It had been a soaking morning, the drive up through the Red Kite county being particularly wet. Thankfully, by kick off, the rain had all but stopped. Following on from Newport’s astonishing performance at Merthyr last time out the travelling supporters were hoping for some more of the same. They were to be disappointed.
Geraint O’Driscoll continued as match-day captain in the absence of Rhys Jenkins and the benching of Matt O’Brien.
Haydn Simons started proceedings by kicking-off towards the clubhouse end at Church Bank. The Drovers worked through the phases until Kyle Tayler completed a turnover of possession and came up with the ball. Newport drew a penalty at a scrum on four minutes which prompted Geraint O’Driscoll to signal towards the posts. Haydn Simons swung his boot at the 45-metre attempt but the ball sailed to the left of the posts. From the restart Llandovery kicked long and, to demonstrate the gusting wind, Geraint O’Driscoll set his hands to catch the ball only for it to seemingly ‘stop’ in mid-air and drop to the ground resulting in a knock-on. The Newport pack got the squeeze on in the scrum but then conceded a penalty for collapsing. The Drovers outside half, Jack Maynard, kicked to the corner but missed touch. David Richards, restored to fullback for Newport, returned the kick with interest but this encouraged Llandovery to run back at the Black and Ambers. The Newport back-row did well to isolate Jack Maynard and win the penalty as the Drovers desperately tried to regain the ball.
Llandovery prop Jamie Hughes conceded another scrum penalty on ten minutes when it was his turn to be pinged for collapsing the scrum. Haydn Simons lined up another shot at goal to take the score to Llandovery 0 Newport 3.
It took until the thirteenth minute for Llandovery to have a meaningful incursion into the Newport half. Wing Aaron Warren found a gap on the right of field. Whipped a pass to scrum half Lee Rees who had centre Corey Baldwin thundering up in support. Haydn Simons did excellently to track back, tackle Baldwin, isolate him and, with the cavalry arriving, win the penalty for Baldwin holding on to the ball in the tackle.
Newport conceded another penalty on fifteen minutes allowing Jack Maynard to put the Drovers into the corner. Josh Skinner, starting at 6 for Newport, climbed highest to get a palm to the ball allowing Joe Bartlett to secure the ball and Ryan James to kick long to clear. Llandovery went through their phases but patient defence by Newport held them out and ultimately forced the knock-on. The Drovers took and early shove at the resultant scrum awarding Newport a free kick but the clearing kick was judged to have gone directly to touch and the pressure remained on. Both sides were guilty of inaccuracies resulting in something approaching a stalemate at this point.
Llandovery levelled the scores on 21 minutes when Newport were found to have wheeled a scrum intentionally. Jack Maynard opened his day’s account for the Drovers to make it Llandovery 3 Newport 3.
Newport had a chance to get a nose back in front two minutes later as the sun came out and long winter shadows were cast. Llandovery had drifted offside and, with no advantage coming, Haydn Simons took another shot at goal which sailed left of the posts.
The Drovers Jack Maynard, as good a controller of the game as any in this division, was starting to make his side tick. Richard Brooks, at number 8 for Llandovery, dithered at the base of a scrum allowing Ryan James to get to him. The ball managed to remain in Drovers hands until Maynard put in a cheeky chip for the wing to chase. On this occasion, Newport’s Harri Lang read the danger and snuffed it out. But it pre-empted Llandovery’s first try. Ryan James was penalised for offside at the scrum. The Drovers Lee Rees took the quick tap and ran before finding Jack Maynard who put in a fine cross-field kick which landed between Elliot Frewen and David Richards allowing full back Gavin Thomas to latch onto it and coast home for a try. The conversion was missed making the score Llandovery 8 Newport 3 on the half hour.
Joe Bartlett put in a sterling effort in tying up the Llandovery defenders. He occupied three at once as they rolled around the floor creating an obvious overlap somewhere on the field. Sadly his teammates couldn’t take advantage of Bartlett’s creative thinking as a final pass went to ground as 14 played 12. Llandovery kept patiently plugging away at the Newport defence. Kyle Tayler popped up with another turnover and Henry Palmer carried away from danger strongly, fending as he went.
Llandovery scored their second try on 38 minutes when a gap appeared on their left. Wing Morgan Williams was almost through until a desperate collision tackle with Elliot Frewen stopped him. Drovers scrum half Lee Rees retrieved the ball then put in a smart switch pass to hooker Dafydd Hughes who cantered over to score. Jack Maynard added the two to make it Llandovery 15 Newport 3.
As half time approached, Llandovery were guilty of holding on to the ball in the tackle. Newport opted to go to the corner. Haydn Simons put Newport about fifteen metres from the Llandovery line. Llandovery then conceded again for hauling down the rolling maul. Haydn Simons went to the corner again. Josh Skinner gathered the ball at the tail of the lineout and set up the ruck but the execution of Skinner’s protection was sloppy and Llandovery had little trouble regaining the ball and booting it into touch to bring on half time
Half Time Llandovery RFC 15 Newport RFC 3
Jack Maynard restarted the game for Llandovery, Newport having quite a bit of work to do to get within striking distance of the hosts. Elliot Frewen picked off a loose pass and briefly threatened but disaster struck the HMS Black and Amber when an idle, rolling kick from Drovers’ Jack Maynard following some aggressive work from centre Corey Baldwin, rolled over the try line with David Richards appearing to have it covered. Quite what the young fullback expected to happen next will only be known by himself but Drovers wing Morgan Williams steamed up and got a hand to the ball first to score a try. Jack Maynard added the conversion to make it Llandovery 22 Newport 3.
Newport tried to break out of defence but an unsympathetic pass to David Richards left him helpless as the Drovers loose forwards snaffled it up. Jack Maynard’s mojo was clearly working as he fired off a delicious kick for wing Morgan Williams to catch on the full. If it weren’t for the efforts of Elliot Frewen, tracking back and tackling, it may have been another try. A Newport penalty was awarded as the Drover was isolated.
Llandovery struck again on 49 minutes as Jack Maynard mixed his game up, a short pass to centre Corey Baldwin saw the centre crash through the flimsy cover and sprint away for a well-taken try. Maynard added the two-pointer to make it Llandovery 29 Newport 3. The bonus point was in the bag for the Drovers while Newport’s hill was becoming a mountain.
Newport watched a 51st minute bouncing ball as the Llandovery forwards made hay. Scrum half Lee Rees put in an excellent grubber kick that rolled into touch on Newport’s five-metre line. Newport contrived to knock-on from the ruck after the lineout was won. This was then compounded by a yellow card for Lewis Smout after the referee, Mr Jason Bessant, tired of the scrum infringements. Jack Williams took the field in his place but a seven-man scrum against an eight-man, five-metre attacking scrum usually only goes one way in this division. Sure enough, after a reset, Mr Bessant jogged under the crossbar, arm aloft to signify that a penalty try had been awarded. Llandovery 36 Newport 3 with 55 minutes played.
Newport were trying to piece together moves and an attacking situation was going alright until Geraint O’Driscoll tried to float a pass out wide. Llandovery wing Aaron Warren picked the pass off easily and sprinted away to score unopposed. Jack Maynard added the conversion to make it Llandovery 43 Newport 3.
Llandovery 43 Newport 3. Supporters might be entitled to question quite what had happened. It was late in the game but things had to be changed up. Matt O’Brien came on for Haydn Simons and Geraint Watkin for Ryan James. Newport started to look slightly sharper but that was relative. They were starting to play their usual style of rugby from forty points down and with over an hour of the game gone. It resulted in a Newport try on 69 minutes for Geraint Watkin. A series of penalties for Newport, which also saw Llandovery’s Morgan Jones yellow carded for tackling a Newport player and playing the ball on the floor, culminated in Watkins stretching out and dabbing the ball over the line. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Llandovery 43 Newport 10.
Llandovery wanted 50 points, overhauling their previous best against Newport of 48. Ryan Evans cut a tidy line through the Newport defence and, probably for him, took the wrong option and passed back inside to Stuart Worrall who was easily vacuumed up by the Newport defence.
Kyle Tayler tried to burst out from a ruck along the flank of the field, Joe Bartlett took the pass well before setting up the ruck only for Matt O’Brien to put in a grubber kick for front-row replacement Matt Prosser to chase, which was almost the epitome of Newport’s afternoon. They weren’t on the same wavelength. It seemed as though the Black and Ambers were struggling to find long wave on a Bakelite wireless while Llandovery were streaming Spotify through their iPhone.
A late yellow card for Llandovery’s Lee Rees was felt by many to be correct but slightly pedantic from Mr Bessant as the rain resumed, pulsing in waves across the floodlight evening as the game petered out to its inevitable close.
Similarly to the away defeat to Llanelli, this was a poor performance and the players can expect some uncomfortable moments in training this week. Our players are better than this, they know they’re better than this and will want to prove that. The coaching team will demand a positive response from this during the next fixture, at home to Carmarthen Quins on Sunday December 16th, kicking off at 2.30pm.
Newport RFC have completed a tough run of away matches starting at Ebbw Vale and finishing in a car crash, figuratively speaking, at Church Bank. To win two of those games and gather eight points is respectable. Many sides still have to go to these grounds while we now wait for those four teams back at our place. It may have rained yesterday but the skies are blue today.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club.
Final Score Llandovery RFC 43 Newport RFC 10
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Elliot Frewen