Cross Keys RFC v Newport RFC 7th October 2017 by John Evans
Pandy Park hasn’t been the happiest of hunting grounds for Newport RFC in recent seasons. The most recent victory there was a 20-24 win in the British & Irish Cup in October 2012. There was a drawn game, 23 points apiece in the League in March 2011. Prior to that it, was on 22nd March 2008 that the Black and Ambers last helped themselves to a league victory at the ground, when a try by Adam Frampton and kicks by Dan Griffiths saw Newport gain a 10-14 win.
Cross Keys outside half Josh Prosser kicked off towards the clubhouse at Pandy Park for Owen Davies to gather, pass to outside half Haydn Simons to reply. A first minute penalty was conceded by Newport for hands in the ruck but Prosser’s attempt fell short and scuffed the right hand post’s protective pads. Newport certainly looked livelier than last weekend’s showing against Bargoed but were they going to be lively enough to subdue a strong Keys team who, not having had the best of starts this season, would want to mark a mark against their closest rivals, geographically speaking?
Cross Keys were penalised minutes later for a similar offence. Newport booted the ball to thirty metres from the Keys line only to have athletic Keys lock Josh Skinner to disrupt the throw. The ball spilled loose, Newport captain Rhys Jenkins was first to the bobbling ball and secured possession. The Black and Ambers completed a series of successful drives at the heart of the Black and White defence until an obvious mismatch was created, with Newport centres facing Cross Keys props. Sadly, wing Haydn Palmer was brought down and Keys were off the hook.
Scott Matthews, the Cross Keys open-side and captain started the game very well, foraging for anything he could get his hands on and providing some super little improvised passes to release his team mates. Keys were attacking again on fifteen minutes with some verve but were guilty of inaccuracies allowing Newport to snuff out situations without much effort. A strong tackle by Tom Pascoe halted the move and, as the ball ran loose, Haydn Simons and Palmer worked in concert to try to release wing Corey Howells but Howells had too little room to do much damage. Owen Davies box-kicked the ball up to the Keys 22–metre line in front of the stand but the Black and Ambers couldn’t secure their own line out ball to keep the pressure on.
In an unfortunate chain of events, Newport back rower Josh Reid took a heavy blow in the 16th minute and the referee, Mr Aled Evans, called the game to a temporary halt. Credit must go, firstly, to the players in Reid’s immediate vicinity for quickly recognising the seriousness of the situation and summoning help and, secondly, the medical staff of both teams who were quickly on to the park to give Reid all the assistance possible. Newport RFC would like to thank the Cross Keys RFC medical team for their help. It should also be noted that Josh was sat up and talking at half time. We hope to see Josh back on the field in Black and Amber sooner rather than later as he looked a real prospect in the brief time that he was on the field.
Both teams endeavoured to keep limbered up in the fifteen minute enforced break, but it was Keys who emerged from the inactivity better. Flanker Scott Matthews flashed a super little pass to wing Lloyd Lewis who was allowed to run infield. Cross Keys centre Barney Nightingale biffed a dent in the Newport defence while talented full back Leon Andrews set up the ruck. Keys scrum half James Leadbeater, formerly of this parish, worked the ball left for second row Josh Skinner to canter across for the opening try. Josh Prosser, the Keys number ten, added the conversion to make the score Cross Keys 7 Newport 0 on 31 minutes.
Keys were soon pouring forward again. A ruck set up about thirty metres from the Newport line had them flooding the left of field to attack. Fortunately for Newport the ball squirted out of the back of the ruck to the right. Owen Davies scooped the ball up and hared off before finding Haydn Palmer on his left. Palmer took the pass and sprinted away, outpacing the corner-flagging Scott Matthews and then jinking around wing Mathew Powell to score the try. The conversion was missed so the scoreboard read Cross Keys 7 Newport 5 on 36 minutes.
Things got heated on the 39th minute as Newport hooker Will Evans and Cross Keys’ Barney Nightingale became embroiled in a discussion about Catalonian independence, or something. Keys’ Josh Skinner waded in to add his opinion only for him and Evans to trade punches. Mr Evans had little option but to invite both chaps to continue their discussion elsewhere, illuminating as it might be. The original penalty to Newport was also reversed as, clearly, Will Evans’ punch was a better one than Skinner’s. Thus, Evans became the first yellow card recipient for Newport RFC this season.
Another loose, bouncing ball from Cross Keys saw John Lavender swing a boot at it and begin the process of clearing the lines. Rhys Jenkins, again, was quickly up and ripped the ball from the black and white shirted recipient. As the ball moved left, Keys centre Phil Williams was over-eager and created an obvious dog-leg in their defence for Newport to exploit. Haydn Palmer was unleashed again but earned his team a penalty as he took a ‘no-arms’ tackle. Newport pushed on with Chay Smith going closest, only to concede a penalty for a double movement while trying to ground the ball.
As the half drew to a close there was still time to score and it was Newport who did so. Cross Keys were spotted dragging down the jumper at a line out and it was Haydn Simons who punished them by slotting the three-pointer to make it Cross Keys 7 Newport 8 at the interval.
Halftime – Cross Keys RFC 7 Newport RFC 8
Haydn Simons restarted the game for Newport RFC and, from the outset, there was good, positive play by Newport. The Black and Ambers patiently went through phase after phase before trying to release replacement wing Adam Sabri. The half-backs would try and angle a kick for the corner for the talented Sabri to hunt down and then, with his strength, secure the ball for the Newport forwards to protect. It almost worked immediately but Sabri was penalised for holding on to the ball in the tackle just five metres from the Keys line.
Henry Palmer, a replacement for Will Evans, did well to get hands on the ball in a maul and secure the turnover for Newport and keep the pressure on the home team. Again, Newport were building momentum when Haydn Palmer angled a run infield to set up the ruck. However, the ball was lost and the rapid Lloyd Lewis, on the Keys wing, ran before putting in a cross-kick towards the Newport posts to pursue. Newport full-back Geraint O’Driscoll was judged to have deliberately shoulder charged Lewis to the ground and Mr Evans once again brandished the yellow card and invited O’Driscoll onto the naughty step.
Cross Keys went for the corner with the penalty award and the rolling maul looked ominous for Newport until flanker Liam Davies was also thought to have made a double movement in grounding the ball. Mr Evans awarded Newport the penalty and the Black and Amber supporters could exhale again. Happily for those same supporters Cross Keys seemed to go to pieces somewhat. Keys conceded a penalty for purposely kicking a ball at the back of a ruck and then a further ten metres for chopsing. Haydn Simons took delight in marching Cross Keys back to their own 22 metre line. Simons had the chance to extend Newport’s lead, which he duly took, on 58 minutes when Keys were caught offside some forty metres out. The shot, from the right of the sticks, sailed through to give Newport a 7-11 advantage.
As O’Driscoll came back onto the field Newport carried on pressurising. Chay Smith found himself close to the line but with zero room to manoeuvre. The little dink ahead ricocheted off Keys boots but John Lavender was down quickest and secured possession. Keys couldn’t resist going over the top at the ruck and, penalty awarded, Newport boldly went for the corner. Morgan Burgess was hoisted high to claim the throw before the rolling maul formed around him. It rumbled towards the Cross Keys line before a dastardly unseen Cross Keys hand dragged the maul to the ground. Mr Evans was convinced that the score would have been completed and had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try. Haydn Simons topped it off with the extra two points to make the score Cross Keys 7 Newport 18 on 62 minutes.
Cross Keys had a bash at the Newport line of their own and winger Mathew Powell threatened as he stepped around Chay Smith’s tackle. Powell then tried to pass to a player that he perceived to be better placed than him only for Haydn Palmer, having a terrific game despite the obvious fatigue that he was experiencing, to pick the pass off and clear the Newport lines.
Cross Keys seemed unusually inert in defence, forwards dropping off tackles. Even Scott Matthews, the dynamic flanker, seemed to lose interest as he offered no more than a hand to tackle a Black and Amber shirt. They were penalised again, for offside again, on 68 minutes and Haydn Simons took full advantage by kicking the goal from some 38 metres out. The scoreboard now read Cross Keys 7 Newport 21.
A 71st minute penalty award to Keys didn’t make touch, Adam Sabri fielded the kick and fed Geraint O’Driscoll to boom it clear. The ball went straight to the one player it didn’t want to go to, Lloyd Lewis. Lewis raced forward only to be dragged down and then he conceded the penalty for hanging on to the ball in the tackle. Haydn Simons penalty was wide this time.
Cross Keys still had bite to them, though. A superbly weighted kick by number ten Josh Prosser found Barney Nightingale lurking on the lightly-defended right wing. Nightingale caught the ball and scrambled across the line for his team’s second try. Crucially, the conversion was missed by Josh Prosser so Cross Keys still needed two scores to win on 78 minutes. Cross Keys 12 Newport 21.
Cross Keys looked to run the ball from behind their own line in added time, in search of a losing bonus point. Newport threw up a Black and Amber defensive wall to restrict their progress and wind the clock down simultaneously. Keys bashed and battered away before a spilled pass some forty metres from their line brought the game to an end.
Pandy Park is a tough place for Newport sides to come and win, as demonstrated at the beginning of the article. It was also a complete reversal in performance after the previous outing. Mentions in dispatches should go to Owen Davies at scrum half, having his best game for Newport this season, and Joe Cullimore who came off the bench to replace Josh Reid and tackled anything in a black and white jersey.
There is now a break of two weeks in Principality Premiership league action as the British and Irish Cup gets underway. The club extend best wishes to any Newport RFC player invited to play for the Dragons Premiership Select XV. Our next league game is away at Cardiff RFC on Friday 27th October at 7.15pm while our next home game is, FA Cup draw notwithstanding, against Bedwas RFC on Saturday November 4th. Please do your best to come to this fixture. Bedwas are flying high currently and are sure to provide a good test for our talented squad. Onwards and upwards, Newport, onwards and upwards.
Come on the ‘Port! #cotp
Man Of The Match – Haydn Simons
FINAL SCORE _ Cross Keys RFC 12 Newport RFC 21