Newport RFC v Ebbw Vale RFC 18th November 2023 by John Evans
Following on from the terrific away win at Cardiff, a new, different challenge lay in the visit of Ebbw Vale RFC. The Steelmen have become a tough, nuggety unit again since Jason Strange took the coaching reins once more. The wet, blustery conditions would dictate that whoever controlled the game best would walk away with the precious league points.
Ty Morris’ program notes were telling. In them, he wrote, “I am anticipating a strategic game plan this afternoon, that maybe only enjoyed by the purists among you”. How right he was proved to be.
Jac Lloyd started the game for Newport, with the Black and Ambers attacking the SDR end of the ground. Alex Howe, the Ebbw 8, carried the ball back at the Newport defence, before setting up a ruck. The ball was booted away, Carwyn Penny, moved to fullback from 10 this week, took the ball well, but a penalty was conceded. Evan Lloyd, the visiting 10, kicked his team to 30 metres out. Dylan Bartlett. The Ebbw 4, took the ball at the lineout, launching a series of attacks as Ebbw punched at the Newport defence. A side-entry to a maul was picked up as the Steelman continued their assault, but, with little progress coming against the Black and Amber wall, the referee, Mr Simon Mills, gave the full penalty which Evan Lloyd had little trouble dispatching and giving the visitors a 0-3 lead on 3 minutes.
A strong Newport scrum earned a penalty which Jac Lloyd pumped to the corner, but the Black and Ambers conceded a free kick from an advantageous position. Newport regained possession but were struggling to create anything worthwhile as the visitors, donned in their change strip of cerise pink, as my wife and daughter reliably inform me, flew out in defence of their line. A pass out to Ioan Davies had him backtracking before he was nabbed, and the move was snuffed out.
Young front row prospect Harry Fry was helped off injured on 10 minutes, making way for Tom Workman. Jac Lloyd belted a free kick high and long into midfield. Ebbw centre Dom Franchi made a Horlicks of clearing the ball away, knocking on in the process. From the scrum, Dafydd Buckland broke left, and the phases set up, but the ball was spilled in contact and another opportunity was lost.
Another blow was received to the Black and Ambers as Elliot Ferriman was another added to the injury list. He was replaced by Nick Thomas.
Ebbw Vale powered on as they moved worryingly close to the Newport line. Phase upon phase rained in on the Newport defence, but Ebbw flanker Kobi Rees let Newport off the hook as he was unable to support his own weight at a ruck, and the pressure was relieved.
Jac Lloyd put Newport into the corner again following an incident of over-eagerness by Ebbw prop Adam Court. Ben Roach took the lineout ball before a powerful maul set. Henry Palmer latched onto the tail of the maul as the Black and Amber pack drove across the line and the Newport hooker bagged the try. Unfortunately, the conversion was missed, so Newport lead 5-3 on 24 minutes.
Ebbw responded instantly as wing Harry Rhys Weldon bagged a try out wide. Ebbw went through their repertoire of bumping through well-controlled phases, before Evan Lloyd spotted an option out wide. An immaculately aimed kick allowed the winger to skate in for a well-taken try. Lloyd’s conversion glanced off the right-hand upright and bounced over, putting the visitors 5-10 ahead on 27 minutes.
Newport’s injury woes worsened on 28 minutes when Lloyd Lewis limped off for Oli Andrew to replace him.
Newport were proving to be inaccurate, especially loose in kicking. Nor for the first time, kicks to touch went out on the full, giving Ebbw the advantage. However, Newport sought to put air around the ball as it went wide. A pass out to Ioan Davies, thence onto Jonny Morris, who flattened Ebbw fullback Carrick MacDonagh in the process. Morris setup the ruck ball, allowing Jac Lloyd to pick his moment to release Carwyn Penny, who zigzagged his way through the defence to sprint in for a try under the crossbar. Penny converted his own try to put Newport back ahead 12-10 on 33 minutes.
Ebbw almost repeated their trick of instant response when centre Ethan Phillips picked off a loose pass and tiptoed along the wing, until Henry Palmer managed to down the purple-shirted attacker.
Alex Howe took a quick tap free kick before being met with the full force of Josh Skinner, which surely left him seeing tweety birds circling his head. Sadly, Newport strayed offside again, and Evan Lloyd nudged his team back in front with a simple penalty, making the score Newport 12 Ebbw Vale 13 on 37 minutes.
Newport were penalised again during an Ebbw attack, straying offside once more. Evan Lloyd was offered a simple opportunity to push the visitors further ahead with an easy shot from the 22, making it Newport 12 Ebbw Vale 16 on 39 minutes.
Newport were allowed to restart, and they won a scrum put-in, but the previously dominant scrum found itself the wrong side of Mr Mills judgement, Evan Lloyd tipping the ball into touch to bring a frustrating first half to a conclusion.
Half Time Newport RFC 12 Ebbw Vale RFC 16
Evan Lloyd restarted the game, the kick evading everyone except Dylan Bartlett who secured the ball allowing scrum half Jon Evans, formerly of this parish, to chip ahead, but Carwyn Penny was on hand to snuff out any attacks.
However, Ebbw nudged further ahead following a 43rd minute scrum penalty. Evan Lloyd was metronomic with his kicking as the visitors went 12-19 ahead.
It was Ebbw’s turn to be pinged offside on 45 minutes as Newport launched their attack. The Black and Ambers went through phases of their own, but the pink defence crept up too far, too often, for Mr Mills’ liking. Carwyn Penny dragged Newport back to within touching distance, making the score 15-19.
Ebbw restored the advantage when a scrum folded, Mr Mills finding Newport at fault. Evan Lloyd judged the kick beautifully, accounting for the strong gusting wind, as the ball sailed between the posts to make it 15-22 on 45 minutes.
Che Hope came on for Dafydd Buckland just as Ebbw appeared to be getting on top during the game. Evan Lloyd was able to prod and poke his team into positions expertly and keep the pressure on the Black and Ambers.
Rhys Jenkins took the place of Kyle Tayler as Ebbw plodded through their phases again. It was unlucky on Newport that Henry Palmer became pinned during a tackle and was unable to roll away to Mr Mills’ satisfaction. Evan Lloyd kicked the inevitable penalty and made the score Newport 15 Ebbw Vale 25 on 55 minutes.
George Young and Henry Palmer made way for Josh Reid and Wade Langley as the lamps in the floodlights warmed up and cast a white light across the Newport Stadium surface.
Ebbw coughed up a penalty at a scrum on 65 minutes, a fine confidence boost for debutant prop Clay Gibbons, who had replaced Dan Suter. Jac Lloyd punted Newport into the 22, but the maul, following Ben Roach’s fine lineout take, was easily shunted into touch.
Newport launched another attack, but Josh Reid found himself isolated with the ball prompting Mr Mills to give Ebbw a penalty. Evan Lloyd notched his seventh successful penalty kick of the game to put the visitors into a 15-28 lead on 68 minutes.
Newport were far from done, as Ben Roach’s 74th minute try demonstrated. Newport knuckled down to some determined attacking, but the stout defending from the men from the top of the valley took some overcoming. Ebbw veteran Cameron Regan flopped offside allowing Jac Lloyd to bang the Black and Ambers closer. Newport hammered away at the door, but a quickly tapped penalty by the Captain saw him barge over and claim a hard-fought score. Sadly, the conversion didn’t go over, so the score now was Newport 20 Ebbw Vale 28.
Newport were still in with a shout of getting something out of the game; another try would be one point and, in all likelihood, a losing bonus point. The team chucked the ball around searching for another score, but a firm tackle dislodged the ball from Nick Thomas’ grasp.
A late break by the Ninja Warrior got backsides out of seats as he found Che Hope in support, but Che’s pass on was hurried and went forward, much to the delight of the vocal travelling support.
Ebbw closed out the game, putting a clamp on the ball and, eventually, suffocating Newport before the ball went into touch to end the game on 83 minutes.
A disappointing afternoon’s work for Newport, but credit to Ebbw Vale RFC, they played the conditions excellently and had an outstanding halfback pairing in Jon Evans and Evan Lloyd. They leave Newport with plenty to work on this week before they travel to Church Bank, to the home of the Indigo Premier champions, Llandovery RFC. Kick-off is at 2.30pm. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running a bus for supporters, costing £25 per person, leaving at 1130 from the Riverfront Theatre. Please email Steve at email@example.com to book.
Our next home game is the following Saturday, December 2nd, when the Welsh All Blacks, Neath RFC make their first visit to our new home at Newport Stadium. Please note that this will be Newport’s last home game before Christmas, so, if you need to buy any Black and Amber-related Christmas gifts, this will be the ideal opportunity to do that!
Come on, Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score – Newport RFC 20 Ebbw Vale RFC 28
Newport RFC Player of the Match – Ben Roach