Newport RFC vs Bridgend RFC – 20th October 2018 by John Evans
In contrast to the wet conditions that Newport RFC faced during their satisfying win in Colwyn Bay last weekend, we were treated to a beautiful autumn day, bright sun and long, low shadows. Newport faced a revitalised Bridgend Ravens who have had some notable results this season already, beating Llandovery at home last weekend following wins against Swansea and Neath whilst running the then league leaders Ebbw Vale to a single point winning margin at Eugene Cross park. They were clearly going to be no pushovers.
In a late change for Newport, Geraint O’Driscoll was promoted from the bench to start at full back, David Richards switched to the wing putting Jonny Morris onto the bench as cover.
Matt O’Brien got the game underway, kicking towards the school end. Bridgend took the catch cleanly before going through phase rugby to set up a position for themselves. They had a stroke of good fortune when Bridgend scrum half Connor Tantum kicked ahead for Geraint O’Driscoll to gather. It looked as though Matt O’Brien, in close attendance to O’Driscoll, expected him to boot the ball to touch so didn’t expect to be passed to. The referee, Mr Simon Mills, awarded Bridgend the scrum. The Ravens pressed ahead, centre Stuart Floyd-Ellis making ground on the left but it was Elliot Frewen who popped up with possession for Matt O’Brien to clear Newport’s lines.
A strong Newport scrum allowed Josh Reid a great base to break from. He was held up by good work from the Ravens loose forwards but, from the turnover scrum, Bridgend were penalised for ‘hinging’ in the front row. Bridgend’s frailties in the department were to become something of a feature which was to more prevalent as the game wore on.
But it was in broken play where Bridgend threatened most. They have a very good set of backs which can cut most opposition backlines to ribbons. The Ravens set about playing their way out of their own 22, Stuart Floyd-Ellis doing damage again, scrum half Connor Tantum did well to create some room for himself and set up a ruck on the edge of the Newport 22 metre line, left of centre field. Second Row James Little, formerly of this parish, spotted the lack of cover behind the ruck, picked up the ball and easily punctured the Black and Amber defence. He passed left to the galloping number 8 Dafi Davies who strode across the line for a try. Full back Jamie Murphy, another former Black and Amber, kicked the conversion to make the score Newport 0 Bridgend 7 on 9 minutes.
From the restart Bridgend biffed through some uncommitted Newport tackles and progressed right up into the Newport 22. Elliot Frewen again did the unglamorous hard work, ripping and snarling, as he came away with the ball and sprinted up field. Mr Mills had given a penalty for Newport offside, however, despite Frewen running the length of the field to ‘score’. Bridgend went to the corner but as Joe Bartlett climbed to snaffle Bridgend possession, Bridgend’s Little was guilty of unbalancing him and sending him crashing onto his back. Penalty to Newport.
Geraint O’Driscoll took a towering catch before setting up a 14th minute ruck. Tom Lucas booted the ball towards the corner and had more than a stroke of good fortune when Bridgend flanker Adam O’Driscoll fumbled the ball backwards then regathered it as he trod on the touchline. Newport mauled the ball forwards from the lineout and made it to the five metre mark before Ravens hooker Iestyn Merriman managed to position himself between ball and attacker and earn the turnover. The ball was soon won back for Newport as Will Evans surged ahead. The ball went wide but Chay Smith’s pass out to David Richards was knocked ahead by Ravens wing Mike Powell. It was deemed not to be deliberate by Mr Mills and only warranted a Newport scrum, despite the protestations of the Newport supporters who felt otherwise. The Bridgend scrum collapsed again giving Newport the penalty to the corner. Joe Bartlett took the ball at the tail of the lineout for Will Evans to peel around and start attacking. Kyle Tayler went left again allowing Matt O’Brien a dart at the line only for Bridgend’s Adam O’Driscoll to halt him. Kyle Tayler powered on with the ball once more until Matt O’Brien jinked around Ravens Jamie Murphy and scored the try under the posts. He added his own two-pointer to make the score Newport 7 Bridgend 7 on 21 minutes.
Mr Mills invoked the ire of the Newport support again on 23 minutes when Bridgend wing Geraint Roberts was clearly playing the ball on the floor in front of the Bisley stand only for Chay Smith to be penalised for, apparently, not supporting his own weight at the ruck. Outside half Ryan Evans kicked for position and, from the line out, prop Rhodri Apsee peeled around the tail of the lineout. He found James Little who had flanker Tom Morgan outside him. The ball worked quickly left for wing Mike Powell to dart past the cover and squeeze into the corner for a well-taken try. Jamie Murphy missed the conversion to make it Newport 7 Bridgend 12.
Ravens Adam O’Driscoll fluffed his lines at the restart and knocked on. Josh Skinner played the ball as Newport looked to take advantage. Matt O’Brien ran into heavy traffic until Will Evans arrived to bail him out and push Newport forward. Rynard Landman, on permit from his parent team the Dragons, acted as scrum half and popped the ball to Garin Harris. Excellent hands from Harris had Newport moving well. Josh Skinner smashed into contact allowing Tom Lucas to gather the ball and pick out Matt O’Brien running an angle to dive across for his second try. O’Brien’s conversion attempt bounced off the left hand post to make the score twelve points apiece on 26 minutes.
Bridgend’s Jamie Murphy made a terrific break up into the Newport half but was well tackled. Elliot Frewen retrieved the ball in an unusual manner by almost roly-polying out of the ruck before Mr Mills called a penalty against the Ravens. Newport went for the quick tap only for Bridgend to concede again as they weren’t back ten metres. Matt O’Brien kicked to touch but to no avail as Ravens number 8 Dafi Davies came up with the ball. However, the Ravens indiscipline showed as his support players entered the ruck from the side and conceded a third successive penalty. Matt O’Brien pointed to the posts and took the kick resulting in a 30th minute fifteen points to twelve lead for the Black and Ambers.
Ravens Connor Tantum knocked the ball forwards in the 39th minute. The Newport front row blasted their opposite numbers backwards drawing another penalty. It was from 42 metres out, but, in the second minute of stoppage time, was worth a punt at goal. Matt O’Brien swung his boot and the ball sailed pleasingly between the sticks for a hard-earned 18-12 half time lead.
Halftime – Newport RFC 18 Bridgend RFC 12
A halftime change for Newport saw Josh Reid make way for Matthew Reed at number 8. Newport tried to run the kick return back at Bridgend but knocked on. The Newport tight five then utterly destroyed the Bridgend scrum allowing Matthew Reed the opportunity to pick up and break on the blind side before popping the ball on to Rynard Landman who found Kyle Tayler in turn. Newport made it into the Bridgend 22 before the Ravens conceded another penalty. Matt O’Brien kicked to the corner. Newport went right, left and back right again looking for a chink in the Bridgend defence and, on this occasion, there were none, Tom Pascoe became isolated and Bridgend’s Jamie Murphy could step across him and earn the penalty as Newport desperately tried to cling on to field position.
Bridgend, trying to think their way out of trouble, tried a clever move at the front of the line as jumper palmed the ball back to hooker allowing Iestyn Merriman to hare off towards the Newport line. The ball worked quickly right but Jamie Murphy quickly turned from hero to villain as he failed to take the pass and handed Newport possession back.
Newport put together a solid attack on fifty minutes, keeping the ball alive and pressuring Bridgend. Rynard Landman was passing like a centre, Garin Harris carried the ball into contact and room was created for David Richards to go close at the corner. Jamie Murphy snagged his man again but Mr Mills had spotted the Ravens offside in midfield and was giving Newport advantage. When none came Mr Mills jogged back towards the posts to offer Matt O’Brien the simplest looking shot at goal to make the score Newport 21 Bridgend 12.
Newport appeared to be growing in confidence while Bridgend appeared to be trying to function with a spluttering line out and a moribund scrum. However, it was Bridgend that scored next. Bridgend were putting phases together but still in their own half when Matthew Reed was penalised for a high tackle. Jamie Murphy tried the kick at goal and, to his credit, was only just short. Newport restarted but a break by replacement Chris Williams had captain Nathan Edwards, another former Newport player, take the contact. The ball worked wide to wing Mike Powell who set off for the corner. On seeing his options quickly becoming limited, Powell placed a smart cross-kick into the path of flanker Tom Morgan who gathered the ball and crossed for the try. Mr Mills consulted his assistant who declared that, no, Morgan wasn’t offside and the try stood. Jamie Murphy missed the conversion to make the score Newport 21 Bridgend 17 on the hour.
From the restart, Raven prop Rhodri Apsee knocked on. He was then punished when the Newport tight five gave him and his colleagues another beasting to earn a penalty around 35 metres out. Sadly, Matt O’Brien’s 63rd minute kick sailed right of the posts at the North terrace end.
Newport were awarded a penalty for a high tackle which O’Brien kicked to ten metres out. Rynard Landman set up the dynamic drive to move forward. Ryan James, on for Tom Lucas, crabbed right before setting up Tom Pascoe with a luxurious reverse pass which Pascoe took before crashing over under the posts for an excellent try. Matt O’Brien added the simple two-pointer making the score Newport 28 Bridgend 17. Three tries scored, one more to go for the try-scoring bonus point.
Rhys Jenkins, on for Josh Skinner, continued the hard work by holding up Bridgend’s Oliver Evans before the cavalry arrived to ensure the turnover. Once more the Bridgend front row were schooled on scrummaging.
Newport were pinged for offside on 75 minutes. Bridgend kicked and formed a lineout on the Newport 22 on the Hazell side. Ravens Dafi Davies palmed the ball backwards but it was Dan Partridge who was first through the line and onto the ball. Newport retaliated but it was Bridgend’s Chris Williams who infringed and, having seen enough, Mr Mills invited Williams for ten minutes on the naughty step. Matt O’Brien kicked along the touchline for a penalty around 38 metres out from the Bridgend line. Geraint O’Driscoll timed his run into the line perfectly and took Newport into their 22 metre area. The ball fizzed left for Dan Partridge to feed Henry Palmer, on for Will Evans, only to eventually run out of room, and support, in the corner.
Newport were penalised for a high tackle allowing Bridgend to kick to halfway. The Ravens tried their trick again only for fresh hooker Gareth Harvey to knock on. Newport walked the scrum forward allowing Ryan James to size up his options before releasing David Richards but he spilled the ball in contact. Time was ticking away as Bridgend packed down for another scrum which the Newport pack bossed. Matthew Reed was strong going forward and Bridgend were somewhat on the ropes. Deep into stoppage time, and with try number four still waiting to be scored, a Newport scrum, five metres out appeared to be the perfect opportunity. Not so, said Mr Mills, as the totally dominant scrum was penalised for wheeling. Bridgend momentarily cleared and Newport ran the ball back at them but to no further gain.
Arguably Newport deserved a bonus point on this performance but, equally arguably, it was harsh on Bridgend to walk away empty handed. Their endeavour in the backs was quite something and it’s easy to see why they have troubled so many teams this season. They will be very tough to beat on their own back yard. As Craig Warlow pointed out in his post-match address, “no other side had cut us as much as Bridgend had this season”.
The Black and Ambers are back in action next Saturday when they visit Neath RFC at the Gnoll. This Principality Premiership fixture kicks off at 2.30pm. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running a bus for supporters to this fixture priced at £15 per seat. Please get in touch to book your place. There is also the tempting option of hospitality with Neath RFC at the Gnoll. £10 buys you a two-course meal and snacks at halftime plus the chance to hear our very own Brian ‘BJ’ Jones recount tales of derring-do at the ground from the past. Please see www.blackandambers.co.uk for more information.
There is then a weekend off for the ‘Port before the team face Swansea RFC at Rodney Parade, again in a Principality Premiership game. This will be on Friday 9th November, kick off at 7.15pm.
Newport Man Of The Match – Matt O’Brien
FINAL SCORE _ Newport RFC 28 Bridgend RFC 17