Newport RFC v RGC – 7th January 2023 by John Evans
It was hugely unfortunate, and deeply unsatisfactory, that Newport Stadium was declared unfit to host this Indigo Premiership game following the ingress of torrential rainwater into the building’s electrics and fire alarm system. The damage was such that repairs were unable to be completed by Saturday afternoon. The committee worked hard in trying to find a suitable replacement venue at short notice. Sadly, our spiritual home of Rodney Parade was unavailable, so it was with much gratitude that the club accepted the generous offer from our friends at Bedwas RFC for the use of their Bridge Field ground.
The early morning torrential rain around Newport had eased off by mid-morning. Thankfully, Bedwas have invested heavily in their pitch, spending thousands of pounds on additional drainage so, even with the amount of rain dumped on south Wales recently, the ground still looked good, if a little sticky in places. However, half an hour before kick-off, the rain revisited, just to make sure that everything, and everyone, became nice and wet and slippery.
Matt O’Brien kicked off, with Newport attacking the clubhouse end at the Bridge Field. The long kick was spilled backwards by RGC no.8 Ben Moa, ostensibly a member of the Newport RFC squad who has been placed at RGC by his parent team, Dragons RFC, and RGC could clear the ball to touch. Newport threatened to break the line as Matt O’Brien put Elliot Frewen into space, but Frewen’s pop-pass out to Oli Andrew was picked off by defending wing Rhys Tudor, and RGC could reset and clear.
Newport strayed offside on 5 minutes, when an attempt by Elliot Frewen to keep the ball in play, saw the ball roll back infield and a Newport player react and gather from an offside position. RGC outside half Sam Rogers opted to kick for goal, but his attempt flew left of the posts from some 40 metres out.
Ten minutes in and the ball was already like a bar of soap. Truthfully, it was probably going to be a lottery from hereon in! Whichever team could control the ball for the longest, and with most accuracy in these conditions, would win, simple as that. The aerial game was an obvious ploy, as both sides launched the ball up into the battleship grey sky, hoping that their opposite number would spill it. It’s credit to both teams that the ball was controlled well, and few catches were spilled all afternoon. It fell to RGC wing Harri Evans to make the least-good clearance as he screwed his kick into touch on the RGC 22-metre line. Newport launched an attack, centre Harry Ackerman bustling through midfield to set the Black and Ambers up. Newport maintained possession but RGC shipped a penalty allowing Matt O’Brien the opportunity to slot a kick at goal, making the score Newport 3 RGC 0 on 17 minutes.
Newport sought to capitalise as they were beginning to dominate the possession and territory stats. A fabulous turnover gave Newport a scrum in a promising position, but the pass out to Harry Ackerman was poor, at about calf muscle height, and the chance was lost.
RGC gained parity around the half hour as they made inroads of their own. Ben Moa skipped through a would-be tackler and made for the try line. The Gogs went through the phases before flanker Ethan Fackrell had a sprint for the line, but the wet ball slipped from his grasp in contact and Newport could clear, but only as far as captain and fullback Afon Bagshaw who kept the pressure on the Black and Ambers. Unfortunately, Newport weren’t quick enough at rolling away from the tackle, so another penalty was conceded. RGC pumped it to the corner, but it was Ryan Woodman who came up with the ball for Newport. The Black and Ambers were trying to clear the ball, but the kick was charged down. Ethan Fackrell sprinted to touch it down as the ball bobbled around the try line. Unfortunately, Matt O’Brien tugged at Fackrell’s shirt as he passed him, a move which prompted the referee, Mr Simon Mills, little option but to brandish a yellow card at our captain and award our visitors a penalty try. No conversion necessary, that made the score Newport 3 RGC 7 on 34 minutes.
RGC were gaining the upper hand, but the conditions were so poor that supporters were forced to pull their hoods up tight to their heads and peer through the sheeting rain at thirty brown, muddy shirts and a haze of steam as yet another scrum set. The Gogs were probing and poking the Newport defence, but the Black and Amber wall stood firm as the clock ran down to the half time break.
Half Time Newport RFC 3 RGC 7
“Then your light will break out like the dawn, your recovery will speedily spring forth” Isaiah 58:8
Sam Rogers restarted the game as the rain stopped and the wind dropped. Newport flanker George Young carried the ball back strongly at the black-shirted RGC. Daf Buckland box-kicked forward for wing Lloyd Lewis to challenge, retain possession, but was let down when one of the cavalry went off their feet at the ruck. RGC attacked from the ensuing line out, hooker Rhodri King peeling around the tail and punching up the middle. Sadly, Newport were offside again, so RGC opted for the easy three-pointer, Sam Rogers making no mistake and extending their lead. The score now was Newport 3 RGC 10 with 43 minutes played.
Newport hit back instantly as RGC were pinged offside themselves. Matt O’Brien punted Newport to the corner, Elliot Ferriman, one half of an all-Caldicot second row, secured possession and set up a juggernaut of a rolling maul that only ended when prop Luke Yendle and dotted down the ball for a try. The conversion was missed, so the score now was Newport 8 RGC 10 with 45 minutes played.
The Black and Ambers were digging in. Lloyd Lewis was a willing workhorse on the wing, chasing lost causes and making them into chances. He challenged for a ball in mid-air but was clumsily knocked to the ground by his opposite wing, Harri Evans. After a brief conversation with has assistant, Mr Mills reached for his yellow card and invited the RGC wingman to have a breather. Matt O’Brien placed Newport into the corner again, Ryan Woodman gained the lineout ball, and it was flanker Rhys Jenkins who came up trumps with the try as the rolling maul proved lethally effective once more. The conversion was missed, so the score now was Newport 13 RGC 10 on 48 minutes.
The Newport pack were putting in quite a shift, the ball rarely venturing further than outside-half before being pumped forward. Ironically, supporters were now reaching for their dark glasses as the almost biblical sun rays streamed into their faces, making watching Newport quite a different challenge to normal.
Matt O’Brien used his deep knowledge of rugby’s laws by sliding to catch a ball on his back, inviting an RGC player to swamp him before imploring Mr Mills that a penalty was due to him, which, of course, it was. O’Brien punted Newport to the corner again, Ryan Woodman, a constant stream of lineout possession, both from Newport and RGC throw-ins, claimed the ball as the rolling maul set again. This time, RGC prop Jessie Williams was found guilty of hauling the maul down. He had his brief chat with Mr Mills before taking a seat and Newport were awarded a penalty try of their own. Again, no conversion necessary, the score now was Newport 20 RGC 10 on 72 minutes.
With time ebbing away Newport continued to work hard to keep possession, but the energy-sapping conditions were evident in some legs as kicks became shorter and slower. One was charged down making replacement wing Jonny Morris turn, then slip as he tried to gather a loose ball. He was swallowed up himself before a penalty was forthcoming to RGC. With only minutes left, RGC made the odd decision, in my opinion, of turning down a very kickable penalty, probably ensuring themselves a losing bonus point, and opted to scrummage instead, a facet of the game that they hadn’t especially dominated all afternoon. Quite predictably the ball became stuck in the mud and Newport were able to clear.
Play continued to rumble around the middle third of the field, both sides seemingly happy to go for a hot shower and put some dry clothes on. Mr Mills offered RGC a final attempt at securing something from the game when Newport were penalised for collapsing a maul. RGC drove at the line but were easily shepherded into touch before the final whistle sounded.
Full Time: Newport RFC 20 RGC 10
Newport RFC are next in action on Saturday 14th January when we travel down the A48 to face our old friends/foe at Cardiff RFC. Our next home game is the week after, on Saturday January 21st, when Llandovery RFC visit us at Newport Stadium, electricians and rainstorms allowing. These are both Indigo Premiership fixtures and two wins would prove very handy in the hunt for honours this season.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Rhys Jenkins (but a mention in dispatches for the other 12 forwards used)
Final Score – Newport RFC 20 RGC 10