promisingly with the wind and rain behind them and were in the lead after just
1 min with a Dan Griffiths penalty. Scrum-half Alex Walker and full-back Gareth
Wyatt both featured to give lock Alex Jones a run down the touchline for
an excellent try on 7 mins which Griffiths converted with a magnificent kick
from the touchline to give Newport a 10-0 lead. They immediately gave back 3
pts with an Arwel Thomas penalty but were certainly the better side and the Newport pack had the
Neath 8 in all sorts of trouble. Then came an incident which was to change the
whole match and cost Newport dear. Andrew
Brown finally fed up with being pulled back and obstructed and also the victim
of a punch himself, threw a hay maker at centre Steve Thomas who went
down pole-axed. He then got up after Brown had received his red card on 24
mins. Neath No 6 Lee Evans was then yellow carded after another minor dust-up
on 26 mins. Full credit to Newport who battled
on with wing David James going close. Dan Griffiths kicked his 2nd
penalty on 35 mins and referee Nigel Owens blew for HT on 41 mins.
With the wind and rain now getting
up even more Newport had it all
to do in the 2nd half. They defended magnificently and the Newport 7 battled to
the end but it would finally prove to be too much of a handicap playing with
only 1 flanker with hooker Mike Leaman having replaced Paul Williams. On 45
mins flanker Lee Evans got a try for Neath which was converted by Arwel Thomas.
Neath pressed and pressed and only magnificent defence with captain Andrew
Coombs and lone flanker Sam Waldron outstanding. No 10 Arwel Thomas landed
another penalty on 59 mins having missed one on 51 mins. But it wasn’t until
the 77th min that Neath finally took the lead with a penalty by Thomas.
Straight from the restart Newport were given a
chance only for Griffiths to push a 40
yd penalty right against the wind and rain. To their credit Newport did not
close the game down and settle for a losing bonus point but it was to be their
undoing as wing Kevin James raced 30 yds down the touchline to score on the
80+4th min for a flattering 21-13 win.
‘It was tough on the 14 men to
surrender a losing bonus point at the end,’ said Newport head coach
Sven Cronk. ‘To keep a good side like Neath at bay until the 77th minute
speaks volumes for a defence that at times was heroic. But we lacked control
with poor kicking, often resulting in us coming under mounting pressure. It’s
always the side that makes the least errors that wins matches and on the
day it wasn’t Newport.’’
Neath: G King; K James, S Thomas (A
Jenkins HT), W Mitchell, K Phillips; A Thomas, K Farrell; N Downs, G Price, J Reeves (E
Lewis 64), N Edwards, E Evans, L Evans (P Sidoli 72), G Gravell, J Bowd.
Scorers: Tries L Evans, K James
and A Thomas 1c, 3p.
Newport: G Wyatt; R Owen, M J
Watkins (N Williams 80+2), R Payne, D James; D Griffiths, A Walker; D Pattison
(I Evans 72), A Brown, G Robinson, A Jones, D Rosser (M Workman 72), S Waldron
(R Dale 77), P Williams (M Leaman 27), A Coombs (capt).. Reps not used : A
Awcock, A Quick.
Scorers: Try: A Jones and D
Griffiths 1 c, 2p.
Cards: A Brown (Newport) Red 24, L
Evans (Neath) Yellow 26.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Pontyberem).