SWA Photograph : Newport MOM Geraint O'Driscoll
Photos courtesy of Simon Latham :
Iwan Davies, SWA writes :
Newport extinguished Cross Keys’ faint Premiership play-off hopes with a thoroughly deserved victory in a passionate and exciting Gwent derby at Rodney Parade. The Black and Ambers were playing for pride with Keys having more to lose, but the hosts rose to the occasion and were by far the better side in a bruising encounter. It means they also emerge with the bragging rights for the season as well, with the old rivals playing each other four times during this campaign. Newport have won once in the Premiership, once in the British & Irish Cup, there was a draw in that same competition, while Keys won their home league match.
Before kick-off there was a minute’s silence in tribute to Newport centre Dan Robinson’s father Chris who recently passed away. It had promised to be a bad-tempered game and it lived up to the billing with fists flying from the off as both sides squared up to each other. January’s feisty 27-27 draw at Rodney Parade in the British & Irish Cup was replayed in the opening minutes as no quarter was asked for and none given. Keys opened the scoring when fly half Dorian Jones kicked a fine penalty from the halfway line after two minutes and doubled their lead after 17 mins by slotting over another. Newport were unlucky not to score when No 8t Ross Coombs was brought down just short of the visitors’ try line. The Black and Ambers looked to use Newport Gwent Dragons’ Samoa centre Andy Tuilagi as a battering ram. But their opening came thanks to a bit of magic from full back Geraint O’Driscoll who tore through the Keys defence from a counter attack. He off-loaded to replacement wing Owen Broad whose delicate chip was gathered by outside centre Dominic Franchi to score an excellent try near the posts, O’Driscoll converting. The evenly contested and entertaining first half ended with the hosts leading 7-6.
Jones could have put Keys back into the lead in the first two minutes after the interval, but his shot at goal went wide of the uprights, the second penalty he had missed. Newport lock Adam Frampton was having a fine game with some powerful bursts as the home side looked to maintain some rhythm. Keys hooker Gerwyn Price, fresh from his short-term professional contract with Glasgow Warriors, intercepted from deep and his kick ahead caused panic in the hosts’ defence. And it was the Pandy Park side who scored next when outside centre Leon Andrews powered over in the 53rd min, Jones converting to give his side a 13-7 lead. The hosts butchered a great chance when replacement scrum half James Leadbeater’s gorgeous break came to nothing as Newport failed to convert another gilt-edged opportunity. O’Driscoll kicked a fine 62nd min penalty to reduce Keys’ lead to just three points. That looked to be short-lived however when Jones lined up what looked certain to be his third penalty after a high tackle but the young fly half missed a relative sitter to the delight of the Rodney Parade faithful. There was disaster for ex-Black and Ambers player Ryan James in the 66th min when the Keys scrum half was yellow carded for an offence at the breakdown. O’Driscoll then put over his second penalty with 12 min to go, drawing the sides level at 13-13. A blistering break by O’Driscoll tore Keys apart with four minutes to go but another promising attack looked doomed to fail only for the script to go Newport’s way when the ball found replacement wing Elliot Frewen whose devastating finish gave his side a five-point cushion, O’Driscoll failing with the touchline conversion. The Black and Ambers looked to pile on the agony and were camped deep in the Keys half as they closed out the game.
Newport scorers: Tries – Dominic Franchi (30), Elliot Frewen (76), Conversion – G O’Driscoll (31), Penalties – O’Driscoll (62,68)
Cross Keys scorers: Try – Leon Andrews (53), Conversion – Dorian Jones (54), Penalties – Dorian Jones (2,17)
Argus star man: Geraint O’Driscoll