans
Following on from the semi-final win against Cardiff would always be tricky; the effort and emotion that went into that afternoon at Pontypridd would be draining and combined with a whirlpool of injuries and unavailability, the visit of the North Walians would prove to be tricky. They play a power-based game that can erupt into a free-running spectacle with no notice. Their mid-table Indigo Group Premiership league position is puzzling; their loss at home to bottom placed Bridgend even more so.
It was a beautiful springtime afternoon at Newport Stadium with a gusting breeze coming in off the estuary. The surface was firm, and the prospect of an entertaining and fast-paced game was in prospect. It was heartening to see Geraint O’Driscoll named in the starting XV. He has struggled with injuries all season and, following a few games for Bedwas on permit, he was ready to return in Black and Amber. One presumes that O’Driscoll’s start was an attempt to recreate the Reed/O’Brien axis, but expert back-up was available on the bench in the form of Jack Brooks. Also unfortunate, and no help to the team’s build-up, was the eleventh-hour withdrawal of Will Talbot-Davies on the wing with an injury, with Deon Smith stepping up from the bench and George Gladding coming into the squad.
RGC’s outside half, Dion Jones, kicked off the game for Max Williams, the Dragons second row on permit to Newport, to take the catch but became firmly bundled into touch by the combined weight of the RGC forwards. Following the line out, RGC loose forwards Dan Owen and Jordan Jones made good ground, approaching the Newport line, until scrum half Efan Jones worked the ball left to fullback, and captain, Afon Bagshaw who crossed the Newport line but was held up by the defence for a Newport goal-line drop-out.
RGC opened the scoring with an early penalty which Dion Jones made no mistake with the kick making it 0-3 to the visitors.
Another disruption to the team was the 7th minute injury to openside Josh Reid, with a concussion injury. Josh has been super for the Black and Ambers this year, so his withdrawal was another loss. Young Ben Moa replaced him.
Newport began to move the ball well, resulting in a 9th minute score for Geraint O’Driscoll. From a scrum Newport charged forward, Cam Lewis setting up in midfield. Harry Fry did well to keep the ball alive out of contact enabling Matt O’Brien to find Dai Richards sprinting up into the line. His pass out to Mathew Powell on the wing opened RGC up, but Powell’s pass inside to Luke Crane in support split the RGC defence apart. Geraint O’Driscoll strode a line to Crane’s left and glided in for the first try of the game. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 7 RGC 3.
The restart was taken by Deon Smith, but he found himself isolated and conceded a penalty for hanging on to the ball. RGC kicked to the corner, but second row Bryn Jones found himself the centre of attention from the referee, Mr Aled Evans, as Jones seemed to want to try to remove Ben Roach’s head in a semi-violent manner. Jones was invited to retire to the naughty step for ten minutes to consider his actions.
Newport began to step up the tempo as they launched a series of drives, Luke Crane picking his moment to go. The ball spread across the Newport line, Ben Moa launching himself forward from a ruck, but RGC’s Jordan Jones was too eager and conceded an offside penalty. Matt O’Brien put Newport into the corner, but Geraint O’Driscoll appeared to take his eyes off the ball and spilled it forward and RGC could clear to halfway. From the lineout, Deon Smith set up a ruck in midfield, but RGC infringed again. Matt O’Brien sought to use the breeze for a 45-metre penalty attempt, but the ball bounced off the right hand upright. Wing Rhys Tudor tried to run the ball out of defence but seemed to dither as Cameron Lewis snared him and the referee gave a penalty for not releasing the ball in the tackle. Matt O’Brien went to the corner again, Rhodri Jones taking the ball as front-jumper. A solid rolling maul formed and eased its way forward, over the line and down once over it but, understandably, Mr Evans felt unable to award a try, giving RGC a goal line drop-out. Deon Smith charged back to the RGC 22 metre line, Matt O’Brien found big Dan Suter trucking up in support, he got to within five metres of the line before being tackled by RGC prop Jessie Williams. The ball popped out to Luke Crane who moved it right, but the defence was up sharply, and a final pass out was spooned forward, and the opportunity was gone.
RGC responded to that period of pressure with applying some of their own. They spread the ball across the line well before hoisting a high kick which Afon Bagshaw did well to secure. Centre Danny Cross bashed forward before, following several phases, outside half Dion Jones placed a neat, shallow-angled kick for wing Zach Clow to scoop up and dive across for a try. Dion Jones added the conversion to make the score Newport 7 RGC 10 with 24 minutes played.
Geraint O’Driscoll made a 28th minute break to push Newport forward again. RGC infringed by playing the ball on the floor and then made it worse for themselves by chopsing at Mr Evans. Matt O’Brien put the Black and Ambers back into the corner, but the visitors put up an effective counter-ruck and could clear their lines.
Newport played with an advantage following RGC hooker Brodie Coghlan’s transgression at a tackle. Matt O’Brien switched corners as Newport looked to get themselves back ahead. The rolling maul faltered slightly before working infield. Cameron Lewis took the ball into contact, but Mr Evans again spotted a penalty by RGC, this time centre Rhys Williams was at fault. It was unclear what Williams’ infringement was, other than trying to ensure that Cam Lewis didn’t get to father any children. It appeared that he may have tried to deliver a bunch of fives at the same time. Regardless, he, too, was dispatched to the side-lines to consider his actions.
With a penalty just five metres out in line with the left-hand post, Matt O’Brien went quickly. Ben Moa took first contact, Luke Crane spread the ball wide, Dai Richards did very well to get the ball away while Mathew Powell was remarkable in grounding the ball in next to no space at all. Matt O’Brien added the tricky conversion to make it Newport 14 RGC 10 on 36 minutes.
Matt O’Brien extended the lead on 39 minutes with a well-taken try. Afon Bagshaw chipped a kick ahead only for Mathew Powell to catch it and set up a ruck. Harry Fry battered forward but his attempt to keep the ball alive bounced free. RGC soon coughed possession up when second row Andrew Williams juggled the ball loose. Dai Richards snapped the ball up and popped it up off the floor into the hands of Matt O’Brien for try number three. O’Brien added the two-pointer to make the score Newport 21 RGC 10.
Into stoppage time in the first half and RGC struck back. The restart was managed poorly, allowing RGC centre Danny Cross to regain the ball. Dion Jones, the visiting 10 ghosted through a sleepy defence and got into the Newport 22. Second rows Jones and Williams both surged close to the line before RGC broke right. Afon Bagshaw drew Geraint O’Driscoll, who, sadly, picked up a nasty shoulder injury in the process, leaving Deon Smith, realistically, little chance of preventing wing Rhys Tudor from crossing out wide. The conversion was missed making the score Newport 21 RGC 15 as the half came to a close.
Half Time Newport RFC 21 RGC 1404 RFC 15
The second half began brightly as both sides looked to gain the upper hand. Play was very open until Newport scored an excellent try, almost a solo effort by Mathew Powell. The Black and Amber forwards had worked hard to regain possession, Ben Roach showing up especially well, before the ball came to the Newport back-line. Mathew Powell was lurking in midfield when he spotted a dog leg in the defence. He exploited that, before arcing around the last defender, and running in to score a well-taken try. Matt O’Brien did the honours again, making the score Newport 28 RGC 15 on 47 minutes.
RGC struck again on 53 minutes. Rhys Tudor made a break along his wing before passing infield. Dion Jones was quick to spot an absent Newport defence and put the ball just in that area. Fullback Afon Bagshaw was quickest there, although Cameron Lewis did get back to compete and make it difficult for him. Jones added the conversion to bring the score to Newport 28 RGC 22.
There could have been trouble for Newport at the restart as Rhys Tudor appeared to have been taken out in mid-air. Mr Evans took his time to decide on his course of action but decided that it was a penalty only. RGC punted the ball deep into the Newport half and, from the lineout, began pounding the Black and Amber defensive wall. Playing with an advantage, RGC went for a lineout just 5 metres out. Ethan Fackrell took the ball at the tail and the rolling maul set up. The maul split to the left and, with the ball at the bottom of it, ironically, was Brodie Coghlan, the hooker from Caerleon who began the season in the Newport RFC squad. Dion Jones added the conversion to make the score Newport 28 RGC 29 on 58 minutes.
RGC had their tails up and switched back to their power game. Things got no better for Newport when Garin Harris found himself yellow carded on 62 minutes for playing the ball on the floor as RGC pushed closer to the Newport line.
As time ticked away, it appeared as though RGC would maintain the fine margin of one point. Everything that Newport could conjure up had an answer from RGC. Both teams went after each other physically, but it needed a spark, a moment of magic to give Newport supporters the win that they craved. It so nearly came on 77 minutes when Dai Richards, naturally, buccaneered his way out of defence and carved out an attack along the right wing. With just the last man to beat, and Che Hope sprinting hard in support, Richards passed infield, about 30 metres out, only for Afon Bagshaw to put out a hand and intentionally knock the ball forward. It was certainly a yellow card as there was little cover behind him. Was it a penalty try? Again, Mr Evans took a minute to consider before deciding ‘no, it wasn’t’. He couldn’t be sure that cover wouldn’t get across, apparently. Bagshaw had ‘taken one for the team’. With 79 minutes on the clock, Matt O’Brien took the obvious step of pointing at the posts, kick the three points and then relying on the Black and Amber defence to win the game. Kick slotted, it was now Newport 31 RGC 29, and the game restarted.
RGC built from a lineout in the Newport half. They were powerful but were aided by an impatient defence that collapsed the maul. They played on, with an advantage, eating away at the clock until Dion Jones opted to take the kick. The massed Newport supporters prayed for divine intervention, but Jones wasn’t going to miss that, and the score now was Newport 31 RGC 32 on 84 minutes.
Newport restarted again but RGC simply kept the ball, popped short passes to forwards and ate up the time before finally belting the ball into touch and claiming a deserved win.
Full Time: Newport RFC 31 RGC 1404 RFC 32
It’s a short turnaround for the Newport squad now. They only have until Thursday night to regather and go again when Merthyr visit for the final home Indigo Group Premiership fixture of the season. The Ironmen will present a stern challenge to the Black and Ambers. Kick off is at 7.30pm at Newport Stadium and, if you can’t make it, the game is being broadcast live on S4C’s Clic YouTube channel, which is great, and everything, but being there is so much better.
Following that, Newport RFC appear at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff for the Welsh Cup final when we take on Aberavon RFC. Ticketing arrangements are still being clarified with the WRU at the time of writing so please keep in touch with the club regarding this.
The final game of the season is away at Carmarthen Quins on April 30th. This is the final Indigo Group Premiership game of the season.
Finally, the club are holding their end of season dinner on June 11th at Rodney Parade. This is a fun, informal event that is still being finalised so prices and details will be given as soon as they are known.
At least now it’s crystal clear what needs to be achieved if Newport RFC are to win the league this season. Seven more points, without relying on favours from another club, and our wait for meaningful silverware is over. It’s within this group’s abilities to accomplish that. We just have to keep the faith.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Mathew Powell
Final Score – Newport RFC 31 RGC 1404 RFC 32