So-called “Gwent derbies” always produce entertaining encounters, and this was certainly no different. The Black and Ambers were coming off an impressive victory against Pontypridd under the Rodney Parade floodlights, whereas the 2015-16 Premiership champions were on a run of 2 straight defeats and, surprisingly, had not won at home since February.
The B&As were certainly up for this one and made a great start on 10 minutes. Rhys Jenkins’ pass gave Adam Sabri an opportunity to break the Ebbw defence and hand Chay Smith the first try of the day. Matt O’Brien did his thing with the boot. Newport were enjoying plenty of possession and territory in the first half and managed to create some decent chances. One of which saw hooker Henry Palmer don his running shoes and race down the right wing looking destined for a try with a bit of support, but that chance was squandered with a knock-on.
The B&A’s were eager to keep this momentum going and were bolstered when the Steelmen’s Rhys Clarke was sent to the bin for 10 minutes. Corey Howells, starting his first game after impressing last week, came close in the corner soon after, before driving pressure from the forwards resulted in a second try of the afternoon, courtesy of former Eugene Cross Park favourite, John Lavender.
With the sun making an appearance and Ebbw Vale back up to 15 men, the hosts demanded their share of the game and their perseverance paid off when Dan Haymond went over in the corner to score their first points of the game. There was still time for another score in the first half and Newport made sure it was them who had the last say. Chay Smith crashed into the defence and the forwards’ quick recycle sent Haydn Simons over for try number 3 before the break.
HALF TIME: Ebbw Vale 5-17 Newport
Whatever Ebbw coach Lee Davies said in that home dressing room obviously had an impact, they came close to scoring straight from the restart but a knock-on by former Black and Amber, Dominic Franchi, put that chance to bed. However Callum Hall did add a penalty to give his team some consolation. Immediately after that, the visitors’ bonus point was secured. Another impressive Adam Sabri break put Haydn Simons through to give the B&As some daylight between them and their opponents. Matt O’Brien added the extras and continued to put some great kicks into touch, gaining Newport some decent territory.
The home attack started to ignite. Winger Toby Fricker shattered the away defence and a subsequent try for Dan Haymond gave Ebbw, and himself, their second try of the afternoon. Haydn Simons was on a hat-trick too and came close twice to getting his third; once in the corner and once after Chay Smith broke through the defence but failed to find the full-back who merely had to catch the ball and dive over.
With 10 minutes to go, Ebbw Vale dominated possession and their hard work was soon rewarded when Lewis Dennet converted a penalty and a series of missed tackles led to the third try of the afternoon for the hosts’ full-back, Dan Haymond, who unsurprisingly was voted Man Of The Match by the hosts.
Leading by 16 early in the second half, the B&As found themselves down by one point with time quickly running out. A fifth try came begging for the ‘Port who were given a golden opportunity when Toby Fricker failed to deal with an Owen Davies box kick into the 22, handing a perfect chance for either Morgan Burgess or Jon Morris to touchdown. However, a knock on resulted and we were into injury time. With Newport desperately seeking territory, they were awarded a penalty some 40 metres away from goal. The Black and Amber faithful were licking their lips but the pressure became too much, and the ever-reliable ‘OB’ skewed his effort to the right.
Little did he know there was time for the referee to award another Newport penalty in a similar position, much to the delight of the away supporters and the dismay of the home supporters. With everyone anxiously watching on, some barely able to look, the final act of the game saw O’Brien step up and confidently kick the Black & Ambers into a hard-fought away victory, their first of the season and first at Eugene Cross Park for three years.
Newport move up to 4th in a tough Eastern Conference and head to Merthyr next (Saturday 23rd) before welcoming Bargoed back at Rodney Parade (Sunday 1st October).
FULL TIME: Ebbw Vale 25-27 Newport
SEREN Y GÊM: Morgan Burgess
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