A much-changed Newport team took the field at Pandy Park for this Foster’s Challenge Cup fixture. It gave the coaching team a chance to run the rule over a few ‘prospects’ from local clubs plus let some of the squad get some game-time in the Black and Amber shirt.
Cross Keys outside half James Thomas kicked off on this mild, but damp, evening, kicking toward the railway line. His team-mates started purposefully but both teams seemed a little light on accuracy. Indeed, the game was mainly played in the middle third of the field for the first quarter. Dan Mock showed some great strength in the mauls and Chay Smith in the centre did his best to inject some direct and uncompromising running into Newport’s attack. But the game was somewhat blighted by the regular resetting of scrums, as each scrum seemed to hit the deck. The referee, Mr Elgan Williams, quickly tired of this and gave the captains and, on another occasion, the front rows, a talking to.
It took until the twentieth minute before the scoreboard operator needed to be bothered. A Newport attack, which seemed to be fairly innocuous, turned into three points to the visitors when Matt O’Brien was tackled off the ball. He stepped up and slotted the penalty from thirty metres. Cross Keys 0 Newport 3.
A secure-looking Keys scrum turned into Newport possession when the ball squirted out of the side of the scrum. Lightning-quick reactions from flanker Kyle Tayler, a strong candidate for Newport RFC Man of the Match, ensured it came back Newport’s way. Again, an attack about thirty metres out became three points when Matt O’Brien was the target again, this time shoulder charged without the ball. Another successful penalty for the Newport outside half made it Cross Keys 0 Newport 6 on 27 minutes.
Mr Williams soon reached to his pocket for the yellow card when yet another scrum collapsed. Newport prop Matt Prosser and Cross Keys’ Gary Carpenter were invited to leave the field and consider their actions.
Keys followed up with a well-worked try on 33 minutes. Plenty of ‘typical’ Keys carrying, bumping up the park and softening up the defence was rewarded when Newport were over-stretched on the right allowing wing Mathew Powell to cross. The conversion was missed, so the score now was Cross Key 5 Newport 6.
A spell of decent Newport pressure began soon after, Haydn Palmer making a telling half-break before Kyle Tayler and Dan Mock carried the ball up to the Keys 22 metre line. As the ruck formed scrum-half Aeron Bidgood spotted the gap in the black and white defence and took his opportunity well, running in under the posts unchallenged. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to put Newport into 13 points to 5 lead on 37 minutes.
The lead was fragile, however, as Keys sucker punched Newport with two quick tries. The first, on 39 minutes, came after a defensive howler by the Black and Ambers gave Keys a penalty which James Thomas kicked to the corner. From there, it was a simple ‘front jumper’ at the line out, set up the maul and rumble around the weakly defended corner resulting in a try for Keys’ lock Danny Hodge, a reward for some impressive running and carrying that he had undertaken in the first half. That try was converted by scrum-half Ross Pritchard making it Cross Keys 12 Newport 13.
Keys kept the pressure on as Newport started to fall off tackles a little. The home side kept the ball well and stretched Newport before some good hands saw the ball reach wing Nathan Trowbridge on the left. He scampered around the defence to score his side’s third try which Pritchard again converted, making the score 19-13 to Cross Keys at half time.
Halftime – Cross Keys RFC 19 Newport RFC 13
Cross Keys’ physicality seemed to go up a gear at the start of the second half, as they started strongly. Mathew Powell went very close to a score in the corner, twisting and turning as he went, but was held up. The ball went left towards the posts and it was flanker Max George, son of Newport RFC Hall of Fame legend Glenn, to score Keys’ bonus point try on 45 minutes. Ross Pritchard again slotted the conversion to make it 26-13.
Newport tried to haul themselves back into the game but couldn’t quite manage to create anything. Kyle Tayler went very close from a rolling maul but Keys’ Danny Hodge came away with the ball and Keys were able to clear but, oddly, committed a foul in the act of doing so. The resulting penalty was wasted as Newport opted to try the ‘Garryowen’, as only commentators on TV call it, which Ross Pritchard claimed, making the ‘mark’ as he did so.
Then came a Newport try out of nothing, seemingly. Keys were spinning the ball along their back line, around the half way mark, when Haydn Palmer took a chance on intercepting the pass. It paid off as the ball came to him and he could run the try in unopposed to cap an effective night’s work for the Newport centre coming back from injury. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Cross Keys 26 Newport 20 on 63 minutes.
Some loose kicking, a feature of both teams all evening to be fair, did for Newport as Nathan Trowbridge seized the ball on Keys’ ten metre line. He ran back at Newport before chipping ahead. He gathered his own kick before the Black and Amber defence shut him down. Sadly for Newport he had room enough to turn and pass to supporting hooker Darren Hughes who scored another try for Cross Keys which Josh Prosser converted, making it 33-20 to Keys on 73 minutes and, effectively, curtains for Newport.
Newport still had a losing bonus point to battle for and battle they did. A spell of hard carrying into the home defence was undone when one unprotected ball at the back of a ruck was hacked away and Newport had to start again from deep. Things weren’t looking promising as Newport were awarded a penalty, five metres out in the left-hand corner. They opted for the scrum, simply to tie the Keys forwards in and allow Newport’s backs some room. The decision paid off when replacement outside half Haydn Simonds popped up in attack supporting Aeron Bidgood who had made the initial break in the black and white wall and angled in under the posts. Simonds converted his own try making the final score Cross Keys 33 Newport 27.
Newport RFC are in a decent position to make the quarter-finals of this competition. They lead their pool with three games played and ten points. Cross Keys lie second with two games and six points while Bedwas trail with one game and one point.
It is, of course, only natural that Newport RFC would like to thank Croesyceiliog RFC, Risca RFC, Caerleon RFC and Newport Gwent Dragons for making their players available to us for this competition. We hope that the players return to their respective clubs as better, more confident players and perform as well for them as they have done for us.
Newport RFC now have a couple of weeks free from rugby until Boxing Day, December 26th, of course, when we visit Pandy Park, once again, in a Principality Premiership fixture. Cross Keys lie in tenth to Newport’s eleventh position, both on 27 points but Keys are ahead on point’s differential. It should be an intriguing game and one in which Newport RFC supporters can travel to using the bus provided by the Friends of Newport Rugby Trust. Tickets are £10 each, leaving Rodney Parade at 12.30 and returning from Cross Keys at 5.30 so that we can enjoy the convivial atmosphere of Cross Key’s clubhouse after the game. To book, simply get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or the Talk Newport forum. Don’t forget, it’s a great chance to wear the new Newport RFC shirt that Santa brought you!
Finally, a merry Black and Amber Christmas to Newport RFC supporters everywhere.
Keep the faith.
Man Of The Match – Haydn Palmer
FINAL SCORE _ Cross Keys RFC 33 Newport RFC 27