Newport MOM : Adam Frampton.
Photos courtesy of Ron Sutcliffe and Simon Latham :
Newport made a little piece of history during this run-of-the-mill victory over Neath at Rodney Parade, writes Tony Poole. In waving goodbye to a six-match league sequence without a win, the Black and Ambers completed a first double over the Blacks during the semi-professional era. And it was only the second occasion for them to achieve the feat since the old Heineken League was launched back in 1990. The other red-letter campaign was in 1994/95 – under coaches Paul Evans and Steve Jones with No 8 Richard Goodey captain – winning 27-9 at home and 25-23 at The Gnoll.
Ironically, the last time Newport won on the league circuit this term was at The Gnoll on November 17 via a 19-9 success. But the rematch was anything but a classic, as both sides seemed to struggle with an unaccustomed noon kick-off. The few diehard fans who turned up – in the hope of sampling a Six Nations appetiser – were provided with mundane fare. Though Newport had drawn with Cardiff and Llandovery since the win at Neath, this was a psychologically important victory.
“After surrendering a 17-point lead against Bridgend in our last game, it was win at all cost against Neath,” said Newport head coach Sven Cronk. “This time the boys kept on playing to the final whistle, but we must now look to open things up a bit more. But an overdue league win got a monkey off our back, and we will continue to build during our last five league matches.’’ Next up for Newport is a home showdown on Thurs-day with Aberavon – and once again they will be bidding for a double.
On day one of the season they edged out the Wizards, 23-20, at the Talbot Athletic Ground to get their campaign off to a flier. Newport leaned heavily on defence during the opening half against the Blacks – and with it went the spoils. It enabled them to go in with a slender 7-6 advantage after Neath had bossed possession and with it territory. After Kiwi fly-half Dean Cummins sent Neath six points clear – striking penalties in the ninth and 17th minutes – Newport began to adjust to the early curtain call. But full-back Geraint O’Driscoll was guilty of a penalty miss that fortunately didn’t come back to haunt him. In the 24th min a sweeping handling move produced acres of space for wing Owen Broad close to the Neath 10-metre line. A dink caught the defence on the turn, and flier Broad pouched a bouncing ball to claim a try close to the flag. O’Driscoll atoned for the penalty blunder in landing a superb touchline conversion, giving Newport a lead they never surrendered.
Into the second half, and with the error count continuing to spiral, Newport prop Dai Pattison received a 43rd-min yellow card. The remainder of the scoring was, however, limited to O’Driscoll and Cummins twice trading penalties. But during stoppage time the Blacks had two chances to put the points to bed only for Cummins to send both touchline penalties across the face of the uprights. Newport built victory around solid virtues with their set-piece play – especially the lineout – proving productive. Former Bedwas man Brendan Lampitt – who figured once for Neath last term – did a lot of unglamorous tidying up. And the introduction of Dragons flanker Darren Waters at the start of the second half provided them with impetus to complement the energy of lock Adam Frampton. However, Newport will have to sharpen up their act if they are to build on this victory at the expense of improving Aberavon.