Well, what a tumultuous summer that was. The last time a Newport team took the field was back on May 20th when they played Neath RFC in the final of the Tier Two Premiership competition. Since then the sale of Rodney Parade has gone through to the WRU who promptly renamed the umbrella company “Gwent Stadium Ltd” in a further effort to distance themselves from what had gone before. The Friends of Newport Rugby, as we have come to expect, have got stuck in to all aspects of the day to day running of Newport RFC and the situation is slowly beginning to take shape. The outlook is definitely positive in that aspect.
But what of the playing staff? Several have come and several have gone. That’s the nature of the beast these days. It’s games like this pre-season friendly against the likes of our friends at Risca RFC, ably coached by former Black and Ambers Matt Veater and Andrew Peacock where the coaches Craig Warlow, Ty Morris and their new glamorous partner in crime Stuart Lawrence can run the rule over potential additions to the squad while giving some others a run out with a few experienced heads directing on-field matters.
A bright, cloud-broken sky and a dry pitch were perfect for a game of rugby, a cooling breeze rolling off the Ebbw river next to the ground prevented temperatures creeping too high. Newport wore their change red strip while Risca wore a kit of royal blue with a gold trim, black shorts and black socks. Newport’s outside half Haydn Simons kicked off with Newport playing towards the club house. Risca began strongly with some neat work getting them back into Newport territory quickly. A neat cross kick by their outside half nearly paid off but bounced slightly higher than the onrushing wing could jump, but Black and Amber alarm bells were beginning to ring. A penalty awarded to Risca was taken quickly by their lively scrum half who almost managed to breach the Newport line himself but was held up. The ball was efficiently worked out to midfield where Haydn Simons almost managed to get a hand to the ball. The referee, Mr Gwyn Morris, allowed Risca the advantage and their second row, No. 4, scooped the ball up and extended a long arm over the line to score a deserved try for the home side. The conversion was successful and the score was Risca 7 Newport 0 on 3 minutes.
Newport had taken a warning shot across the bows. It was time to get serious, treat this as a ‘jolly’ and you’ll be punished. The Black and Ambers responded with some powerful driving from the forwards and soon got themselves into a likely position. A line out in the home 22 resulted in a powerful rolling maul with Henry Palmer, looping round from throwing in, at the tail of the maul as it drove across the Risca line. Haydn Simons converted to make it seven points apiece on 9 minutes.
Newport pushed down the right through wing Curtis Ayling but it took a moment of vision from scrum half Ryan Bates to make the next try. A penalty was quickly taken and Bates released Simons to sprint, virtually untouched, to the tryline. He converted his own score to make it Risca 7 Newport 14 on 16 minutes.
Simons quickly added to his own tally by claiming a second try just two minutes later as Wes Cunliffe found room to manoeuvre on his wing and found the willing Simons in support. The conversion went awry as the score became Risca 7 Newport 19.
Risca got into their stride, playing some good combative rugby, giving Newport as good as they got. They slowly, patiently edged their way up towards the Newport line but it ultimately came to nought as Wes Cunliffe came in off his wing to pick off a pass across the Risca back line and sprint fully eighty metres for a try with Newport flanker Morgan Burgess supporting him all the way. Haydn Simons added the conversion to make it Risca 7 Newport 26 on 36 minutes.
Possibly the best try of the afternoon followed on 39 minutes. Ryan Bates, always lively at scrum half, picked out Morgan Burgess with a near perfect pass to put him in acres of space. Burgess charged forward before passing back to the supporting Bates whose angled run opened up the Risca back line and allowed his second row colleague, Joe Bartlett, plenty of room to canter in for the try. Good rugby and great awareness from Ryan Bates. The score now was Risca 7 Newport 31 on 39 minutes.
There was time for a final try in this half. Risca were trying to keep the ball alive by popping the ball between each other, short, accurate passes that could break down a rigid Newport defence. However, when one such pass ended up on the Stores Field turf Newport centre Adam Sabri reacted quickest and scooped up the ball for a sixty metre sprint to the line with only mild opposition. Haydn Simons added the extra points to make the half time score Risca 7 Newport 38.
Halftime – Risca RFC 7 Newport RFC 38
Risca started the second half badly by kicking the ball dead from the centre spot. Possession was immediately handed over to the Black and Ambers who continued the damaging rugby that they had demonstrated in the first half. A try on 45 minutes was scored by Chay Smith, as far as anybody could tell in the melee, which, predictably, was converted by Haydn Simons. 7-45.
Risca, in a desperate situation, tried a little too hard to salvage a score from the game but left themselves hopelessly over-extended on their right flank. Adam Sabri spotted the overlap and executed it perfectly bringing Chay Smith in for another try on 47 minutes. 7-52.
Chay Smith ended a sparkling few minutes of Newport scoring by taking the ball from a pass from Ryan James and simply using brute strength to roll his opposite number over the line and claim yet another try, Haydn Simons converted to make the score Risca 7 Newport 59 on 51 minutes.
Risca, with the pressure well and truly off them, hit another patch of good rugby and tested the Newport defence fully. The ‘Cuckoos’ found themselves within the shadow of the Newport posts only to lose the ball to some committed rucking by Newport flanker Joe Cullimore.
Newport battled back up to the Risca line. Some crisp handling was countered with some accurate Risca tackling as Haydn Simons was put into touch. Risca will regret the wobbly line out throw that went horribly loose and allowed Newport second row James Little to simply drop onto the ball for his teams next try. Simons converted again to make it Risca 7 Newport 66 on 72 minutes.
Newport RFC fan favourite Jon Morris was next on the scoreboard with a typically brave, swashbuckling effort from him. A high ball was lofted, Morris positioned himself under it, jumped highest and claimed the ball. Then, in almost one action, Morris spun, dropped to one knee to steady himself and roared away for a fifty metre sprint to the Risca line almost unopposed. Haydn Simons added the conversion to make it Risca 7 Newport 73 on 75 minutes.
There was time for one final score and that went to Owen Davies. Jon Morris was ranging around, looking for gaps, when he spotted one on the left. He passed to Haydn Simons who made the break and had Davies to his right in support. Simons converted, taking his personal tally to thirty points for the afternoon, to make it Risca 7 Newport 80 as Mr Morris called the game to a halt.
This was a decent performance from Newport as Risca threw up challenges that made the Black and Ambers think on their feet more than once. Clearly tougher challenges lie ahead, namely next Saturday in the club’s second and final pre-season friendly away at Ampthill RFC. The ‘Mob’, as they are known, are coached by Black and Amber legend Paul Turner so will clearly be no pushovers. An interesting afternoon awaits. Newport’s coaches will have much that they will want to work on but, pleasingly, they seem to have much to work with.
Come on ‘the ‘Port! #cotp
Man Of The Match – Haydn Simons
FINAL SCORE _ Risca RFC 7 Newport RFC 80
Match pictures: click
Match pictures: click