P33 W21 D0 L12 : F979-A640
Premier Lge Record : P22 W14 D0 L8 F660 A388 (Tries 71)
Capt: Simon Raiwalui
Popular lock and Fijian captain Simon Raiwalui took over the captaincy from retired Gary Teichmann in 2001/2 and ex-Springbok coach Ian McIntosh took over the coaching role from Allan Lewis on a 1yr contract. Springbok scrum half Joost van der Westhuizen, arguably the best scrum half in the game, initially agreed a 1yr contract but then decided not to join Newport. New signings included Welsh prop Chris Anthony, Welsh lock and former Newport player Mike Voyle, former NZ / Samoa scrum half Ofisa Tonu’u and Ebbw Vale outside-half Jason Strange. Popular forward Gareth Taylor joined Pontypool during the season and other players to depart were Darren Edwards, Martyn Llewellyn, Scott Mitchell, Neil McKim, Paul Jones and long serving David Gray who retired but who would return some years later in a coaching role. Development player and Cape Town born Hal Luscombe (centre / wing) made his debut.
There was a disappointing start as Newport lost 3 of their first 5 matches – Cardiff (A), Munster (A) and Connacht (H). Despite these defeats Newport still qualified for the newly created Celtic League Q/F’s only to lose at Leinster in December. Newport then went to the Gnoll where they had not beaten Neath for 7 years. A superb debut by ex-NZ and Samoan scrum-half Ofisa Tonu’u ensured a rare Newport victory by 19-11 in the Welsh Scottish League. A win at Bridgend, also in the WSL set Newport up for their Heineken European Cup match at Newcastle, the holders of the English Cup. Despite 7 pg’s by England’s Jonny Wilkinson, Newport achieved a magnificent victory by 33-21. A narrow 21-20 win over French Champions Toulouse thanks to a last minute try and conversion by Shane Howarth meant that confidence was high for their next HC match at home to Leinster. 10,000 fans roared Newport on and at 21-20 seemed well in control before part of the floodlights failed. After much confusion with Leinster refusing to play on, both sides were taken off the field. The match was finally resumed after some 20 mins delay but the momentum was lost and Leinster got a second wind and ran out controversial winners 26-21 and so effectively ended Newport’s European Cup hopes. Newport’s hopes of retaining the Welsh Cup also ended in controversial fashion at Cardiff when Newport were the victims of some appalling refereeing and went down 14-20. This left the Welsh Scottish League which Newport appeared to have sewn up but they then lost 3 matches in a row – Neath (H), Swansea (A) and Cardiff (H). Wins at Glasgow and home to Pontypridd and Bridgend kept their slim hopes alive. It meant that Llanelli had to win at Cardiff to take the title from Newport. This match was watched by many Newport supporters who reluctantly willed Cardiff on. The match was tied 25-25 as the final whistle approached but Cardiff gave away a penalty in stoppage time and Llanelli took Cardiff’s ground record and the WSL title with a 28-25 win leaving Newport as runners-up for the second time in three years. It was a season of what might have been. Newport certainly had their share of bad luck but they lost matches that they should have won and too many times did not take the chances that their magnificent pack which included Rod Snow, Adrian Garvey, Chris Anthony, Simon Raiwalui, Mike Voyle, Peter Buxton and Jason Forster set up. However Newport had certainly returned to the top table of Welsh rugby and were attracting some of the biggest crowds in the UK averaging around 8,000 per gate.
Simon Raiwalui 31 again led the appearances with Peter Buxton also on 31 and Jamie Richards on 30. The leading points scorer was again Shane Howarth with 271 and wing Matt Mostyn again leading try scorer with 16.
Representative honours were :
Wales : Chris Anthony, Ian Gough, Andy Marinos.
Wales 7’s : Gareth Gravell, Emyr Lewis, Jason Forster, Andy Powell, Ben Breeze,
Wales A : Chris Anthony, Andy Powell, Andy Marinos, Matt J Watkins, Ian Gough, Ben Breeze, Jon Pritchard, Jason Forster, Mike Voyle, Alix Popham. In Dec 2001 Dale Burn and Gareth Gravell were added to the Wales A squad to make a total of 8 Newport players.
Wales U21: Hal Luscombe, Nathan Brew, Michael Hook, Ryan Jones, Andy Powell, Luke Charteris, Scott Williams.
Wales U19 : Ian George, Luke Charteris, Marc Popham, Richard Payne, D Tovey
Wales Youth U18 : Richard Dale, G west, Garry Horrigan, Scott Marasco. J Woods
Wales Schools U18 : R Richards, L Williams
Wales Schools U17 : Leigh Meads, L Washington, R Jarman, D Jenkins
Wales Students : Dai Pattison, Lyr Lane
England A : Peter Buxton
England U21 : Alex Cadwallader (joined Newport RFC July 2002)
Canada : Rod Snow
Fiji : Simon Raiwalui
Ireland : Matt Mostyn figured in Irish training squad.
Ian McIntosh left at the end of the season and said “I leave on sat May 25th 2002 and like Gary Teichmann before me, there will be part of me that will be forever Black & Amber. It has been an incredible experience for both my wife and I – something we shall never forget. The rugby atmosphere in Newport and that generated by the Black & Amber army at Rodney Parade is quite incredible….the supporters must be worth a whole front five!!”