Aberavon RFC vs Newport RFC – 21st April 2018 by John Evans
This was Newport RFC’s second visit to the Talbot Athletic Ground during the month after the cup semi-final victory over Llandovery RFC here on April 7th. With the Cup Final looming it was only natural that coaches Craig Warlow, Ty Morris and Stuart Lawrence had one eye on that. The team was, again, much changed, like a kids kaleidoscope, where the colours remain the same but the shapes and patterns within change. There were club debuts for full back Cameron Ellis and centre Brendon Huntley as well as rare run-outs for Curtis Ayling and Andy Evans on the wings. The faint hope that supporters had that this team may ‘do a Swansea’ and replicate the performance of those young men at Rodney Parade on April 3rd was just that; lightning rarely strikes twice.
As Newport RFC ran out onto the pitch at the sunny Port Talbot ground the non-appearance of the Wizards seemed to signal something unusual was happening. Unfortunately a spectator needed urgent medical attention in the main stand. The medical staff attended instantly and an ambulance was soon in attendance. The combined efforts of the medics and the paramedics soon had the patient safely away to hospital putting back the kick-off time until 3.05pm. Everybody at Newport RFC wishes the spectator well and hope that they make a full recovery and that they are back watching Aberavon RFC in the near future.
Aberavon got the ball rolling, literally, when outside half James Garland kicked off with Aberavon playing towards the mountain. Haydn Simons returned the ball for Newport just beyond the halfway line for an Aberavon line out. With possession won Aberavon moved the ball simply and quickly through the hands and made good yardage. Ryan Bates managed to hold up the attack briefly but was swamped somewhat by the arriving Wizards forwards. Curtis Ayling managed to briefly foil a two-on-one overlap that had been created but the ruck was too lightly guarded on the blind side and Aberavon scrum half David Pritchard sprinted in for a try on one minute. The conversion managed to hit the crossbar, bounce up onto the right hand post and bounce out. The score was Aberavon 5 Newport 0.
The game’s first scrum had the referee, Mr Robert Price, speaking to both hookers, Evan Whitson and Luke Davies for Aberavon after a minor fracas had taken place. The reset scrum went straight to ground and Mr Price judged that Newport were at fault. Aberavon worked the touchline. Wizards second row Ben Thomas claimed the ball and the backs executed a training ground move which had the ball played back inside from 12 to 11 as wing Frankie Jones took the ball at speed and bisected the Newport defensive line. Curtis Ayling, tracking back in defence, managed to intercept the pass from Jones and thwart that attack.
Newport gained a useful penalty which Haydn Palmer kicked to touch inside the Aberavon 22 metre area on the terrace side. Club captain and newly fit again Rhys Jenkins jumped at the front of the line to win the ball and Newport could go through phases of their own. Curtis Ayling looked threatening and went close but the move broke down when Andrew Mann had insufficient support and was stripped of the ball on the ground.
Aberavon’s James Garland booted a loose ball away from their half which debutant Cameron Ellis fielded well before evading a tackler and finding Curtis Ayling in support. Ayling sprinted on but the return pass to Ellis went forward, unfortunately, as Ellis scooped up the ball and ‘scored’. Wizard Garland was injured while making that kick and was replaced by no.17 Stef Williams.
Newport continued to try making inroads into the firm home defence. A line out win was secured and moved across the line nicely but a pass from Andrew Mann to Cameron Ellis was picked off by Wizard wing Frankie Jones who sprinted from his own forty metre line for his team’s second try on fifteen minutes.
It was just five minutes before Aberavon scored again. A Newport scrum was under some pressure but Ryan Bates tried to make a fist of it and battled forward but the penalty came when a supporting player was found to not be supporting his own weight. Aberavon kicked to the corner for Ben Thomas at second row to take the catch. The ball bobbled loose from the maul but Aberavon flanker Luke Joseph picked it up and managed to find Joe Cullimore off balance and stretched out an arm for a try. The conversion was successful making the score Aberavon 17 Newport 0.
Newport finally got off the ground on 25 minutes. Haydn Simons kicked along the tramlines but the Aberavon clearance screwed kindly into touch. James Little won the attacking line out and the ball worked across the line. Andrew Mann, showing up well in open play, barged through and gained some ground, carrying Newport up to the five metre line. Ryan Bates sized up his options and continued going right to Haydn Simons who took the contact, managed to make the pass to debutant centre Brendon Huntley who muscled over from close range for a hard-earned try. The conversion sailed wide making the score Aberavon 17 Newport 5.
Aberavon were penalised on 31 minutes for collapsing a scrum. Newport kicked the penalty to near the 22 metre line for Evan Whitson to take the throw in. The throw was too long but it worked in Newport’s favour as Andrew Mann picked up the loose ball and powered forward. Newport were keeping the ball well but not really penetrating the Aberavon defence until a short pass put Haydn Palmer through. Palmer got within metres of the line before Ryan Bates passed right. Haydn Simons tipped the ball on but the pass found James Little falling as he caught it so momentum was lost and Aberavon took the opportunity to wrap the attack up.
The stroke of half time saw the Wizards claim their try scoring bonus and, credit where it’s due, it was a splendid effort by them. Running from deep, the ball seemed to go through the hands of all fifteen Aberavon players as they ran and passed confidently. It was only a matter of time, really, before they found the try line at their mercy and the lucky recipient was second row Ben Jones who crossed out wide on the stand side. The conversion was missed making the score Aberavon 22 Newport 5.
Play restarted and Newport again managed to keep ball ok but couldn’t do an awful lot with it. Ultimately a knock-on finished the attack and drew the first half to a close.
Halftime – Aberavon RFC 22 Newport RFC 5
Newport’s Brendon Huntley kicked the restart but unfortunately blasted it straight into touch. Aberavon’s pack won the scrum and outside half Stef Williams seemed to be finding too many gaps in the Newport defence for comfort. Eventually a loose ball was seized upon by Haydn Simons who found Ryan Bates close at hand who kicked a long ball diagonally for Aberavon fullback Chris Banfield to mop up. Newport fullback Cameron Ellis closed down and just about managed to grasp Banfield but Newport wing Andy Evans made sure and put the fullback to ground. Newport gained a penalty when Wizards hooker Luke Davies was found not supporting his own weight at the ruck. Newport opted for the corner and Andrew Mann to secure the lineout. A rolling maul heaved its way toward the before another returnee from injury, Chris Coleman, on at halftime for prop Nicky Thomas, barged across the Aberavon line but was held up. The situation was lost when the ball squirted out of the scrum. Aberavon reacted first and caught Newport out when wing Shaun Pearce looped behind his backs to make a midfield overlap which he duly sliced through. That good work was undone, however, when Pearce was tackled and his fellow wing Frankie Jones thoughtlessly hacked the spilt ball forward making him instantly offside. Newport worked the touchline again but lost the ball in the lineout and Aberavon could calmly clear their lines.
Haydn Palmer was alive to the possibilities when he picked off a pass between the two Wizards second rows on fifty minutes. He had Haydn Simons in support with Ryan Bates following him on the left. The ball worked out to Brendon Huntley who got through the red and black line before making the pass out of contact to wing Andy Evans. Evans was hauled down with millimetres to spare but Aberavon quickly flooded the tackle area with prone bodies which Mr Price passed as being within the laws of the game; another promising situation which bore no fruit.
The 54th minute saw a yellow card for Andrew Mann after Aberavon had a short spell of ominous and powerful build up. Mann lunged in from behind on a ball carrier earning himself a ten minute sit down.
It took until the 59th minute of the game for Aberavon to score again. From a penalty award Aberavon went for the corner. A sloppy lineout was eventually secured by the home team and, after a drive by prop Rhys Henry that went close, it was second row Ben Thomas that picked up the ball and dived over for a score. Stef Williams added the two-pointer to make it Aberavon 29 Newport 5.
Newport persevered with attacking, resulting in a free kick when the Aberavon hooker had his foot up in the scrum. Arron Atkin, on at halftime for Rhys Jenkins at no.8, broke quickly and made headway. Atkin and Joe Cullimore worked well together, Cullimore sometimes acting scrum half for the bound-in Ryan Bates before a nasty challenge on Cullimore saw him flattened on 67 minutes. The game was paused while the medical team attended to him and made sure there were no neck injuries. Cullimore stood up and carried on playing while Wizard replacement Stuart Nicholas found himself kicking his heels on the naughty step for ten minutes.
Aberavon were enjoying their superiority, even with a player down, and spurned a 71st minute chance. Aberavon were strong in possession and moving the ball quite freely from side to side but a simple looking pass to centre Will Price was spilled seemingly with a try begging to be scored. Newport tried to capitalise and run the ball from behind their own lines but fell foul of over-ambition when a long pass from left to right was fumbled. The Aberavon pack knuckled down and heaved the Newport scrum around. Mr Price was rather quick in awarding a penalty try which now made the score Aberavon 36 Newport 5.
Into added time and Aberavon were still going well. Cameron Ellis caught an inaccurate kick, evaded the tackler and launched an attack of his own. Ellis was stopped just inside the Aberavon half before home full back Chris Banfield set off back upfield along the touchline. He was running against tiring forwards until James Little made the tackle. The Wizard cavalry quickly arrived to retrieve the ball allowing Luke Davies to score his team’s seventh try of the day. The conversion sailed wide making the score Aberavon 41 Newport 5 on 80+2 minutes.
The Black and Ambers sought a consolation score and, from a lineout, Morgan Burgess, on as a replacement, went close after jumping at the tail of the line. A steady rolling maul put Burgess in position but Newport conceded another penalty and the game, thankfully, was over.
It was quite a disappointing result but one that was always a possibility, particularly in the circumstances. However, we have to move on and what better subject to move on to the next Sunday. The prospect of a Newport RFC cup final appearance is certainly a motivator and many people who haven’t been to a Newport RFC game in years are getting in touch to buy their tickets for the game through the club. This is the best way to do this as money then funnels directly into our club rather than elsewhere. So, please, if you’re thinking of buying tickets please contact the club or come to the ground and afternoon this week to make your purchases. The ticket office opening times are on the website, www.blackandambers.co.uk, and will be staffed by volunteers from the Friends of Newport Rugby Trust.
Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Come on Newport! #cotp
Newport Man Of The Match – Andrew Mann
FINAL SCORE _ Aberavon RFC 41 Newport RFC 5