Newport’s prize for reaching the top four in this season’s Indigo Premiership was another visit to the capital to face our friends from Cardiff.
Our previous trip to the big city a mere three weeks ago ended in disappointment with a late wonder try sealing victory for the Blue & Blacks in the Premiership Cup Final under the Principality Stadium roof.
The Black & Ambers were desperate to overcome that heartache and were buoyed by a fantastic run of nine consecutive League wins, culminating in last week’s stunning 52-33 win against Llandovery in front of the S4C cameras.
The team also had fond memories of their previous encounter at today’s venue after Matt O’Brien’s drop goal with the very-last kick of the game earned his side a famous 18-17 win and saw a swarm of ecstatic colleagues racing to congratulate him.
Form, however, goes out of the window when it comes to the play-offs. Cardiff’s final League points’ tally of 90 and Newport’s of 79 were erased from memory, and all that mattered were the 80 minutes on the day which would decide who shall face either Llandovery or Merthyr in next Sunday’s play-off final.
Both teams had early chances to get off the mark, with Harrison James and Matt Bancroft both failing to convert a penalty attempt for their sides. However, it was the home side who eventually prevailed.
Half an hour into the clash, Newport, arguably having had the better opportunities until then, conceded the first try of the game from a move which began in Cardiff’s own twenty-two. The hosts forced a knock-on which led to their centre, Ioan Evans, grabbing the loose ball and kicking forward. The ball was then met by Wales U20s’ full-back, Cameron Winnett, who kicked it further forward before picking up and crossing over.
The visitors had an opportunity to close the gap before the break with an attempt at goal, however Matt Bancroft’s disappointing effort capped off a miserable afternoon for him and his team. Sadly, it proved to be his final action of the match, with the winter signing from Pontypridd being replaced at half-time.
Cardiff made their rivals pay shortly before the whistle, as Dewi Cross broke through the Newport defence before feeding Winnett to race unchallenged along the right wing for his second score of the afternoon. Harrison James’ conversions for both his teammate’s tries gave the Blue & Blacks a healthy lead going into the interval.
HANNER AMSER: Cardiff 14-0 B&As
The half-time substitution gave the Black & Amber Wall a glimpse of Carwyn Penny, their new signing from the Cornish Pirates. The 24-year-old, born and bred in Newport, made instantly ignited his new side’s attack and will certainly be an exciting prospect at either 10 or 15 next season.
He was soon to bag his first points in B&A too. After a mammoth Cardiff kick up-field crossed the dead-ball line, a Newport scrum in their opposition twenty-two led to the ball being fed wide-left to Elliot Frewen for his 82nd try for the club. Penny’s conversion then halved the deficit and gave the visitors much-needed momentum.
The gap soon came close to being eradicated altogether when a Newport lineout in the Cardiff twenty-two saw as many as 13 Black & Ambers join the resulting maul to desperately get the ball over the line. The objective was accomplished however referee, Jason Beasant, ruled the ball to be held up.
With Newport having a few more chances to gain some valuable territory, it was Cardiff who bagged the next try and restored their 14-point lead. The away side somehow lost the ball at the breakdown (a common theme throughout the evening) and winger, Dewi Cross, was on hand to cross over under the sticks and provide Harrison James a conversion he could ill-afford to miss.
A brilliant, creative pass by Penny then gave Henry Palmer the freedom of the Arms Park and a chance to race towards the try line, before a tackle on him led to a Cardiff penalty in their twenty-two. Luke Yendle then came mightily close to a score in injury time.
After his teammate, Ryan Woodman, broke through the Blue & Black backline before passing to him, the young prop bulldozed his way over the try line phases later. Unfortunately, the referee, again, judged the ball to be held up.
The final whistle was blown soon after which brought the curtain down on the 2022-23 season for the Black & Ambers. Cardiff, the deserved winners, booked their place in the play-off final and will welcome Llandovery to the Arms Park next Sunday.
SGÔR TERFYNOL: Cardiff 21-7 B&As
Newport have a lot to be proud of this season. After losing their first four League matches of the season, the B&As bounced back emphatically with six wins in their next seven, culminating in a nine-game winning run to end the Premiership campaign and secure a place in the top four. Most would agree that would have seemed highly unlikely back in October!
Tyron Morris’ men also reached another Cup final and in a closely fought battle, it needed a moment of brilliance to determine the winner, with an acrobatic try from Cardiff’s Joe Goodchild that would deserve to win any Cup final.
There are plenty of positives to take from the last nine months and a lot of strong foundations will have been laid for the Black & Ambers to be a force once again next season, especially with Pontypool and either Bargoed or Neath providing extra tough opposition.
The club would like to thank everyone involved with the club this season for your fantastic support. Whether you’re a player, a staff member, a volunteer, a sponsor or a supporter, diolch o galon i chi i gyd.
We look forward to seeing you at the End of Season Dinner on Friday 2 June in the Event Space at Newport Market for what will certainly be another memorable evening!