Chris Kirwan, SWA writes :
There had better be plenty of mirrors in the Rodney Parade changing-rooms because the two rugby teams that play there have been told to have a long, hard look at themselves. The day after the Dragons were drubbed 60-3 by Glasgow, Newport produced a limp performance to crash out of the Swalec Cup to Swansea. Thank goodness for the County.
The scoreline may suggest a keen, hard-fought contest but the Black and Ambers were shocking against a Whites side that has won just once in the Premiership this season. What makes Newport’s error-strewn display all the more galling is that they have never had a better chance of making it to the Milllennium Stadium. The Championship sides may have proved they are no mugs, but other than the imperious Pontypridd there is nothing to fear in the last eight. Given that Newport’s trophy cabinet hasn’t had any additions since 2004 head coach Sven Cronk was understandably livid.
“It’s just not good enough,” he said. “I thought it was a totally inept performance across the board. Our set piece didn’t function, we couldn’t string passes together, we didn’t make tackles and missed 18 points of kicks. You can’t win a cup match like that.”
The Black and Ambers were incredibly loose and their ball retention was woeful. They possessed some dangerous runners but played too wide, too soon and were hindered by the lack of a hard-running inside-centre. The scrum was under pressure throughout, the lineout creaked with more throws lost than won and there was a general lack of oomph up front; they certainly didn’t possess a hard carrier like Swansea’s Dan Baker. Newport were lucky to be just 11-6 down at the break, the Whites crossing for the only try of the half when fly-half Cameron Clement darted over down the left. Visiting full-back Nicky Thomas and home fly-half Tom Hancock both bagged a brace of penalties but the former was off target with eight points of kicks. That looked likely to cost Swansea the game, when after Clement and Hancock traded three-pointers, the Black and Ambers stirred into life in the final quarter. With visiting flanker James McKenna in the sin bin, Newport levelled when former captain Andrew Brown barged over down the left just seconds after a stunning Jake Cole tap tackle denied Craig Attwell. But then it was the hosts’ turn to fluff their lines from the tee, replacement fly-half Scott Sneddon missing the conversion and then two more penalties. Newport bossed the last quarter but could not turn that pressure into points, the hosts too frantic when cool heads would have won the tie. Extra time looked likely but Clement made them pay in the 80th min when he coolly bisected the points with a match-winning penalty.
Saturday afternoon was a time for getting the job done and getting in the velvet bag for the quarter-finals draw, regardless of how poor the performance was. But once again Newport are left to look on while others, many with smaller budgets, close in on a Millennium Stadium final.
Images courtesy of Ron Sutcliffe and Simon Latham :