61 years ago in Feb 1951 Newport RFC beat Cardiff RFC 8-3 at Cardiff Arms Park in front of a then record club crowd of 48,500. This was a match played before the formation of leagues and professional rugby in Wales and it was effectively a “friendly” match. In those days these two great clubs played each other 4 times in a season in matches considered by many to be almost international matches with often huge crowds in attendance.
If we fast forward 60 years and with leagues and Regional rugby in place in Wales we now have the sad spectacle of both Cardiff and Newport often struggling to put out a respectable team for matches to be watched by just over a 1000 spectators. Regional rugby has not been kind to these two great clubs and only recently we even had the regional side Cardiff Blues playing the famous Harlequins at Cardiff City Stadium in front of ca 1000 people.
Once again both sides were sorely depleted by regional calls and Wales age group calls but they did their best to entertain the crowd of just over 1000 people. There was even a mass brawl near the end just to show that the result did matter and it is interesting to see that Newport who have had a dire season to date probably produced their best performances when faced with those Blue & Black shirts !
One wonders what current Welsh internationals George North, Alex Cuthbert and Lloyd Williams who were in the crowd thought about the match. Were they really aware that not so long ago these great clubs played each other in arguably the most famous rugby club matches in the world of rugby in front of packed crowds. Perhaps Lloyd should speak to his father Brynmor (British Lions & Wales) who figured in some of the matches back in the 1970’s and played for both Cardiff and Newport.
Pictures courtesy of Ron Sutcliffe:Iwan Davies, SWA writes : Newport bounced back from their shock Swalec Cup defeat a fortnight ago with a superb victory over old rivals Cardiff in a highly charged derby. The Black and Ambers got that loss to Ebbw Vale out of their system, thoroughly deserving their emphatic victory. If questions were being raised by some critics about the players’ commitment they refuted those charges with a gutsy display full of devotion to the cause. This fixture may not have the magic of old since the inception of regional rugby, but winning this contest still means an awful lot to both clubs. Anyone doubting that should have witnessed the mass punch-up towards the end of the game. Cardiff were clearly rattled that Newport were on their way to recording the double over them this season and Blue and Blacks wing Matthew John vented his frustration with a sly punch at a ruck. Newport lock Dafydd Rosser reacted and all hell broke loose in a dust-up worthy of a Wild West saloon. Just about every player wanted to get his point of view across and the game was held up for a few minutes. In the end the main culprit, John, got his marching orders, sent off by referee Simon Rees, who then also brandished a red card at Rosser, who joined him.
It was a tough battle and trouble had bubbled towards the end of the first half when there were fisticuffs, although on a much smaller scale than the main event’s. It was also an enjoyable clash in front of a sizeable crowd – which included a group of Scotsmen in kilts down for the weekend’s Six Nations match with Wales – which saw Newport pull away in the second half after a fairly even first 40 minutes saw them lead 13-12 at the break. Newport’s first-half points came from an interception try from halfway by outside-half Ryan James and the excellent place kicking of full back Steve Taylor, who slotted over two long-range penalties and a conversion. Cardiff’s points all came from the boot of their fly-half, Scott Sneddon, who put over four penalties. Newport took the game by the scruff of the neck early in the second 40 and turned pressure into points with the ever-reliable Taylor kicking two more penalties. The full back suffered a nasty injury after 52 mins when he twisted his knee and had to be carried off the field, promising 17yr old Monmouth School student Hallam Amos replacing him. Newport had also lost scrum- half James Leadbeater at half-time after he suffered a hamstring strain and was replaced by young stand-off Niall Martin, James switching to No 9. And Martin assumed the kicking duties from Taylor, putting over another penalty on 59 mins to give Newport a 22-12 lead. But they nearly imploded when blindside flanker Sam Waldron was yellow-carded minutes later for taking out Cardiff’s Sion Hopkins off the ball. The visitors capitalised when centre Shaun Powell crashed over for a converted try after a neat pass by replacement Jake Henry put him in following a Sneddon cross kick. Newport looked to be in danger of losing a game they had dominated but wing Elliot Frewen scored a fine individual try almost immediately, rounding some despairing defenders. Martin’s conversion made it 29-19 to further settle the nerves with just over 10 mins to go. The brawl erupted soon after and Amos put the game completely out of reach with a late converted try that rounded off a fine move by the Newport backs. It put the seal on an excellent performance that pleased Black and Ambers head coach Sven Cronk.
“I thought our team spirit was there in abundance in a full- hearted performance,” he said. “I’d asked for a reaction (to the Ebbw Vale defeat) and our quality came through. I thought the pack were outstanding and we scored some nice tries after we rumbled up the park.”