On a mild winter evening in front of a small crowd of the ‘faithful few’ Newport took on Ebbw Vale in a Fosters Challenge cup fixture looking to do better than the 48-5 reverse they had suffered in the return fixture. Kicking off towards the school end the first few minutes saw a lot of kicking but not much structure to the game. Ebbw had the first real attack and made plenty of ground before losing the ball in contact. Wes Cunliffe ran hard out of defence and into the opposition half but the ball was lost and Ebbw kicked well into the corner for a line out. Newport claimed the throw and Matt O’Brien made the first of a large number of long clearances kicks this evening.
Newport’s first real scoring chance came when Wes Cunliffe again broke free and made ground. The ball was recycled and moved wide where Llywarch Ap Myrddin put in a well placed chip but Jon Morris was unable to claim the ball as he slid over the line. The first score wasn’t far away though as more good recycling saw Morris make good yards before Aeron Bidgood snipped over for a try that was well converted by Matt O’Brien for an 8-0 lead.
Ebbw Vale fell foul of the ref when their scrum half received a yellow card for hands in the ruck during some desperate defence. Newport could not capitalise though and it was Ebbw who had the better of things for a while with repeated attacks. Newport infringed twice in front of their posts with Ebbw choosing to take scrums but eventually surrendering possession when their front row stood up in a scrum.
The Newport back three were working well together snuffing out attacking kicks from the visitors and working as a team to clear the lines. Newport attacked again and again and were now taking control of territory but were not able to force a score. Several excellent chances went begging for the lack of a crucial accurate last pass or over hastiness in a ruck situation. Eventually, from a way out, Aeron Bidgood again made a sniping run to cover a lot of ground before the ball was moved wide to Ap Myrddin who ran in 50 metres for a superb score that was wonderfully converted by O’Brien. Newport came again through the ever resourceful Bidgood making another carving break before passing to Rhodri Jones. His try scoring pass was intercepted and another chance went begging.
The first half ended with Newport squandering another good opportunity but the coaches would have been happy with the amount of ball being claimed and territory being made. A 16 – 0 half time score was not a true reflection on the dominance Newport had achieved but was an indicator of both chances lost and Ebbw Vale’s tenacious defence.
The second half started much as the first had finished with Newport rushing and failing to take opportunities. A calmer approach was needed and soon delivered as a sweeping Newport midfield move saw O’Brien eventually chip the ball for Wes Cunliffe to gather and cross for a well deserved try against his former team. Another superb touchline conversion from O’Brien saw Newport 24 – 0 to the good after 48 minutes.
The coaches of both teams now made many changes to enable them to have a look at other players in a match situation. Ap Myrddin was again in the mix though running 60 metres but unable to find support. As the game wore on the back row of Jack Goodey, Kyle Taylor and replacement Matthew Williams had an increasing impact with Jack and Matt carrying well and Kyle everywhere in the loose and on the ground. Another forward surge saw the ball move through many sets of hands before second row Dan Mock cut an excellent inside line to cross the whitewash and score. ‘OB’ converted again. It was now the turn of Ebbw Vale to have a purple patch and they pressed hard for a score through several phases. Their best attacking chance was snuffed out when Alex Jeffries superbly stole the ball in a maul.
Julian Mogg had by now replaced Matt O’Brien at outside half and after a good Henry Palmer steal he streaked out of defence and covered half of the pitch in an arching run. Unfortunately the support could not be found and Ebbw turned the ball over. Paul King appeared as a substitute in the centre and made a lot of impact in the short time he was on the pitch with his enthusiasm to be involved. Carrying, tackling and working on the floor all to good effect.
As the game wore on and Newport were increasingly confident of victory they relaxed and played some excellent running rugby. Captain Adam Brown twice made yards and offloaded well. Jon Morris was the first beneficiary with an excellent try, converted by Mogg from wide out. The second run deserved the same result but the ball was kicked away when further handling seemed the more likely successful option. Newport were by now 40 – 0 to the good but Ebbw Vale were to have the last word when a loose pass from Mogg was intercepted in midfield and Ebbw ran in to score from halfway. The quickly taken conversion came back off the posts and although the game restarted there were no further scores.
Newport will be happy with the 40 – 6 bonus point win and will now turn their attention to another Fosters Cup match at Cross Keys next Tuesday.
Newport 40 – 6 Ebbw Vale
Newport Man of the Match: Aeron Bidgood.