Newport RFC v RGC 1404 RFC 13th November 2021 by John Evans
We are in something of an era of firsts at Newport RFC, and this game was to be another; the club’s first game at its new home of Newport Stadium under floodlights. The visitors had requested a later kick-off to facilitate their travel arrangements, a request the club was only too happy to meet, so a start time of 5.30pm was agreed.
RGC, now coached by former Newport player Ceri Jones, could only have improved following the club’s visit to Colwyn Bay in October, a cursory glance at their results since would tell you that. Narrow losses to Cardiff and Pontypridd followed by a home win against Merthyr would suggest that the faintly disorganised rabble from the second half in our previous meeting had been consigned to the bin. Indeed, coach Ty Morris’ program notes for the game read “We are expecting RGC to play their well-balanced attacking game and come heavy at the breakdown…”
Another little first was the advent of a new electronic scoreboard located at the back of the terrace, a necessary investment by the club to make the ground compliant with WRU rules for staging games. Very smart it looks, too.
There was an immaculately observed minutes silence before the game before the two teams got down to the business at hand: winning a game of rugby.
Newport’s midfield resources were stretched even thinner immediately before kick-off when centre Jack Wright failed a fitness test, so a reshuffle saw Deon Smith move off the wing to centre, Ryan Gardner start vice Deon and Luke Crane fill the vacant spot on the bench.
RGC’s number ten, Dion Jones, kicked off and had the two teams feeling each other out for a few minutes as possession, and territory, swung around the middle third of the field. A nice floating pass found RGC wing Rhys Tudor in space with centre, and captain, Tom Hughes to his right again. Hughes evaded the Newport cover to get his team to a few metres out. The ball popped up to Dion Jones who made the ball available out of the tackle to prop Pedr Jones, who was following up, to ground the ball over the line to open the scoring. Dion Jones added the conversion to make the score Newport 0 RGC 7 with just a few minutes played.
True to Ty Morris’ statement, RGC were proving aggressive in defence and causing Newport to rush their decisions somewhat.
Matt O’Brien picked off an RGC pass on 6 minutes that had Newport, eventually, moving forward. He was snared by the defence, but prop Dan Suter was comfortable enough to act as pivot, temporarily, and keep play moving. Josh Reid bristled into contact and Jamie Jeune had awareness enough to pop a pass out of contact to wing Matthew Powell. Newport were getting close but RGC were proving ferocious in defence and eventually won the relieving penalty when Newport were penalised for holding on in the tackle.
RGC were very direct in attack, almost pinpointing one area of a few metres and funnelling into it, sucking the Newport defence in and it seemed to work as, suddenly, they had the chance to flood their left field with players and kick into the thinly populated Newport defence. The ploy almost worked until wing Zac Clow knocked the ball on while trying to gather it to score an undefended try. Newport kept the pressure on themselves as they exited the scum poorly and conceded a penalty for holding on to the ball in the tackle. RGC’s Dion Jones nominated posts and happily took the three-pointer to make the score Newport 0 RGC 10 on 16 minutes.
RGC conceded a penalty for hands in the ruck on 18 minutes. Matt O’Brien booted Newport to the corner on the stand side, SDR end. Josh Reid bashed his way forward while Matt O’Brien spun the ball wide. Dai Richards made the pass out of contact for Matthew Powell to skate across out wide for Newport’s opening try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 7 RGC 10.
RGC were penalised again on 22 minutes for holding onto the ball prompting Matt O’Brien to point to the sticks, a confident gesture when you’re 49 metres out. The kick would have levelled the scores but, to be fair, the kick faded right of the posts, so maybe the confidence was justified.
Dai Richards was launched by Matt O’Brien on 26 minutes and scorched his way down the left wing and into the RGC 22. Newport edged closer to the line, swinging right then back left, and ended up just a metre of two from the RGC line but, to his credit, RGC captain Tom Hughes muscled his way into the middle of it and won his team a relieving penalty.
RGC’s aggression had notably dropped away and Newport could elbow their way back into the game. It was now the Black and Ambers that were beginning to win turnovers and one such occasion on 29 minutes led to the next Newport score. Excellent unseen work on the ground saw the ball pop out to Matt O’Brien who danced his way around the RGC defence to skip over the line, under the posts, for a try which, naturally, he also converted. This made the score Newport 14 RGC 10.
The fall-off in RGC’s physicality didn’t stop them being a potent threat, however. A 33rd minute lineout was overthrown by hooker Brodie Coghlan, playing on permit from the Dragons, but RGC’s Dion Jones was first to the loose ball. His kick ahead almost had him through on goal but, luckily for Newport, the ball outpaced him.
Rhodri Jones, playing 6 for Newport, was slightly over-enthusiastic in tackling RGC’s Efan Jones and shipped a penalty for that. Dion Jones kicked to the corner where hooker Coghlan threw a short ball to prop Will Sanderson. He was held up, but the ball recycled well and RGC could throw themselves at the Newport defence again. They patiently went through the phases before the Black and Ambers became sucked in enough for wing Zac Clow to edge across in the far corner for a try. Dion Jones added the conversion to make the score Newport 14 RGC 17 on 36 minutes.
There was time for a response and Newport fought their way into the RGC 22 metre area. Playing with a penalty advantage, Matt O’Brien punted for the corner allowing Matthew Powell the opportunity to chase, but he was beaten to the touchdown. Plan B, then. O’Brien kicked to the opposite corner for a set move. Josh Reid was flung up at the front of the lineout and a nice, steady rolling maul was set in place. It strolled over the RGC line and it was Rhodri Jones who got up and received the plaudits for scoring the try, atoning somewhat for his earlier transgression. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 21 RGC 17 as the teams headed into the changing rooms.
Half Time Newport RFC 21 RGC 1404 RFC 17
Matt O’Brien restarted the game, but inaccuracy bedevilled any progress that Newport were trying to make. Passes were going astray, making RGC’s job in defence easier. The Black and Ambers did have a stroke of luck on 49 minutes when a clumsy clearance from RGC gave them decent field position. Josh Skinner claimed the lineout ball and the maul rumbled forward. The referee, Mr. Ian Davies, gave Newport an advantage as the maul collapsed. Newport progressed as Valaime Kotobalavu crossed the line but was judged to have been held up. Sadly, for Newport, the resulting lineout wasn’t as effective. They kept possession ok, but RGC were much better in defence and the opportunity evaporated.
The Black and Amber’s resources became much more stretched. Following the withdrawal of both Matthew Powell and Ryan Gardner, it was left to scrum half Luke Crane and back-rower Ben Roach to fill the wing berths. Then, with Dafydd Smith going off, fullback Haydn Simons slotted into the centre. The lack of centres is proving to be a real headache for the club this season, fair play to the players who have played there out of position so far this season and done such a good job.
RGC knocked on a line out ensuring a Newport scrum in the RGC 22. Geraint Watkin, having an excellent afternoon at 9, got the ball away smartly and spread it to the right. The RGC defence were sucked in and left an overlap for Ben Roach, on the right wing, to cross for a well taken try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 28 RGC 17 on 59 minutes.
The hour mark saw fresh legs come into the Newport front row as Lewis Smout, Matt Dwyer and Garin Harris replaced Jamie Jeune, Henry Palmer and Dan Suter en bloc.
Newport conceded a needless penalty on 61 minutes prompting RGC to go to the corner. The lineout was overthrown again allowing Garin Harris to carry the ball away strongly and make ground, encouraging Newport to show ambition and go on the attack. RGC clumsily got the ball into touch but, into touch it was, and the situation came to nought.
At this point it seemed like Newport had the game there for the taking. 67 minutes gone, 11 points ahead and they were on the attack inside the RGC 22. However, the pendulum swung viciously against the Black and Ambers. An Assistant Referee picked up the fact the Josh Reid had cleared out with a no-arms challenge, so he was invited to take ten minutes to cool his jets. Haydn Simons tried to kick Newport upfield but his kick cannoned off the shins of RGC’s Rhys Williams who gathered the loose ball, with the Newport cover flat-footed, and passed to his captain Tom Hughes who scampered over for a try. Sam Rogers added the simple conversion to bring the score back to Newport 28 RGC 24.
With their belief restored, RGC set about going for the win. They drove efficiently and ruthlessly at the Newport line. The fourteen men withstood the attack for a while but, inevitably almost, the line was breached as prop Pedr Jones seemed to manage to just get the tip of the ball onto the line but that, of course, is enough. Sam Rogers added the conversion to make the score Newport 28 RGC 31 on 73 minutes. Josh Reid’s yellow card was proving to be very, very expensive.
RGC almost sealed the win on 78 minutes as the broke out having stolen possession but Mr Davies called them back and awarded Newport a free kick. The Black and Ambers worked hard to reverse this situation but RGC redoubled their efforts, locked down the defence and effectively strangled the game. Into added time and Newport were over-eager in attack, drifting offside. After some debate RGC opted to go to the posts and RGC’s Sam Rogers added the three points that would, eventually, seal the win.
Matt O’Brien’s restart didn’t go ten metres forward but, RGC chose to play only to lose possession. It would have been a miracle to have scored from here and it wasn’t to be as Newport spilled the ball forward to bring the game to an end along with Newport’s six-game winning streak. It had to come, but it also brought another, unwanted, “first”.
On the bright side, tries by Powell, O’Brien, Jones and Roach secured the try-scoring bonus point and, by maintaining a margin of defeat by less than seven point, a losing bonus point was captured. This still leaves Newport on top of the East division table, but with a reduced points difference.
Full Time: Newport RFC 28 RGC 1404 RFC 34
Newport RFC’s next outing is a tough away trip to the Wern when they visit Merthyr RFC in the next round of the Indigo Group Premiership Cup competition. It’s never an easy place to visit but Newport have won there before and, of course, it’s always possible again. The game is on Saturday November 20th and kick-off is at 1pm to enable supporters to watch the Wales v Australia game later.
Newport’s next home game is on November 27th when Ebbw Vale visit the Newport Stadium. This is the last round of Cup games so, hopefully, Newport will still be fighting for a place on that front. The game kicks-off at 2.30pm so, hopefully, as many supporters as possible will make it, wear Black and Amber and shout the boys to a win!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Ben Roach
Final Score – Newport RFC 28 RGC 1404 RFC 34
More Pictures from Simon Latham here: 21-11-13 Newport v RGC – WRU Premiership Cup, East – Simon Latham (smugmug.com)