Andrew Brown led out the Newport team at Dubarry Park in front of a disappointing crowd. Connacht were looking very good team with a back row full of running and presenting problems for the Newport midfield. There was good off-loading with lots of support runners. Surprisingly they blew a couple of chances - probably through over-confidence - including one where they had a 4 on 1 overlap Newport had to make a made a couple of last-ditch tackles near their line to keep the home side out. Fortunately for the B&A’s their scrum was going well and they had the edge. Wing Stephen Macauley ran in on 13 mins but the conversion was missed. Big 2nd row Dafydd Rosser went off injured on just 14 mins to be replaced by 19yr old James Sullivan. Eagles full-back scored on 16 mins for Jack Carty to convert and Newport were down 12-0. On 21 mins they were down 15-0 after Carty slotted a penalty. Newport at last got on the scoreboard with a penalty from Geraint O’Driscoll on 26 mins but on 36 mins they went further behind when No 7 Mata Fifita scored for Carty to convert. Newport went in at HT 22-3 down and it really looked like a damage limitation task in the 2nd half.
Newport coaches then threw caution to the wind and changed the whole front row for the 2nd half and on came Jamie Jeune, Dale Rogers and Alex Jeffries who was celebrating his 18th birthday and hence old enough – just ! – to play at prop in B&IC competition. He so sets a record which can never be beaten – only equalled. If these changes were not enough Newport moved O’Driscoll to full-back with Leadbeater switching to scrum half in place of Quick and Tom Hancock coming on at No10
We have all heard of a game of two halves – well this was just that. The HT substitutions were a revelation, with the young Newport front row putting themselves about all over the park. Tom Hancock at 10 was inspired and played his best 40 mins since joining Newport. The visitors were now knocking Connacht back with No 13 Dan Robinson giving some shuddering hand-offs and making bit hits. The back-row was also putting pressure on Connacht and they started to look a different side. 2nd row Rhodri Jones covered like a back-row and the team was now playing aggressive high-tempo rugby. Robinson started the Newport come back with a try on 48mins and after Will Richards replaced Dominic Franchi, Geraint O’Driscoll scored on 57 mins and he converted both tries for a score of 22-17. The visitors were now believing that they could cause a sensation and win the match and when wing Owen Broad scored and O’Driscoll converted on 67 mins for a score of 22-24 it looked like this was possible but more drama was to follow. On 70 mins Carty was successful with a penalty to make the score 25-24 to home side. On 79 mins full-back O’Driscoll who had not missed a kick all afternoon stepped up to take a penalty from wide out on the right but to the delight of the visitors he put it right through the posts posts and take him to 102pts for the season. He has proved an admirable place kicking deputy for the injured Scott Sneddon. After that the ball was up the Newport jumpers and they held out for a sensational win after a truly amazing turn around in the 2nd half.
This fixture was fulfilled to maintain the integrity of the tournament - a game postponed from January after heavy snow prevented Newport getting to Athlone - and it sustained Newport’s proud record in the British & Irish Cup competition, adding to famous wins over Leinster, Exeter and Cornish Pirates. The win also sees Newport finishing as runners up to runaway and unbeaten English Championship side Newcastle Falcons who will face Leinster in the final after their narrow win over Bedford on the weekend. Cross Keys finish 3rd while the Eagles now go bottom.
What a send-off for popular Black and Ambers hooker Andrew Brown on his 250th and final game for the B&A’s..Newport MOM : Dan Robinson