Cardiff RFC vs Newport RFC 31st October 2015
The gathering of Black and Amber supporters on Newport station travelling to Cardiff for this Principality Premiership fixture was notable for the fact that a run of good performances and, most importantly, wins, has put a smile back on the face of Newport Rugby. However, the atmosphere of hubris was ignored by those of us who have watched our club for so long! The early start was in order to complete the game and allow spectators to enjoy the World Cup final between New Zealand and Australia. The fixture was further slightly delayed, by ten minutes, when it became apparent that Cardiff RFC’s doctor was not present. This was sorted out and, at 1.40pm, we were underway.
The feature of Newport’s fast starts to matches was not apparent today, Cardiff making the early running. Outside half Arwel Robson did his best to unlock the defence early on with a nicely angled kick for winger Wes Cunliffe to chase but to no avail. The lack of precision in a lot of Newport moves was obvious and the amount of penalties conceded was starting to hurt, but, in reality, they gave referee Craig Evans little choice.
Both sides were beginning to settle and, after Mr Evans spoke with both captains, some good rugby was played. A lovely break by Ed Howley moved Newport up to the Cardiff 22, but Howley had difficulty locating support. Happily, Cardiff made it easy for Newport and infringed at the ruck allowing Newport to go for the corner. Dan Partridge was the go-to catcher in this position and, from the line out, a quick rolling maul was set up that allowed Sam Cross to pounce for the opening try on the 19th minute. Arwel Robson converted to make it 0-8 on 19 minutes.
Cardiff responded almost immediately, former Black and Amber centre Will Rees-Hole getting a try back for Cardiff. He took a simple miss pass that fooled the Newport defence and broke through. He was tackled just short by Owen Davies but, sadly, not short enough. Scrum half Chris Williams added the conversion to make it 8-8 on 22 minutes.
The sense of frustration on the field amongst the Newport pack was almost tangible on the terraces, the niggling imprecisions needed to be cut out, keep their calm and think clearly. This paid dividends almost immediately when Mr Evans awarded Newport a penalty on 55 metres but played to Newport’s advantage. The buccaneering Cross carried the ball fully 30 metres before being stopped in his tracks, but not before he had offloaded the ball into the hands of Arwel Robson. An arcing run followed by a dip of the right shoulder and Robson was free to score unopposed to make it 8-16 on 31 minutes.
The introduction to the Cardiff front row of Marc Breeze made a difference and they were now starting to gain parity upfront with Lavender, Palmer and Jeffries who had worked so hard in the set pieces. A home scrum 18 metres out was won and Cardiff attacked the corner. Newport’s scramble defence was outstanding, Blue and Black quartered shirts being stopped in their tracks. As Cardiff sensed they were getting nowhere they opted to spread the ball but not without telegraphing a pass which Arwel Robson intercepted and had the speed and ability to cover 95 metres of field without a hand being laid on him. After such exertions, nobody really blamed Robson for missing the conversion. The score now was 8-22 on 39 minutes.
Cardiff came again, with number 8 Ben Thomas bursting through but spilled the ball forward with the line at his mercy. At half time, the score remained Cardiff RFC 8 Newport RFC 22.
Cardiff head coach Simon King must have read his charges the riot act during the break as they came out a different side. The next 20 minutes will surely have Newport head coach Craig Warlow wondering exactly what happened. Almost from the restart, Will Rees-Hole claimed Cardiff’s second try by virtually strolling through the Newport backline. Rees-Hole was a thorn in Newport’s side all afternoon and played excellently. Indeed, nearly everything good about Cardiff’s play seemed to go through him. His score made it 14-22 on 41 minutes.
The Halloween nightmare continued, however, as Marc Breeze scored a try for Cardiff after patient phase play and slick interpassing between backs and forwards to make the score 20-22 on 42 minutes.
Newport were, metaphorically, still in the changing rooms. Rees-Hole was allowed far too much time and space, and seemed to wander almost at will through the Black and Amber backline and, on 52 minutes, he did just that to devastating effect as a simple pass to his fellow centre Luke Ford saw him score Cardiff’s bonus point try which kicker Williams converted to make it 28-22 to the hosts.
Newport were in trouble and hit the panic button on occasions, trying to force passes that were simply not on and getting into deeper trouble as a result. Cardiff were growing in confidence while Newport were beginning to look a little ragged, often being saved from Cardiff attacks by Mr Evans’ whistle. On one occasion, Man of the Match, Arwel Robson, delivered a penalty kick to the corner with laser-guided accuracy, giving Newport a lineout 5 metres out, but the good work was undone with an accidental offside. Such occurrences were damaging Newport’s prospects of getting anything out of the game at all.
Around the hour mark, Newport visibly calmed down and things started to work again. A beautifully delayed pass from Andrew King put Haydn Palmer into space. His pass to Sam Cross was promising but he couldn’t quite move the ball on and spilt it in contact.
More trouble was around the corner, however. Cardiff winger Ellis Wyn Benham turned stand-in winger Barney Nightingale inside out and got away from his man. He then had time to select his pass to Rees-Hole who put replacement scrum half Tom Slater away with a try scoring pass. Luke Ford converted to make it 36-22 to Cardiff.
It was time for Newport to act. A Black and Amber scrum 5 metres out saw the Cardiff front row drop to their collective knees. Sam Cross took a quick tap penalty, offloaded to the barrelling Wes Cunliffe who barged over in the corner to score Newport’s bonus point try and get themselves in losing bonus point territory. On 79 minutes the score was now 36-28.
Will Rees-Hole limped off for Cardiff and, suddenly, Newport found themselves with room to breathe. They began an assault on the Cardiff line looking for an equaliser but it simply wouldn’t happen. Sam Cross limped from the field too which led to the odd sight of winger Cunliffe playing out the game as a makeshift back row forward. Cardiff managed to hang on for the victory over their near neighbours at the end of a 51 minute second half.
There was much to mull over at the end of the game. Messrs Warlow, Morris and Evans no doubt will analyse this performance and ask some demanding questions of the players in training this week. Some Newport supporters, however, were left to ponder the old saying ‘Pride comes before a fall’ as they caught their trains back to Newport.
Final score Cardiff RFC 36 Newport RFC 28.
Man of the Match: Arwel Robson
Simon Latham's pictures of the action can be found here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskjUjTLm