Cardiff RFC v Newport RFC 14th January 2023 by John Evans
The rain had been incessant in southeast Wales for the entire week since the win against RGC up at Bedwas. Just when you thought it couldn’t possibly rain any more, still it came. It was enough to disrupt road and rail operations throughout the area. Thankfully, Cardiff RFC are equipped with a modern pitch that doesn’t succumb to such trivialities as rain, so the game was never in doubt.
When the Blue and Blacks visited us at Newport Stadium in September they played very well, occasionally superbly, but they visibly fell away as the game wore on and Newport managed to get a glove on them, being beaten as much by the clock as the opposition. They have handed out a few rugby lessons this season, including handing Carmarthen Quins a fearful battering, so any visit to this storied ground would need to see a team well-prepared and ready for all eventualities.
There was a late change to the Newport line-up as Elliot Frewen was preferred to start at 15, Matt Bancroft switching to the bench, the new recruit from Pontypridd still waiting to make his first start for the club.
Cardiff outside half Harrison James kicked off the game with George Young taking the catch and setting up the ruck for Dafydd Buckland to kick clear. The resulting lineout wasn’t straight, and Newport were playing with an advantage as Daf Buckland was clearly dragged into the ruck by a Cardiff arm. Matt O’Brien set off on a typically jinking run before being bluntly upended by flanker Alex Mann. The referee, Mr Mike English, took a minute to consult with his assistant before brandishing a yellow card at Mann for his clumsy challenge in just the third minute of the game.
Cardiff played smart rugby with this disadvantage, they kept the ball well and drew a penalty out of Newport, booting the ball long to the corner, pinning the Black and Ambers into their own 22. Cardiff hooker Alun Rees surged forward while centre Arron Pinches took contact but was penalised for no release in the tackle. Newport couldn’t clear their lines effectively, the gusting wind off the Taff evidently being stronger than could be judged from the stand.
Cardiff were trying to play the wind, sometimes more effectively than others, a kick by centre Ryan Wilkins was well-judged, allowing wing Joe Goodchild to challenge for possession, but the ball rolled menacingly into touch just metres from the Newport line. Worse followed as Ryan Woodman was burgled in mid-air and Cardiff set about attacking Newport. Unfortunately, Woodman took a knock whilst defending, Mr English stopping the game to allow him to receive treatment. Ryan walked off unaided but would take no further part in the game, Alex Grey coming off the bench to deputise in the second row. The game restarted with an attacking scrum 5 to the hosts, but the Newport front row were equal to it, eventually winning a penalty of their own when Cardiff prop Marc Thomas was judged to not be driving straight.
Newport finally managed a meaningful attack on 26 minutes when a player was held in the tackle. Matt O’Brien kicked to just outside the 22, Harri Ackerman slicing through the defence. The ball went wide but was lost due to a double movement. However, Cardiff demonstrated their potency with an excellent try on 28 minutes. The ball was kept alive excellently, forwards and backs offloading in the contact. Joe Goodchild did well to motor down his wing as Newport streamed back in defence. The ball went wide quickly, not allowing the Black and Ambers any chance to reset, allowing wing Dewi Cross the opportunity to evade Lloyd Lewis’ tackle and sprint in for a well-worked try. Harrison James added the two-pointer to make it Cardiff 7 Newport 0.
Cardiff kept the ball well, edging their way upfield and drawing the occasional penalty. They used the wind to their advantage again on 33 minutes when Harrison James felt that he was within range for a kick at goal. He struck it well and the ball effortlessly sailed between the uprights, making the score Cardiff 10 Newport 0.
Newport had another rare attack on 35 minutes when Harri Ackerman popped the ball out to Lloyd Lewis, but he had little option other than try to kick-and-chase. The ball rolled into touch, but a kick from the lineout went directly out of play keeping Newport in contention. Chay Foster-Smith had a lot of work to do in midfield but got the ball away to Oli Andrew, but the winger was isolated and jackaled by Cardiff second-row Rhys Anstey.
Newport had a lot of defending to do and Elliot Ferriman was outstanding in leading the effort. A superb steal by the big man would have relieved the pressure instantly, but in the rush to support him, Newport players flew into the ruck off their feet and ended up conceding a penalty. Harrison James gestured at the sticks, but his kick flew wide, leaving the score at 10-0.
There was a feeling at halftime amongst the Black and Amber supporters that the score line could have been a lot worse than that; some heroic defending by our lot, and some wayward kicking by Cardiff had kept Newport in the game. An early score for Newport in the second half and who knows what might happen…
Half Time Cardiff RFC 10 Newport RFC 0
Matt O’Brien restarted the game with powerful Cardiff number 8 Morgan Allen launching into the onrushing defence. Newport had a renewed vigour about them as they returned the kick. Harri Ackerman blasted through a gap in defence before George Young and Henry Palmer set about smashing into Cardiff bodies. Rhys Jenkins trucked the ball up like a malevolent freight train before Matt O’Brien found himself being forced back after trying to cross. It was left to Alex Grey to pick up and dive over and open Newport’s account on 42 minutes. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Cardiff 10 Newport 7.
Here we go, then.
Dewi Cross, the Cardiff wing, set off on a mesmerising run on 45 minutes, skating around two-thirds of the Black and Amber jerseys before being unceremoniously flattened by Dafydd Buckland. Cross managed to get the ball away, but the resulting play saw possession come back to Newport and then gain a penalty as Cardiff prop Scott Andrews was guilty on hanging on in the tackle. The lineout wasn’t straight, but the Newport front row did well in drawing another penalty from Cardiff as the scrum folded. Matt O’Brien found the range to his liking and opted to level the scores at Cardiff 10 Newport 10 on 50 minutes.
Cardiff flanker Nathan Hudd flew into a ruck from the side on 55 minutes, conceding an obvious penalty. Matt O’Brien booted Newport up to the Cardiff 22 before executing a fantastically strong rolling maul which ate into Cardiff territory. Daf Buckland released the ball allowing George Young to hit forward again as Matt O’Brien sat back and pulled the strings, pulling play right, then left, before Lloyd Lewis joined the attack off his wing, splitting the Cardiff defensive line in two and crossing for a well-earned try. The conversion went wide, so the scoreboard now read Cardiff 10 Newport 15 on 56 minutes.
Matt O’Brien had an opportunity to extend the lead on 62 minutes after another successful effort by the Newport front row, as the Cardiff scrum folded again, but the kick, from some 37 metres out, went harmlessly across the face of the posts.
Cardiff had become loose, somehow, and an unguarded ball at the base of a ruck was an open invitation to Matt O’Brien to pounce and claim it. Dafydd Buckland’s clearing kick was absolutely perfect, bouncing just infield, outside the Cardiff 22, switching the attack back onto the Blue and Blacks. This is where it started getting a bit weird for Newport, and demonstrates the effort that the squad put in. George Young went down and stayed still, physio Emily O’Driscoll being beside him in a flash to ensure the best possible care for the young man who had been playing terrifically well. With replacements Alex Grey and Josh Reid already on the field, it was left to the Ninja Warrior, Jonny Morris, to pack down on the openside flank, recalling a similar incident at this ground some years ago when Wes Cunliffe did much the same.
Newport conceded a 73rd minute penalty for being offside. Harrison James punted Cardiff deep into Newport territory and the Blue and Blacks set about their task, showing some of their first-half ability. As the situation became more critical, Rhys Jenkins was unable to resist slapping the ball out of scrum-half Ethan Lloyd’s hands. Mr English, frankly, had little option but to card Jenkins. So now, Newport had a seven-man pack, one of whom was a wing. There was an inevitability about this. Cardiff gained a scrum penalty of their own but, rather than exploit their advantage, Morgan Allen took a quick tap and charged at the Black and Ambers. The ball quickly spun out to Joe Peard who crashed over to score near the posts. Harrison James made no mistake with the conversion to make the score Cardiff 17 Newport 15 on 78 minutes. Maybe it wasn’t such a strange decision after all.
Into added time and Ben Roach had a lineout take knocked out of his hands, earning Newport an attacking scrum on the Cardiff 22. The ball spun wide as Newport went to work, going through the phases before Matt O’Brien made the call to go for a drop goal. The trigger was pulled, but the ball sailed agonisingly wide, causing a groan of consternation from the sizeable travelling support.
Amazingly, there was still time to play, and a desperate Newport attack found itself struggling to break an organised Cardiff defence. Newport pushed on, phase upon phase, as unbelievably, Matt O’Brien set himself up for another attempt at a drop goal. Showing Gareth Bale-like self-belief, O’Brien called to Luke Crane, on for Buckland, to give him the ball and this time, the ball tumbled beautifully, magnificently, between the posts as Mr English simultaneously lofted his arm to award the score, then signal for the end of the game. The Newport supporters erupted as chants of “Newport! Newport!” rang around the famous old ground while the squad sprinted to celebrate with their outside half.
Full Time: Cardiff RFC 17 Newport RFC 18
It was a fitting result to mark the end of Chris Jones’ spell with the club. Chris has done an amazing job with our players as Strength and Conditioning Coach. The fact that players like Ben Roach and Matt O’Brien were working as hard as they did, for as long as they did yesterday, bears testament to his work. We at Newport RFC thank him for his efforts over the years and wish him, and his family, the best of luck in their future endeavours.
Newport are next in action on Saturday January 21st, at Newport Stadium, when Llandovery RFC come to visit. The Drovers are doing alright in the league this year, currently sitting third with nine wins and two losses this season. Newport will have to play well, again, to get a result from this game. Please come and support the boys!
Following this, Newport are away at Bridgend on Saturday January 28th. Bridgend had a good home win against Pontypridd, so are clearly hitting some form. This will be an interesting test. Both games are Indigo Premiership fixtures.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Harri Ackerman
Final Score – Cardiff RFC 17 Newport RFC 18