With Saturday’s performance put behind them, it was an opportunity for Newport RFC to try to end this season with something of a flourish. The results of the clubs fixtures since the cup semi-final do not make for happy reading, just the one win at home to Bargoed since April 14th, and do not fully reflect the success that they have had this season. Towards the end of this particularly bruising set of fixtures comes Pontypridd RFC, a strong club, although lacking their domination of old but still in a position where even many of their supporters can’t quite work out how they can still be challenging for the top spot in the Principality Premiership in May. They arrived at Rodney Parade on the back of six straight victories and were looking for their seventh to put them back at the top of the ladder, temporarily at least.
On another beautiful spring evening in Newport, Pontypridd ran out in their change strip, a somewhat Stade Francais-esque confection of pink body, purple across the shoulders with white piping and white shorts whilst Newport stuck with the traditional Black and Amber, thanks very much.
Pontypridd’s outside half, Diggy Bird, kicked off with them attacking the North terrace. The visitors were slightly over enthusiastic as recipient Elliot Frewen was clattered to the ground from mid-air as he took the catch resulting in an instant penalty. Matt O’Brien’s kick put Newport back on the half way line. Will Evans threw in to Chris Williams at the tail of the line out and the ball worked swiftly out to Tom Pascoe in the centre who forced himself up to around 48 metres out when Pontypridd were penalised again for not releasing Pascoe in the tackle. Matt O’Brien stepped up to take the kick at goal and, in doing so, took his personal points tally for the club to over five hundred. That made the score Newport 3 Pontypridd 0 with just a few minutes played.
Pontypridd were playing with the advantage given by the referee, Mr Simon Rees, after Newport had been penalised for a high tackle. The visitors were getting nowhere, really, until Diggy Bird put in a neat little kick to get behind the Newport defence. He gathered the ball and quickly found his full back, Lloyd Rowlands, running a superb line that took him around Geraint O’Driscoll and across the line for an excellent try. Bird added the two-pointer to make it Newport 3 Pontypridd 7 on 6 minutes.
Newport went forward when second row Connor Shefford got a hand to a Pontypridd line out on ten minutes. Scrum half Morgan Evans, making his starting debut for the club, secured the ball before some close-quarters phases softened up the Ponty defence. Matt O’Brien spotted a half-gap on the left and made the break before passing to Elliot Frewen who went off on a characteristic pinballing run, bouncing from defender to defender, taking his team up into the 22 metre area. This drew a penalty from Mr Rees who had a quick chat with flanker Ross Morgan. Matt O’Brien slotted the penalty kick to make the score Newport 6 Pontypridd 7.
Newport continued to attack but a loose pass was seized upon by Pontypridd and the ball quickly made its way out to wing Geraint Walsh. Walsh gained some yardage before he lost the ball in contact. Newport displayed some good handling before Matt O’Brien booted Pontypridd back into their own 22 metre area only for Newport to concede a penalty for not releasing the tackled player. Pontypridd went on the attack and looked quite dangerous but a last pass out to winger Walsh was wildly forward and Newport were awarded a scrum on half way. Mr Rees then found fault with the Newport scrummage so Diggy Bird kicked his team up into the Newport 22. Second row Hemi Barnes, with his great mop of fair hair, took the line out throw while his partner Chris Dicomidis made a thrust at the Newport defence. Dan Partridge tackled him effectively but the ball continued to move right along the line and almost into the corner in front of the Bisley suite. Elliot Frewen showed tremendous strength and determination to get over the ruck, scoop the ball out and make the pass to Tom Pascoe. Pascoe threw his entire weight into the kick which saw the ball rolling into the Pontypridd 22 metre area for wing Dale Stuckey to field and Diggy Bird to kick back giving Newport the line out almost exactly opposite the field to where the passage of play had started.
Pontypridd managed to steal possession at the lineout and went through their phases very effectively with good passing between players moving them forward slowly. Newport were stretching in defence but it was a powerful lunge by Hemi Barnes from a ruck that appeared to have stopped dead on the try line that did the damage. Diggy Bird converted the try to make it Newport 6 Pontypridd 14.
Pontypridd were having arguably their best phase in the game when they launched a 28th minute attack. Fullback Lloyd Rowlands was running well but the margins were too narrow for him and a foot strayed into touch to nullify another dangerous situation for Newport just outside their 22. Newport won the lineout and the ball swiftly reached Elliot Frewen who found his way into the Pontypridd half. Matt O’Brien launched an ambitious cross-kick for Harri Lang to chase. Wing Dale Stuckey made a bit of a flap at the ball with Lang pressurising him, Stuckey opting to run into touch rather than try racing the speedy Newport winger. Unfortunately nothing came of this promising position as Pontypridd managed to close Newport down and clear their lines.
Lloyd Rowlands showed great balance on 33 minutes as subtle changes to his running ghosted him past the majority of the Newport defence. Unluckily for him his pass out to the left was hugely forward, in fact it was directly at Newport defender Harri Lang. Lang took the pass but, frustratingly, Mr Rees played no advantage and blew immediately for the forward pass. It was Matt O’Brien’s turn to try intercepting a pass on 36 minutes but, even with his arms at full stretch, the ball bounced agonisingly forward off his fingertips.
Pontypridd were making an annoying habit of disrupting most of Newport’s lineout ball, if not winning it outright, leading Newport to hang on a little. Dudley Stead came on to the field to replace Arron Atkin and made an immediate impact as he got over the ball at a Pontypridd ruck and made the turnover. Matt O’Brien kicked long and away from touch forcing Ponty wing Stuckey back to defend with onrushing players in his face. Pontypridd retain possession before clearing their lines. As the half drew to a close Matt O’Brien attempted to release Elliot Frewen but the pass was forward and Mr Rees whistled for the break.
Halftime – Newport RFC 6 Pontypridd RFC 14
Matt O’Brien restarted the game and Pontypridd went on the attack immediately. Fullback Lloyd Rowlands opted to place his grubber kick early for his winger to chase but this simply allowed Harri Lang to gather the ball and set off a pace to near the halfway line before kicking ahead. Ponty’s Dale Stuckey gathered the ball but was forced into touch by a combination of Harri Lang and Haydn Palmer. From the lineout the ball reached Matt O’Brien who dented the Pontypridd defence but couldn’t quite make a pass out of the tackle quickly enough. Once reinforcements did arrive the ball was knocked forward anyway.
Newport won a lineout on their own 22 metre line. Newport flanker Josh Reid had dropped back and took Matt O’Brien’s pass as he entered the backline beautifully, splitting the pink and purple defence wide open. He found Geraint O’Driscoll racing up in support on his left with Elliot Frewen beyond him. Frewen hacked ahead, the ball reaching the Ponty 22 metre area. Attackers outnumbered defenders and Newport retrieved the ball and tried working right. Pontypridd flanker Ross Morgan had other ideas as he wrapped up the Newport ball-carrier for far too long and, bearing in mind the position on the field, Mr Rees felt that a yellow card, and a ten minute think about what he had done, was the best option for Morgan. Matt O’Brien kicked the penalty awarded making the score Newport 9 Pontypridd 14 on 47 minutes.
Nicky Boyce appeared to be attracting too much attention from Mr Rees at scrum time. Boyce seemed to be doing something not to his liking at a scrum around 24 metres out and a penalty was awarded. Pontypridd captain Chris Dicomidis showed commendable leadership by opting for the kick at goal to extend the lead where many would have succumbed to hubris and ordered the kick to the corner. Diggy Bird duly did what he was told and put his team seventeen points to nine ahead.
From the restart lively Pontypridd made the ball do the work and pulled Newport around in defence which resulted in wing Dale Stuckey being clean through with the try line begging from halfway. Luckily for Newport Mr Rees spotted that the final pass was forward and Newport were awarded the scrum. However, Nicky Boyce was being watched carefully and, yet again, Mr Rees didn’t like what he saw. Again Dicomidis ordered the kick at goal and, again, Diggy Bird followed his orders and made the score Newport 9 Pontypridd 20 on 54 minutes.
Newport were enjoying a good spell of possession on the hour mark, inter-passing was excellent but to little real effect, eventually stalling when Dan Partridge was isolated. Pontypridd managed to work the ball away resulting in a scrum on Newport’s forty metre line. Scrum half Dai Francis found a chasm in defence and ran straight into it, arching his run away from the cover defence. It took a solid tackle from wing Harri Lang to put Francis into touch.
Newport exhibited good hands while attacking from deep and it was Haydn Palmer who broke the line and carried Newport away. Palmer and Elliot Frewen chased a long, searching kick which bounced wickedly as they closed in on Ponty’s last line of defence, Lloyd Rowlands at fullback. Rowlands was determined to have deliberately palmed the ball into touch, a full penalty at least and, seeing how it was a potential try-scoring situation, earned himself a yellow card for his troubles. Newport worked the ball wide quickly but the pass to Jonny Morris, on for Harri Lang, boomed high and wide into the Bisley stand.
Newport finally got a try of their own on 68 minutes, and well worked it was too. Jon Morris collected a kick inside his own half and, typically, looked to run it back. Newport punched away at the defence, working themselves into better positions, using the big forwards to soften up the fringes. Garin Harris, on for Tom Piper at tighthead, made one such lunge. The ball bobbled away from Harris’ hands, Mr Rees clearly indicating that the ball had gone backwards, a Ponty forward managed to knock on the loose ball before Matt O’Brien popped a pass to Geraint O’Driscoll breaking into the line to canter across for a try. Matt O’Brien added the straightforward conversion to make the score Newport 16 Pontypridd 20.
Pontypridd tried to rebuild their lead. Replacement Joe Popple drove at the line but spilled the ball in contact. Newport tried to run out of defence, Matt O’Brien trying a cheeky chip over the top of the defence. It was slightly too far for O’Brien as he fumbled the catch. Mr Rees took Newport back for the initial knock on and awarded a defensive scrum, five metres out. It was Pontypridd that came up with the ball from the scrum and, catching the defence slightly unawares, Diggy Bird skated around the blind side to touch down. He added the extras himself taking the score to Newport 16 Pontypridd 27.
Pontypridd knocked on a 75th minute high kick when under pressure from Geraint O’Driscoll. Matt O’Brien angled a kick to the corner and to touch. Newport wrapped up the maul skilfully and turned over possession. The Black and Ambers poked and prodded at the pink defence, Josh Reid coming closest as he was hauled down just metres short of the line but spilled the ball.
Jonny Morris was back defending on 79 minutes, gathering the ball and running out of defence. Morris broke through tackles and found his mate Frewen. Newport surged into the Pontypridd half but the visitors held firm.
Into stoppage time and Ponty’s Joel Raikes made ground before hacking ahead. Jonny Morris was back, defending strongly and setting up the ruck. Matt O’Brien tried to run Newport out of defence again, his delicate chip to Haydn Palmer being weighted beautifully. Palmer set up a ruck once tackled but the pass back was horribly loose. The ball bobbled over the try line and Connor Shefford, who had a super game and looks to be an excellent acquisition by Newport RFC for next season, made the simplest of mistakes as he was judged to have grounded the ball over the line as he gathered it. Pontypridd had an attacking scrum five and went looking for the bonus point try but centre Gary Williams couldn’t gather the pass.
The four points gathered took Pontypridd back to the top of the league, for twenty four hours at least, but a fifth defeat in six Principality Premiership games has left Newport RFC languishing in eighth.
The Black and Ambers go again one final time this season when they travel north to Colwyn Bay to face RGC 1404 at Stadiwm Zip World and, again, this is a Principality Premiership fixture. There will be a Fan Zone open at the game to all supporters and this is located between the South Stand and the Gate C car park.
Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Elliot Frewen
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 16 Pontypridd RFC 27