Chris Kirwan, SWA writes :
NEWPORT produced a stirring display to send Scottish visitors Gael Force homeward to think again and make it one of the great Rodney Parade nights to remember. The Black and Ambers were underdogs heading into Friday night's British and Irish Cup match yet secured their four-try bonus point a minute into the second half and then dug deep to hang on when gasping for air.
It may not be up there with the famous wins over the All Blacks and Springboks but it was a victory that must surely be at the top of the pile when it comes to the regional rugby era. The Gael Force side boasted three internationals and were all full-timers. Yet they couldn't match the desire and precision of the well-drilled Black and Ambers.
The British and Irish Cup has been a roaring success in terms of the rugby played at Rodney Parade and the only disappointing aspect has been the sparse crowds compared to those that come to watch Premiership rugby that is tame in comparison. One thing is for sure, the Newport squad have risen to the occasion and to a man have enhanced their reputations.
Conversely, it was a game used by Edinburgh and Glasgow to keep players ticking over for Magners League action. All very well, but 'ticking over' doesn't always lead to commitment in the face of an assault from a team that have played together since September.
There was undoubtedly class in the Gael Force ranks but such a side is never going to stir the passion and create a sense of will-to-win as a squad who play and train together week in, week out. The visitors always looked dangerous in broken play – especially sevens dynamo Colin Gregor – but were prone to errors. They were also starved of possession by a Newport side that held onto the ball and showed plenty of patience to go through the phases.
Newport were first out of the blocks with fly-half Dan Griffiths knocking over a penalty and then converting a try by full-back Gareth Wyatt, who pirouetted past would-be tacklers to make his way over on 16 mins.The Black and Ambers were stringing some nice stuff together. Centres Pat Leach and Adam Hughes were elusive with ball in hand while the support running of flanker Craig Hill, number eight Andrew Coombs and prop Dai Pattison was top notch.
It got even better for the hosts on 23 mins when blindside flanker Richard Dale barged over after opposite number Fraser McKenzie made a mess of gathering a kick over the top. And constant pressure against a well-marshalled Scottish defence, with penalties turned into lineouts and scrums, was rewarded when Dale somehow found space to go over from the base of a ruck down the left to make it 20-0 at the break.
The bonus point was in the bag in the opening exchanges of the second half when wing Ryan Owen finished off a flowing move in the first minute..
Griffiths converted and Newport could turn their attentions to trying to ensure they didn't copy the tactics of Martin Johnson's England to allow a sizeable lead to be whittled away.
A few nerves set in when McKenzie went over from Gael Force's first piece of sustained attacking play on 51 mins but the Scots were unable to inflict a first home defeat of the season on Newport.
Now Sven Cronk's team can dream of claiming another top scalp when they head to take on Leinster A in a crucial pool tie in Dublin next month. On this form the dream could become a reality.
Newport scorers: tries – G Wyatt, R Dale (2), R Owen; conversions – D Griffiths (2); penalties – D Griffiths.
Gael Force scorers: tries – F McKenzie
Referee: Luke Pearce (RFU).
Argus star man: Adam Hughes
Note: D Pattiison made 200th app, Andrew Brown 150th .