Following on from the almighty fright that the Black and Ambers gave Pontypridd at Sardis Road the previous Saturday, confidence was high within the camp that a result against an oddly struggling Ebbw Vale was achievable. A strong team was selected by the coaches and included some fan favourites returning from lengthy injuries, namely Dan Partridge and Elliot Frewen.
The bright early afternoon sun gave way to some cloud cover by the time kick-off arrived so Haydn Simons didn’t have to squint as he kicked off towards the school end of Rodney Parade. As early as the second minute the Newport pack forced a scrum penalty on Ebbw Vale, today wearing their change strip of purple. Adam Sabri looped off his right wing to make the overlap on the left following the quick tap but Haydn Palmer was bottled up and Newport spilled the ball in their anxiety to go forward. Ebbw Vale were awarded the scrum but their frailties there were immediately apparent.
Newport retrieved possession and Haydn Simons managed to beat two defenders before finding Tom Pascoe in support. Pascoe, confidence brimming, made a pass to fellow centre Chay Smith from behind his back for Smith to set up the ruck. Scrum half Ryan James quickly located second row Joe Bartlett galloping right with Adam Sabri on his shoulder. Bartlett’s pass to Sabri was devastatingly effective as Sabri glided in for Newport’s opening try in the shadow of the Burnett Suite. The conversion was missed, so the scoreboard read Newport 5 Ebbw Vale 0 on 6 minutes.
Newport were on the defensive some minutes later and made hard work of clearing their lines, opting to try to run out of defence. Ebbw Vale competed well and forced Newport to knock on. The Ebbw scrum, some seven metres out and in front of the posts was in a fantastic position. The scrum won, Ebbw bashed away at the Newport defensive wall with wing Toby Fricker going close but it was Vale’s number 8, Cameron Regan who crossed the white line with three Black and Amber shirts hanging off him who got the visitor’s opening try. That conversion was missed too so the score was Newport 5 Ebbw Vale 5 on 12 minutes.
The Steelmen conceded a penalty for chopsing in the 16th minute so Haydn Simons booted the ball up to the 22 metre line on the Bisley side. The ensuing play from the line out was halted when visiting prop Robert Sevenoaks was spotted with the side of his head covered in blood. From the resulting Newport scrum, Ebbw conceded again at a ruck. Haydn Simons kicked for touch to launch a rolling maul attack. Joe Bartlett claimed the ball at the line out and Henry Palmer latched on to the back of the maul but Vale conceded a penalty yet again for collapsing the maul. Simons went for touch again and Adam Brown was up this time to secure the ball. Prop Nicky Boyce was in the driving seat as the maul searched for Ebbw’s weak spot. It was Garin Harris that found it and the tighthead prop crashed over the line for a try. Haydn Simons made sure of the conversion and the score now was Newport 12 Ebbw Vale 5 on 23 minutes.
Ebbw Vale responded with a series of drives at the Newport defence but ultimately achieved little until scrum half Carl Lewis kicked forward for wing Will Holley, wearing jersey number 22 rather than the usual 14, to chase into the Newport 22 metre area. With Haydn Palmer and Geraint O’Driscoll covering things appeared covered but an oval ball bounces in peculiar ways. Thankfully the bounce also evaded Holley and it was left to Haydn Palmer to mop up the situation and clear the Newport lines.
Will Holley was in the news again on 32 minutes when Haydn Simons kicked towards him. Chay Smith arrived at much the same time and held Holley up, the Newport cavalry arriving seconds later to secure the turnover of possession. The Newport scrum was beginning to dominate their opponents so the backs had an extra second to plan their moves. Ball won, Newport performed some neat set plays against a firm defence. John Lavender, on for the injured Nicky Boyce, seemed particularly inspired against his former club and made a few bursts but Ebbw Vale infringed again on 36 minutes. Haydn Simons called for the kicking tee and made the score Newport 15 Ebbw Vale 5.
Newport were building pressure nicely and were doubly rewarded on 39 minutes when Ebbw’s Cameron Regan, arguably their best player, was caught with his hands in the ruck. Haydn Simons kicked the three pointer while the referee, Mr Gareth John, felt compelled to ask Regan to have ten minutes on the naughty step. The kick made an audible ‘tink’ as it scuffed off the left hand upright. Newport 18 Ebbw Vale 5.
With added time being played due to the head injury to Ebbw Vale prop Sevenoaks, and with the visitors down a player, Newport had a little bit of luxury. Ebbw appeared to not be inclined to press their hosts and allowed them time and space to select their passes. With such generosity being shown, it would have been rude not to take advantage. Newport prodded and probed until a gap appeared on the right. In a re-run of the opening try it was big Joe Bartlett on the wing with Adam Sabri on support. Bartlett was tackled but the pass was made and Sabri scorched over the line while trying to ease the angle for Simons’ conversion. On 40+2 minutes the scoreboard read Newport 25 Ebbw Vale 5.
With three tries notched up and a commanding twenty point lead over their visitors, one certainly felt that Newport could only go on and claim all five points. Whilst not wanting to sound arrogant and say that the game was in the bag, it would take an utter collapse by Newport to lose, surely.
Halftime – Newport RFC 25 Ebbw Vale RFC 5
Ebbw Vale outside half Lewis Dennett restarted with the Steelmen now attacking the school end. Joe Bartlett jumped to take the catch only for Ebbw second row Rhys Clarke to get underneath Bartlett and cartwheel him with Bartlett landing heavily. To be fair, Clarke looked horrified by what had taken place and there was no suggestion that it was anything other than a clumsy meeting of two big men. However, Mr John felt that he had no option other than yellow card Rhys Clarke and take Ebbw down to thirteen players.
Newport sought to take numerical advantage when presented with a golden opportunity of a scrum on the Ebbw 22 metre line. They were already dominant but were now to face a scrum of six players. Sadly for Newport Mr John found fault with Newport’s binding and awarded a penalty to Ebbw and allowed them to clear their lines and get Cameron Regan back on the park.
There was a curious incident on 47 minutes. Ebbw’s Josh James strayed offside at a ruck. From the penalty Haydn Simons kicked to the corner on the Hazell side. The Assistant Referee judged that the ball had gone dead but Mr John overruled him and gave the lineout anyway. It made little difference as Newport were swiftly penalised for accidental offside and Ebbw Vale could clear once again.
The fifty minute mark saw the introduction of The Cobra, Dan Partridge, and the wing commander, Elliot Frewen, after lengthy spells out with injury. They replaced Haydn Palmer and Joe Bartlett, both of whom could be happy with their shifts.
Newport were found guilty of hands in the ruck on 54 minutes and Ebbw no. 10 Lewis Dennett opted to kick to the corner. The Ebbw Vale catch and drive was a weapon to be feared in their Championship season but was barely effective at all on this occasion. The Vale hooker overthrew the ball but Cameron Regan gathered it. Newport flanker Morgan Burgess got his tackle in but Ebbw were starting to build some pressure until Rhys Jenkins managed to hit a purple shirt at the same time as the ball arriving and disrupted the attack completely.
A 56th minute shot at goal by Newport drifted left of the posts in front of the North Terrace but effectively pinned the visitors into their 22 metre area. Newport were rewarded with another shot at goal on 62 minutes when a kick towards Ebbw wing Will Holley found the Ebbw man in two minds. He eventually opted to try and run through the Newport players that encircled him but he was gang-tackled and Rhys Jenkins stripped him of the ball. Ebbw couldn’t resist getting hands in the ruck again so Mr John awarded Simons the opportunity to kick another three points from thirty metres out and make the score Newport 28 Ebbw Vale 5.
The Steelmen did manage a riposte on 65 minutes. Good patient play by them saw them enter the Newport 22 metre area. A pass to outside half Lewis Dennett was literally juggled through the defence with him securing the ball at the third bite of the cherry. He was off balance though and lay spread-eagled on the floor while Haydn Simons tried to flatten him. Dennett managed to get a pass away, as he wasn’t held in the tackle, to the supporting Carl Lewis who gleefully dotted the ball down under the crossbar. Dennett made easy work of the conversion to make it Newport 28 Ebbw Vale 12.
Ryan James had possibly played his best game for Newport this season, so far, and was given a breather as Ryan Bates replaced him off the bench. Bates was immediately called upon as Vale began to capitalise on their try. The ball was spilled in contact so Henry Palmer quick wittedly seized the ball and flicked it to his left to Bates who sprinted away with barely a hand laid on him to secure Newport’s bonus point try. Haydn Simons made the conversion look easy to take the score to Newport 35 Ebbw Vale 12 on 68 minutes.
Ebbw’s Cameron Regan concede another penalty for hands in the ruck and could consider himself fortunate that Mr John only penalised him rather than reach for a second yellow card. As it was, Newport went for the corner to go hunting for more scores. Ebbw Vale replacement hooker Joe Franchi did see Mr John’s yellow card when he was spotted trying to pull down a rolling maul. He trotted off on 77 minutes leaving his team one man light when trying to defend in the corner by the Bisley suite. Simons kicked to the corner and the line out became an ominous rolling maul. Again the Newport pack felt for the under-defended area and it was replacement prop Ken Dowding who located it and peeled away from the maul to crash over for a try. Haydn Simons put the cherry on the cake with the conversion to make the score Newport 42 Ebbw Vale 12 on 78 minutes.
Lewis Dennett’s restart for Ebbw failed to go ten metres so Newport restarted with a scrum. The visitors did go looking for a consolation score in the dying minutes but the Black and Amber curtain held firm to deny them.
Newport RFC are next in action in the Principality Premiership next Saturday, November 25th, when Merthyr Tydfil RFC, the reigning champions, visit Rodney Parade. Our clubs visit to the Wern this season was as entertaining a game as you will find with some quality tries scored by both teams. Hopefully this fixture will be as good and, hopefully, result in a Newport win! Kick-off is now at 1pm so please come early, bring your mates and watch some good live rugby!
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Adam Sabri
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 42 Ebbw Vale RFC 12