After a tumultuous summer Newport RFC arrived back on home turf to open their Principality Premiership campaign against their oldest rivals, and greatest friends, Cardiff RFC. Cardiff had recruited heavily during the close season taking four players from the Black and Ambers, amongst others, plus appointing a coaching set up that featured Neil Edwards and James Dixon headed up by the respected Steve Law, formerly plying his trade at Bedwas.
There was an impeccably observed minutes silence for Friends of Newport Rugby committee member Nick Jackson who passed away during the summer. It was fitting that it was Cardiff who were the visitors on this occasion as Nick always enjoyed games against our friends from down the A48.
Matt O’Brien started Newport’s season by kicking towards the North Terrace in warm late summer sun. Newport showed intent to go wide by spreading the ball left but full back Haydn Simons lost the ball in the tackle. Play moved up field and Cardiff gained a penalty from the first scrum after Nicky Boyce was penalised for turning in. Cardiff knocked on at the line out to give Newport the ball back. The Black and Ambers looked to release the powerful wing Curtis Ayling who charged up into the visitors 22 and set up the ruck. The ball moved across the Newport back-line twice, not really progressing until Matt O’Brien made a grubber kick for touch which fortuitously cannoned off a Cardiff leg and bounced into touch. Cardiff gained the ball from the set-piece. Gareth Thompson hoisted the ball high but, sadly, Haydn Simons was unable to control the catch under pressure just inside the Newport half.
Cardiff were awarded a penalty on ten minutes when referee, Mr Ben Whitehouse, believed that a Black and Amber hand was stopping the ball at the back of the ruck. Outside half Gareth Thompson stepped forward to slot the Blue and Black’s first points making it 0-3.
Newport responded strongly when Cardiff fumbled the restart and Curtis Ayling and Rhys Jenkins were in amongst the visitors pack causing mayhem, Cardiff recovered quickly and pushed Newport back out to five metres short of half way. Mr Whitehouse spotted a Cardiff hand in the ruck this time. Unfortunately Matt O’Brien’s penalty drifted left of the posts.
Cardiff centre Will Rees-Hole received the ball and was allowed far too much space to run before putting in an excellent kick that placed his team just seven metres from the Newport line. The visitors couldn’t take advantage as Newport’s James Little climbed highest to pick the ball from the air and it was down to Matt O’Brien to clear the Newport lines. But the danger was far from over. A pass from the base of the scrum to wing Patric Lewis, hugely forward but not picked up by the refereeing team, caught Newport out as the winger kicked and chased leaving Curtis Ayling to rescue the situation. Cardiff let Newport off the hook by diving over the top of the ruck and conceding a penalty.
Powerful driving and off-loading by the Blue and Blacks, today wearing a kit more designed with the beach in mind, a fetching white number with a pale blue wash to the chest area with a cross-hatch pattern in it, led to their first try. Newport were dropping off tackles and failing to put the ball carrier down before Llywarch ap Myrrdin, formerly of this parish, found wing James Beal on his shoulder. Gareth Thompson added the extras to make the score Newport 0 Cardiff 10 on twenty minutes.
Beal scored again just two minutes later following some simple handling and missed tackles by the Black and Ambers gave enough room to sprint down the wing. Thompson again added the extra points giving Cardiff a lead of 17-0 on 22 minutes.
Cardiff number eight Luke Crocker had to be spoken to by Mr Whitehouse on 25 minutes after he seemed to feel it appropriate to judo-throw Matt O’Brien after the whistle had been blown. O’Brien himself punted the ball into the corner under the Bisley Suite. Joe Bartlett nailed the ball at the line out while hooker Will Evans looped to add his weight to the back of the maul. A powerful drive saw Evans crash over the visitors line and open Newport’s account. O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 7 Cardiff 17 on 26 minutes.
Cardiff respond by trying to burst through the Newport defence but the final pass to Llywarch ap Myrddin had ‘Larry’ juggling, then spilling, the ball. Curtis Ayling claimed it for Newport before O’Brien kicks long, forcing Cardiff to opt for a dropout 22. Rhys Jenkins caught the ball and ran at the heart of the Cardiff pack. Good progress was made before the ball was spilled during subsequent phases. Newport looked to exploit the raw speed of winger Harri Lang as he eased past his opposite number. Owen Davies was in support to his right with Haydn Simons outside him again but Simons couldn’t deal with tackler and ball at the same time. Unlucky, Newport were so close to a second score.
A 36th minute kick by Cardiff’s ap Myrddin had Newport in trouble again. As we know, ‘Larry’s’ quality is undisputed and a kick placed his new team-mates just metres out. Newport tried a quick take at the line out but the ball was spilled again giving Cardiff a scrum. The ball won, it went out into midfield to wing Patric Lewis who, demonstrating great technique, stood the Newport defender up to bring James Beal in for his hat-trick of tries. Gareth Thompson added the conversion to make the score Newport 7 Cardiff 24 on 37 minutes.
Cardiff kept the pressure on but centre Tom Pascoe picked off a pass and set off toward the Cardiff line. Chay Smith was in support but the move fizzled out as Cardiff claimed the ball and gratefully kicked the ball into touch.
Newport flankers Morgan Burgess and Alex Everett were getting through a phenomenal amount of hard work, putting in tackle after tackle but Newport were lacklustre, the ball was being spilt far too often and you couldn’t even blame the weather.
Halftime – Newport RFC 7 Cardiff RFC 24
A switch at halftime saw winger Jon Morris replace Chay Smith in the centre for Newport. Cardiff’s Gareth Thompson kicked the restart long and Owen Davies allowed the ball to run dead to give Newport a scrum in the middle of the park. Jon Morris used his pace to find a gap between the Cardiff centre pairing before being tackled. The Blue and Blacks were penalised for being offside so Matt O’Brien drilled the ball into the corner. The line out was won cleanly and Burgess and Everett thumped away at the Cardiff line before Tom Piper crossed the line but was judged to have been held up. A Newport scrum five metres out yielded dividends when Rhys Jenkins executed a clean pick-up, passed to O’Brien who quickly passed out to Harri Lang who dived in at the corner. Mr Whitehouse hesitated before awarding the try but O’Brien was unable to add the extra points. This made the score Newport 12 Cardiff 24 on 43 minutes.
Cardiff responded in kind just five minutes later as they pulled Newport around defensively. A big enough gap was made for Gareth Thompson to run in to and take a pass into his gut and sprint for the line and elude the covering Black and Amber defence. Thompson converted his own try to make the score Newport 12 Cardiff 31 on 48 minutes.
Newport were working hard to elbow their way back into the game and Cardiff replacement Ken Dowding helped when he stepped out of the defensive line allowing Rhys Jenkins to race through the dog-leg that he created. Morgan Burgess carried the move on up to the visitor’s 22 metre line but a Cardiff knock-on gave the hosts a scrum in the shadow of the Hazell stand. In the melee that followed, Cardiff’s Patric Lewis sustained an injury and required the stretcher. Everybody at Newport RFC hopes that the young man has a quick recovery and is up and back in training soon.
Newport seemed to still be forcing thing, passes going to ground, miracle passes being attempted that were ambitious. They settled down to score another try on 74 minutes. The pack was rumbling forward ominously and Cardiff second row Corey Tucker had conceded a penalty by lying over the top of the maul. Let that sentence sink in for a moment. With the referee’s advantage, O’Brien tried a cross kick for Harri Lang to secure before Cardiff’s Llywarch ap Myrddin bundled him into touch. Newport opted for the line out. The Cardiff pack made Newport work hard for the try as the rolling maul snaked and turned before Henry Palmer thrust his body through a gap and claimed Newport’s third try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 19 Cardiff 31 on 74 minutes.
Cardiff had the win and the try bonus point in the bag and wound the clock down professionally, starving Newport of ball whilst not being over-ambitious themselves. Finally, in the eighth minute of injury time, Cardiff kicked the ball dead to seal the win.
Twelve points was probably a fair reflection on the difference between the two teams. Cardiff were, at times, dynamic and powerful. Newport, in contrast, were occasionally loose. When the Black and Ambers went with the basics they were fine and had their visitors in trouble more than once. There is a lot of youth in this Newport team which, while there is no relegation from this league, is a great opportunity to give these young men time to gain experience which will stand our club in good stead in the medium to long term.
The next run out for Newport RFC is away, next Saturday 2nd September, when we visit Bedwas RFC. The next home fixture is on Friday 8th September when Pontypridd RFC visit Rodney Parade for a 7.30pm kick off.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Morgan Burgess
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 19 Cardiff RFC 3
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