Newport RFC welcomed Swansea RFC to Rodney Parade for the second time this year following the Black and Ambers victory in the Welsh Cup in January. Saturday’s fixture was back to the bread and butter, a Principality Premiership Tier Two league game against our friends from the west. The two teams first met in 1876 and, with over 300 fixtures played between the two, both clubs were tied on 136 wins apiece. This game, clearly, had the ability to put one side ahead of the other!
Many of Newport’s supporters had taken the opportunity to dust off their oldest Newport jerseys, breathe in and pull them on for a celebration of all things Black and Amber. A fantastic array of rarely-seen shirts, gorgeous spring weather and Newport starting to put a decent run of wins together pulled in a bumper crowd for this fixture.
Dan Partridge, the Black and Ambers athletic second row, led the team out on the occasion of his 50th appearance in the jersey, moments before Arwel Robson kicked off, lofting the ball high into the Newport atmosphere. Swansea gathered the ball before kicking it long and into the arms of full back Llywarch ap Myrddin. ‘Larry’ fielded the kick, looked up and saw an opportunity. He raced through some Swansea tackling, the type of which is usually seen by traffic police on point duty, before sprinting clear and scoring the try with barely a hand laid on him. Arwel Robson added the conversion to put Newport 7 nil ahead within the first minute.
Swansea responded as one might expect, outside half Laurence Howley was away before being closed down, his pass inside merely found a ‘supporting’ Rhys Jenkins, the indomitable Newport number 8 who manoeuvred the ball out to the left wing before a sloppy pass went straight into touch and the pressure remained on Newport. It was left to Swansea prop Tom Sloane to relieve the pressure after the Assistant Referee spotted a fist being swung at Henry Palmer. Referee, Mr. Dewi Phillips awarded Newport the penalty, despite some ‘afters’ between Palmer and his opposite number Ricky Guest.
Swansea endeavoured to create a try to get themselves back to parity. Centre Joe Jenkins, a powerful looking unit, stepped through a few tackles and carried the ball up into the Newport 22. If his pass to supporting number 8 Rory Gallagher had been more sympathetic then a try was definitely on the cards. The Whites, playing in a dark blue strip, then let Newport off the hook completely by arriving players going off their feet at the ruck and conceding the penalty.
Newport were defending very patiently forcing Swansea to simply switch sides of play. The Whites made little headway and, eventually, outside half Howley put in a speculative kick over the top of the defence just to see if it would create anything. It didn’t.
Swansea got points on the board in the 15th minute via a penalty from full-back Josh Martin as Newport were penalised for being caught with hands in the ruck. Newport 7 Swansea 3.
The Newport defence was tested again soon after when talented centre Dai Watts carried strongly out of defence before finding prop Mitchell Walsh to carry the ball into the Newport half. Aggressive defence spilled over into fisticuffs as Mr Phillips felt compelled to award yellow cards to Newport’s Adam Brown and Swansea flanker Jack Perkins.
Newport tried to step up the pace of the game. Haydn Palmer, Henry Palmer and Jon Morris were involved in super handling on the right flank which took Newport up to the Swansea 22 metre area. The ball was spread left and a threatening position was given up with a silly knock-on. Swansea tried to run the ball out of defence but conceded a penalty themselves. Arwel Robson went for the corner in the expectation of setting up a scoring position. However, the Whites second row Tudor Hughes proved to be a thorn in the side in the line out, generally able to either spoil, if not claim outright, the Newport throw-ins. He also proved a nuisance in the loose when he was often used to thump the ball up the middle of the park and suck in defenders. Having won the ball for Swansea, scrum half Rhodri Wells’ box kick sat up perfectly for chasing wing Jedd Evans who set alarm bells ringing in the Newport defence. Evans made a terrific run before being hauled down. His run was let down by his team mate, the aforementioned Tom Sloane, who arrived at the ruck with fists flying. Mr Phillips had little choice but to give him ten minutes on the naughty step on the 24th minute. Swansea were now, briefly, down to 13 players.
Swansea were awarded a penalty in the 34th minute at the scrum. Full back Josh Martin took the kick which bounced off the left hand upright at the school end of the field. Jon Morris read the awkward trajectory of the ball well and attempted to clear by finding Arwel Robson to boot it away. Newport conceded another penalty for Martin to kick again only, remarkably, he hit the same upright. In their eagerness to get to the ball Swansea knocked it forward. The ensuing Newport scrum was steady enough but Arwel Robson momentarily fluffed his lines as he knocked the ball backwards behind him. The onrushing Swansea players were caught unawares as Robson collected the ball and effectively dummied them before sprinting away to half way before being caught and finding Adam Brown in support. From the ruck scrum half Ryan James put in a box kick for Jon Morris to chase but his over-eagerness to attack was penalised.
Newport were in the ‘right’ half of the field, though, and try number two soon arrived. Swansea flanker Jon Vaughan and centre Dai Watts clearly didn’t communicate well enough in defence as Arwel Robson spotted gap enough between the two of them to drive a bus, let alone the wiry frame of a prodigious prospect of an outside half. He found Haydn Palmer to his right who, in turn, found Chay Smith on his left shoulder to score the try under the posts. Robson added the conversion to make the score Newport 14 Swansea 3 on 40 plus 3 added minutes. As Mr Phillips blew for halftime, Newport RFC could reflect on an unsatisfactory half of rugby. They were below par, doing enough to be ahead but not enough to be convincing.
Halftime – Newport RFC 14 Swansea RFC 3
Swansea’s Laurence Howley kicked off the second half playing towards the clubhouse and Newport soon conceded yet another penalty. Luckily for the Black and Ambers Swansea’s Martin was having a real off-day with the boot and missed this one too.
A 52nd minute tackle by Elliot Frewen was the next flashpoint. Frewen tackled the Swansea player off his feet put placed him back on the ground as per the laws of the game. Swansea players appealed loudly for the penalty only for the Assistant Referee on the Bisley Stand side to be heard shouting back ‘No, it’s alright’. However, Swansea’s Rhys Williams, clearly no fan of experts and laws in this era of Brexit and ‘fake news’, took it upon himself to mete out his own brand of justice by piling into Frewen. Mr Phillips had no choice but to yellow card him to give him ten minutes to refresh his knowledge on the book of laws in the dugout.
The orange-booted Frewen was finally released with ball in hand on the 54th minute as he bounced away from Tudor Hughes, the Swansea second row, and caused havoc in the Swansea ranks as he arrowed towards the corner. Frewen was bundled into touch and, from the line out, Tudor Hughes’ slap down went loose. Newport flanker Kyle Tayler was quickest to the ball and touched down, beaming as he thought the try had been scored only for Mr Phillips to be advised of a knock on by his Assistant. Newport kept the territory as Haydn Palmer ghosted past the defence only to run into a blue-shirted wall. He managed to find debutant prop Nicky Boyce who went close but Newport over-elaborated and lost the ball.
Swansea were failing to clear the ball from their half and a massive overlap on the 60th minute was wasted when the ball was passed along the Newport line in a pedestrian manner that allowed the Whites defence to fan out and cover it. However, hooker Will Evans got the move back on track when he managed to suck in defenders before releasing Rhys Jenkins who was able to stride in from thirty metres with Elliot Frewen shepherding him all the way. Arwel Robson again booted the conversion to make it Newport 21 Swansea 3.
Rhys Jenkins was in the news again on 67 minutes, this time for less pleasant reasons. An, ahem, ‘agricultural’ tackle led to Mr Phillips reaching for his yellow card again although quite how Swansea’s Rory Gallagher wasn’t similarly penalised for his retaliation will remain a mystery.
Swansea scored a 76th minute consolation try through replacement hooker Paul John which Laurence Howley converted to make it Newport 21 Swansea 10. Swansea had held possession for a number of phases before opting to rumble forward and it was the scrum cap wearing hooker who was at the tail of the maul and duly claimed the score.
Matt O’Brien had taken the field to replace Ryan James and, unusually, cover him at scrum half. Arwel Robson took a quick tapped penalty in the second minute of injury time and ran up into the visitors 22. A pass out to the supporting James Little was knocked down by a defender and Newport were awarded an attacking scrum, just five metres out. A perfect chance to seal the bonus point try. Step forward Matt O’Brien. O’Brien picked up the ball from the base of the scrum and ran parallel to the try line. A Swansea defender, clearly unable to wait to make the tackle, broke rank and gave O’Brien all the room he needed to tear through and dot the ball down ensuring Newport ended the game at the head of Tier Two of the Principality Premiership. Arwel Robson added a two-point sheen to the score making a full time result of Newport 28 Swansea 10.
Haydn Palmer was chosen unanimously as the games Man of the Match for Newport RFC. He is a young man who has developed well as a centre of some promise. He has an ability to glide past defences like a finely tuned Rolls Royce with the defensive wherewithal of somebody with many years more experience than he actually has. A talented player, for sure.
Newport’s next run out is a challenging fixture away at Bargoed on Saturday 22nd April. Newport lost at Bargoed Park in run up to the league splitting so will venture up there with their eyes wide open as to the threat that Bargoed provide. The next home fixture is on Saturday April 29th when Llanelli RFC are the visitors to Rodney Parade. It would be great if many of the clubs supporters, who showed up in numbers for the Swansea game, could make it for this game too!
Come on Newport!
Newport Man Of The Match – Haydn Palmer
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 28 Swansea RFC 10