Newport RFC vs RGC 1404 RFC – 17th February 2019 by John Evans
After having recently being jettisoned from the Welsh Cup by our North Walian visitors, they made the journey south again for only their second visit to Rodney Parade. The fact that Newport County had hosted Manchester City in an FA Cup fifth round tie the previous evening was remarkable as the ground was totally switched back into ‘rugby’ mode by the groundstaff who must have worked long and hard to sort everything out. Our thanks go to them.
2019 hasn’t been kind to the Black and Ambers so far, with a couple of draws and a couple of losses against their name thus far; surely it was the occasion to kick on and get that first win of the calendar year? The conditions were ideal for running rugby and RGC 1404 were liable to join in any oval ball fiesta that Newport cared to host.
Newport RFC were led out by scrum half Ryan James who was making his one hundredth appearance for the club, a terrific milestone, congratulations to him. Let’s hope that there are many more games to come for him in Black and Amber.
Matt O’Brien kicked off with Newport defending the North Terrace that was now home to a large temporary stand erected for the football. Visiting fullback Dion Jones made a poor start as he fumbled a pass inside his own 22-metre area allowing centre Tom Pascoe to claim possession for Newport. The Black and Ambers went probing around the fringes before Tom Pascoe’s chip kick to the corner proved too fast for wing Andy Evans to latch on to. RGC kicked long from the line out but this simply encouraged Elliot Frewen to run back at them. Frewen made it back into the visitor’s 22 before Ryan James found Matt O’Brien running in support before he was tackled in to touch by Gogs scrum half Efan Jones.
Newport had the upper hand in the scrums early on as a free-kick was awarded at an attacking scrum deep in RGC territory. Newport opted to scrum again. This time the ball went wide. Ryan James had looped around the centres to make an overlap allowing him time to select his pass to wing Andy Evans. Evans thundered in to the corner near the Hazell Stand draped in black shirted defenders to score Newport’s opening score. The conversion was missed so the score read Newport 5 RGC 0.
Billy McBryde restarted for RGC selecting a smart chip kick at the thinnest point of Newport’s defence. Morgan Burgess soon found himself swamped by the RGC backrow. McBryde sat back and tried to pull the strings for RGC but he was soon tackled and Dan Preece was next on the scene to ensure a terrific turnover.
The Black and Ambers were proving a nuisance to RGC, Dan Preece, Will Evans and Josh Skinner all putting in physical metre-making runs. Newport inched up field before Ryan James released Andy Evans on the narrow side. Evans worked his way into the 22 again before Kyle Tayler took a pass from the ruck but he was isolated under the crossbar by Gog number 8 Jordan Jones and the penalty was conceded.
At a ruck, about midfield on the Bisley Stand side, Josh Skinner and visiting second row Robin Williams appeared to be having a full and frank exchange of views about something. Williams seemed to take exception to Skinner dragging out, and then across the top of, a ruck, understandably. So much so that he motioned a head butt at Skinner. The referee, Mr Tom Spurrier, had no hesitation in brandishing a red card at Williams, leaving RGC with fourteen players for the remaining 68 minutes of the game.
Newport attempted to capitalise immediately as they went through the phases but a critical pass by Garin Harris was spooned forward and the chance was gone.
The travelling RGC support became more vocal in support of their team as they won a strong scrum, turning it and leaving the ball exposed for flanker Will Bryan to secure possession for his side. RGC tried to make this possession count, they had rarely been in the Newport half of the field by this point, but a midfield spill by Iolo Evans set Newport off again. Dan Preece was outstanding in the loose while Morgan Burgess offered himself up as a willing carrier. A super pass from Matt O’Brien set wing Duan Thomas free. Thomas managed to get close to the RGC line before Josh Skinner arrived in support. Skinner crashed over the line, arm up in triumph, but Mr Spurrier declared that the ball had gone forward and another good opportunity was left on the field.
RGC tried to create some momentum for themselves but were let down by their midfield again when a Dan Merino-esque pass went wide on 25 minutes. Newport pushed themselves forward again but the Black and Ambers afternoon which had started brightly was slowly about to unravel. An overthrown Newport lineout was claimed by RGC as they tried to make the loose ball work for them. An overlap was created on the right wing putting Sam Jones in space. As the cover closed in he kicked ahead. Newport wing Andy Evans claimed the ball but, as the RGC loose forwards arrived, found himself suddenly ‘without ball’. RGC continued the pressure and went left but lost the ball on entering Newport’s 22-metre area. The Black and Ambers tried to play themselves out of trouble but a pass out to Elliot Frewen was around his shins and Frewen was unable to take the ball cleanly. From the resulting scrum, Billy McBryde had ample time to spot wing Harri Evans signalling his clear run to the line. McBryde put in a super, inch perfect kick into Evans’ arms allowing him to canter in for an easy try. McBryde added the two points to make the score Newport 5 RGC 7 on 30 minutes.
Matt O’Brien made a mazy run, chipping ahead into open ground. RGC fullback Dion Jones made a bit of a hash of dealing with the ball, knocking on and almost allowing it to bounce back into O’Brien’s hands but it wasn’t to be. The Newport pack put in a mighty effort at the resulting scrum which earned them a penalty. Matt O’Brien slotted it comfortably to make the score Newport 8 RGC 7 on 32 minutes.
RGC started to move the ball around meeting with stiff tackling in midfield. It was only when the ball went widest did they start to get some rewards. Dion Jones proved more effective at attack than defence as he found wing Sam Jones. Jones put his faith in his pace and sprinted for the line, winning the race to score. McBryde added the conversion to make the score Newport 8 RGC 14 on 37 minutes.
RGC’s luck was clearly turning, an innocuous slap-back from the restart by Kyle Tayler was seized upon by Jordan Jones for the visitors who launched another attack. A kick was taken by Elliot Frewen at fullback for Newport to feed Matt O’Brien. A great pass out to Duan Thomas set him running, seemingly with no support, until Andrew Mann appeared on a lung-busting run on his right. Mann took the pass at pace before being hauled to ground. Matt O’Brien put in another magical pass, a ‘no-look’ effort as Ryan James looped around him but James was soon hauled into touch.
Newport continued to make efforts but conceded a penalty for hands in the ruck as Billy McBryde kicked the ball dead for half time.
Halftime – Newport RFC 8 RGC 1404 RFC 14
It was McBryde who had the next kick of the game, the restart, which went to Chris Williams, on as a first half replacement for Dan Partridge. Williams carried the ball into the heart of the RGC defence as the late afternoon sun shadows grew longer.
RGC earned themselves a 44th minute penalty at a scrum which McBryde swung a boot at but the ball drifted across the face of the posts.
Newport had made no visible improvement following their half time recess. The lineout had stopped functioning and tacklers were falling off tackles. The travelling RGC supporters increased the intensity of their cheering and chanting with good cause: Newport were giving them something to chant and cheer about.
A tinker with personnel had immediate results as Josh Skinner took a lineout ball neatly and possession moved swiftly through the hands across field. Elliot Frewen and Duan Thomas were both sniffing around but it was Kyle Tayler who made the effective break. Tayler charged on into the RGC 22 before finding Chay Smith in support. Smith took Tayler’s pass, changed hands, and skipped across for a super try in the corner. The conversion was missed making the score Newport 13 RGC 14.
Dion Jones was almost caught out again in defence as a rolling ball bobbled past him but he recovered well to pass to wing Sam Jones who set off on a decent run with number 8 Jordan Jones on hand to carry the move on. Newport played into RGC’s hands when a 56th minute blunder kept the pressure on when it could have so easily been relieved. A loose ball in the Newport 22 was passed back to Matt O’Brien who attempted to sidestep Efan Jones, the RGC 9, however Jones had hold of O’Brien’s shirt tail and yanked it as he went to kick resulting in a clearance measured in inches rather than yards. Ryan James acted instinctively by picking the ball up but was, of course, a mile offside. RGC opted to go to the corner but blew their chance when they were caught accidentally offside as they formed the rolling maul. From the scrum, RGC flankers Will Bryan and Beau Williams, who were tremendous and improved as the game wore on, were very sharp off the back of the scrum and caught Ryan James, keeping the pressure fully on the home team.
Beau Williams took a 61st minute lineout at the tail to form a rolling maul on himself. Scrumhalf Efan Jones picked his moment to perfection as he manipulated the maul into position until centre Iolo Evans came in on a blockbusting run to shatter the Black and Amber defence and score the try with only Elliot Frewen offering any kind of resistance. Billy McBryde added the conversion to make the score Newport 13 RGC 21.
The next RGC score was a catalogue of Newport errors as, with a lineout won, Newport elected to kick long. Dion Jones was allowed to run far too far before the ball was spun wide leaving RGC to create a two-on-one overlap on the left wing though quite why it was left to prop Dan Preece to be the “one” will doubtless be asked in the player’s video session at training. It was left to wing Harri Evans to score his second easy try of the day which Billy McBryde converted to make the score Newport 13 RGC 28.
Newport had to react quickly if they wanted anything out of this game. Kyle Tayler took Matt O’Brien’s restart brilliantly. The ball played out to Chay Smith who had Elliot Frewen on his inside shoulder. Kyle Tayler was there again with Newport now playing advantage as Mr Spurrier had spotted an RGC offence. No advantage came so it was back for the penalty which Matt O’Brien put in the corner. The line out and rolling maul worked well up to the point that Evan Whitson broke away for a try, only for Mr Spurrier to call play back, making the action of a forward pass.
Beau Williams, the RGC blindside flanker, broke away but his support let him down by going off their feet at the ruck. Matt O’Brien placed the ball on a sixpence for Newport, just metres out from the RGC try line. Chris Williams took the lineout but the rolling maul was halted illegally by the Gogs. Newport set up again but this time RGC knocked on. This set up an attacking scrum on 73 minutes which Newport had to take advantage of. The scrum collapsed and Mr Spurrier allowed a reset. It folded again. When it folded for a third time Mr Spurrier called across captain Dion Jones to warn of the consequences. The penalty try was inevitable. So too was a yellow card, the unlucky victim being replacement RGC prop Will Sanderson. This made the score Newport 20 RGC 28 on 75 minutes.
With RGC being down to thirteen players Newport could have gone on to win the game, although they really wouldn’t have deserved to. With necessity being the mother of invention and all that, Newport had to go for broke. Morgan Burgess caught the ball on the touchline and moved the ball to centre field. Josh Skinner still relished the contact as he biffed up the middle. Matt O’Brien skipped through a gap in the RGC defence before Kyle Tayler reappeared, like Mr. Benn, in close support. Tayler put his scrumcap-clad head down and ran to the line to secure a try-scoring bonus point for Newport and, possibly, a losing bonus point and, equally possibly, a platform to go on and win the game from.
It wasn’t to be. Newport went looking for miracle passes, or, having run from deep, getting to the halfway mark and kicking the ball away. RGC deserve credit for manfully sticking to their duties and closing Newport down and Mission Impossible proved to be just that.
At the final whistle the majority of players either slumped to the ground or had their hands on the thighs gasping for breath showing just what kind of intensity the game was played at.
It was a disappointing performance by the Black and Ambers being effectively outplayed by the fourteen men of RGC 1404 for over an hour and thirteen for the last ten minutes. The squad had a terrible performance against Llanelli RFC at Parc Y Scarlets in September. Seeing how Sospan are next up for a visit to Rodney Parade, what better way to start righting wrongs? Newport also appear to have handed an advantage to Aberavon in the chase for the top six spot that they covet. They have to make the glut of home games that are coming up count for something. You can play your part by cheering the boys on. The next away game is at Bridgend on March 2nd. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running a bus to this fixture, if you’d like to book a seat then please get in touch.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Newport Man Of The Match – Kyle Tayler
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 25 RGC 1404 RFC 28