Bridgend RFC v Newport RFC 28th January 2023 by John Evans
After the disappointment of losing the home Indigo Premiership fixture against Llandovery RFC last weekend, due to an unplayable deep-frozen pitch at Newport Stadium, it was with some relief that Jack Frost had loosened his grip on the weather enabling this game to go ahead. Quite how many more postponements of Newport RFC games our fixture secretary, Mike Frost (no relation), can cope with is open to speculation.
Bridgend outside half Paul Short kicked off, spiralling the ball towards a slate grey sky. Newport formed up the ruck allowing Dafydd Buckland plenty of time to plant the ball into touch. Bridgend made steady progress on their right, but an intercept by Lloyd Lewis, that would have had the winger sprinting to the try line from halfway, was called back for offside. Bridgend spoiled their opportunity to build as second row Ben Thomas was penalised for jumping across the line. Newport worked their way out of defence, but a loose kick to Bridgend fullback Edd Howley, well-known as being handy with the boot, pinned Newport back into the corner. The Black and Ambers began the slog of working out of defence again but were penalised for not rolling away in a tackle. Paul Short slotted the three-pointer for the hosts making the score Bridgend 3 Newport 0 with 5 minutes played.
An unfortunate leg injury to Jonny Morris saw the Ninja Warrior replaced on 8 minutes, giving us the opportunity to cast an eye over young wing Walker Price. Newport retained possession as Craig Hudd took the first contact and set up allowing them to launch the attacking phases. Lloyd Lewis sniffed the line but was downed before he reached it. The ball worked backwards before Matt Bancroft was upended and lost possession, Bridgend hooker Gareth Harvey, playing his 100th game for the Ravens today, spirited the ball away, allowing them to clear their lines.
Newport had a shot at goal themselves on 11 minutes, but Matt O’Brien’s penalty shot drifted right of the posts.
Bridgend were working hard for the ball, pressurising the Black and Amber defensive wall. The Ravens slung the ball across the line and, had the last pass out to wing Mike Powell not been looping and laboured, he may have been away. As it was it gave Chay Foster-Smith the enough time to bundle him into touch.
Bridgend scored the game’s first try on 15 minutes. Newport had strayed offside allowing the hosts to punt themselves into the corner. Bridgend set up a rolling maul, following the line out, which rocked and rolled, before Gareth Harvey burst right, fashioned a pop pass out to scrum-half Chris Williams who dived over in the corner. Paul Short added the extras to make the score Bridgend 10 Newport 0.
Newport responded on 19 minutes with a try from Elliot Frewen. Elliot Ferriman took a line out ball on the Bridgend 22 metre line, but the Ravens were aggressive in defence, pushing Newport backwards, initially. Craig Hudd and Henry Palmer made inroads going forward but beautiful handling by Chay Foster-Smith put the rampaging Craig Hudd near the line. The ball appeared quickly allowing Frewen the time and space to ghost past the defence and score the try. The conversion was missed, so the score now was Bridgend 10 Newport 5.
Bridgend extended their lead on 23 minutes through an Edd Howley try. From a scrum, the fullback entered the line at pace, evaded Lloyd Lewis’ tackle, angled himself back towards the posts and took advantage of Walker Price having over-committed himself in defence before crossing for the try. Paul Short improved the score making it Bridgend 17 Newport 5.
Newport looked out-of-sorts, somehow. The team that had rallied so hard against Cardiff were beginning to look heavy-footed and short on ideas. Bridgend were good value for their lead, but the Black and Ambers seemed to be unable to break their defence easily. Even when an opportunity presented itself, like on 29 minutes when Bridgend were penalised offside, Ben Roach took a lineout ball, Matt O’Brien slipped a pass to Chay Foster-Smith, but he couldn’t retain possession and Bridgend were off the hook again.
Pace seemed to be the key, speeding things up. Dafydd Buckland took a quick tap penalty and sprinted his way into the Bridgend 22. Josh Reid was on hand to support and bashed his way over the defence. It looked, from the stand at least, the Reid had scored, he was that close, but with the Bridgend defence still streaming back, the ball was zipped out to Lloyd Lewis to cross in the corner. The conversion was missed again, making the score Bridgend 17 Newport 10 on 33 minutes.
As halftime approached, Newport were penalised at the scrum for not pushing straight. Stupidly, the ball was thrown away leaving the referee, Mr Ben Whitehouse, the easy decision of marching the Black and Ambers back ten metres and turning a tricky kick into an eminently kickable one. Luckily, for Newport, Paul Short’s effort sailed right of the posts.
Newport had work to do. They now had ten minutes to get their collective heads around the problem and solve it.
Half Time Bridgend RFC 17 Newport RFC 10
Matt Bancroft restarted the game, but a heavy impact between him and Bridgend captain Zac O’Driscoll paused the game almost immediately as both players had their respective medical teams look at them to ensure their safety. Play resumed and Lloyd Lewis took a bouncing ball before setting off on an arcing run, however, he left himself an awful lot to do before being tackled and losing possession. Ben Roach was over-eager in defence as he tackled Paul Short before the ball had even reached him. Bridgend punted the penalty to the corner, but Newport were smart in the lineout and pickpocketed the ball.
Bridgend kept attacking, but a seemingly innocuous, perfectly legal tackle by Elliot Frewen was deemed otherwise by Mr Whitehouse, awarding the penalty which Paul Short took advantage off, making the score Bridgend 20 Newport 10 on 48 minutes.
Bridgend further extended their lead on 59 minutes with a try through Mike Powell. A set play had Edd Howley joining the line again. He cut through the Newport defence and the simple pass out to Powell had the winger blaze across the line. Luke Price added the conversion to make the score Bridgend 27 Newport 10, and the Black and Ambers could have no complaints at that.
It was time for Ty Morris to shake things up if Newport wanted to get anything at all out of this game. Luke Crane came on for Dafydd Buckland and Matt O’Brien took up his controlling 10 role and suddenly Newport were far more threatening. Bridgend would still prove vigorous in defence but the Black and Ambers were able to ask far more questions of them. Play became more direct as Crane popped a stream of balls up to runners and it was beginning to pay off. A superb punt to the corner by Matt O’Brien from a penalty put them in position. Elliot Ferriman eventually managed to secure the ball as the maul formed, but the Ravens were deemed to have pulled it down. A second penalty, same outcome, but this time a home defenders arm was seen to have knocked the ball out of Henry Palmer’s grasp. This prompted Mr Whitehouse to run under the crossbar and award a penalty try and show a yellow card to Aled Evans, the Bridgend reserve who hadn’t been on the field very long. This made the score Bridgend 27 Newport 17 on 71 minutes.
The relentless pace introduced by Luke Crane was providing dividends as Bridgend tired. A quick tap penalty by the replacement 9 caused panic in the Ravens ranks. Matt O’Brien carried the move on but was deemed to have been high tackled. No advantage came, so O’Brien tapped quickly again and lunged at the line. He was just short, but Alex Grey wasn’t, and he barged over for try number 4 for Newport, earning one bonus point. The score now was Bridgend 27 Newport 24 with 76 minutes gone.
Newport ratcheted up the pressure even further, seeking the ‘W’ that was within touching distance, even if they scarcely deserved it. Bridgend’s Iestyn Merriman reached a despairing hand out across a ruck, shipping the easiest penalty to spot ever. Matt O’Brien punted Newport to the corner, but their dependable lineout routines failed them just when they needed it most. There was so much movement in the lineout, as pods switched position, it’s no wonder things got confused. The ball bobbled loose as Bridgend gobbled up possession and hoofed the ball into touch to claim their third straight win and remain unbeaten in 2023.
Full Time: Bridgend RFC 27 Newport RFC 24
Newport RFC are next in action on Saturday February 11th when they make the road-trip to north Wales to meet up with RGC at their Parc Eirias stadium in Colwyn Bay, kicking off at the slightly earlier time of 2pm. We’re back at home, in Newport Stadium, on Saturday February 18th, when the Whites of Swansea RFC make their inaugural visit to the ground. Both fixtures are Indigo Premiership games. Please try and come along, especially to the Swansea game, and bring your loudest voices!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Ben Roach