Cardiff edge out Newport in thriller

By John Evans | 17/09/2018

Newport RFC once again packed their bags for the short trip down the A48 to visit our closest rivals, and amongst our greatest friends, at Cardiff RFC. To illustrate the long and deep relationship between our clubs a minutes silence was held, and beautifully observed, for the recently departed Ray Cheney. Ray joined Newport in the 1962/1963 season and played at fullback in the famous win against New Zealand in 1963, hitting the bar with one penalty attempt. He went on to make 89 appearances in Black and Amber before heading to Cardiff. Ray made 69 appearances for the Blue and Blacks and featured in their 1966 victory against the touring Australian side. In 2013 Ray, along with the rest of the members of the All Black-beating team, was awarded the honour of being a Freeman of the City of Newport in recognition of his achievement. A true legend.

The Newport team had a much-changed look, especially at forward where coach Ty Morris elected to rotate his pack to spread the workload, whereas Craig Warlow called “same again” for the backs. Matt O’Brien captained the side with Rhys Jenkins on the bench.

It was Matt O’Brien who kicked off proceedings with Newport attacking the clubhouse end of the Arms Park. The swirling breeze made life difficult for the recipients as Cardiff fumbled and bumbled about with the ball before lofting a high clearing kick. Elliot Frewen, still occupying the fullback slot, took the opportunity to run back at the Blue and Blacks but his supporting players conceded a penalty. Cardiff kicked to 48 metres out from the Newport line where Newport were then picked up for closing the gap in the lineout. Newport edged the physical contest at this scrum but Cardiff whipped the ball away where Newport were penalised once more in midfield. Cardiff scrum half Martin Roberts took the tap quickly, seeing the Newport defence misaligned, before passing back inside to his outside half, Gareth Thompson, who sprinted through the gaps to score the opening try on two minutes. Thompson converted his own score to make it Cardiff 7 Newport 0.

Newport took a scrum on the Cardiff 22-metre line. Ryan James passed right for Jonny Morris to power into the defence and set up a ruck. The ball went left, Josh Reid punched up the field before Rynard Landman launched himself forward. The hulking South African drew a penalty for an illegal tackle. The penalty was tapped, the ball whipping left again as the Cardiff defence were sucked in, leaving room for wing Harri Lang to canter over and score in the corner. Matt O’Brien added the tricky two-pointer to level the scores at seven points apiece on as many minutes.

Cardiff tried to retaliate but were making little headway as the Black and Amber wall stifled their attacks. It was left to centre Chay Smith to execute an excellent tackle and spring to his feet to challenge for the grounded ball to bring a Newport penalty just inside the Newport half.

A walloping 13th minute tackle on Cardiff wing Cameron Lewis saw the ball bounce free. Rynard Landman handed the ball onto Evan Whitson who had no.8 Chris Williams outside him. Elliot Frewen flew up, on the hunt for tries, but an accidental offside ended that move just ten metres from the Cardiff line. 

Cardiff were keeping possession well but making little headway until wing Matthew Powell, who was to prove a thorn in Newport’s side all afternoon, jinked through a tackle to find space ahead of him. He had flanker Tom Daley to his right and found his support just over the Newport 22-metre line. Daley strode in for a well-taken score that outside half Gareth Thompson failed to improve on. The score now was Cardiff 12 Newport 7 on 19 minutes.

The wind strength was evident as Cardiff’s Thompson was getting very little distance on his clearing kicks. A lineout was knocked on by Cardiff hands but the Cardiff player ahead picking the ball up didn’t draw the expected penalty from the referee, Mr Wayne Davies, just the initial knock-on. The solid Newport scrum provided the perfect platform for the backs to launch a move and it almost came off. Tom Pascoe burst through the defensive line like a champagne cork but the pass to Chay Smith arrived at thigh-height and, understandably, Smith failed to hold the pass; a gilt-edged chance had evaporated.

A forward pass by Cardiff drew another solid Newport scrum, about 25 metres out on the terrace side. Pascoe tried to make another dent in the Cardiff defence as did Frewen and O’Brien. Newport were playing with referee’s advantage but none appeared. Matt O’Brien opted to kick the three points to make it Cardiff 12 Newport 10 on 29 minutes.

An unfortunate knock-on by Newport at the restart gave Cardiff the upper hand temporarily. Cardiff centre Bleddyn Davies was tackled well. Andrew Mann piled through the ruck to make a mess of Cardiff’s ball, forcing Martin Roberts into a hasty snatch and predictable knock-on. Josh Reid came up with possession and started a move left but Mr Davies awarded Cardiff another penalty. Newport effectively disrupted Cardiff’s possession with No.8 Chris Williams eventually surfacing with the ball in one hand. Matt O’Brien kicked ahead to try to turn Cardiff but fullback Llywarch ap Myrddin, formerly of this parish, tried to run back at the Black and Ambers. He was dumped on his backside for his efforts but managed to pass to centre Bleddyn Davies. The game had well and truly broken up by now and gaps were appearing everywhere. Davies spotted one and set off towards the Newport line with fellow centre Joe Gatt running to his right. Gatt took the pass and, despite the last-ditch tackle from Jonny Morris, had momentum enough to roll over the line near the posts and score his team’s third try of the half. Gareth Thompson slotted the straightforward conversion to make the score Cardiff 19 Newport 10 on 36 minutes.

Newport marched back up field with an Andrew Mann charge. He popped the ball up to Tom Pascoe who, in concert with Chay Smith, continued battering at the Blue and Blacks. Newport were playing with advantage but none came. Matt O’Brien nailed the three points to make in Cardiff 19 Newport 13 on 39 minutes.

There was just time to restart as Rynard Landman took the catch cleanly then powered away through the would-be tacklers. Morgan Burgess came haring up on his right, took the pass, carried and passed on to, presumably, his assumption that a Black and Amber colleague was supporting him. It was Cardiff’s Cameron Lewis that gleefully took the pass and reversed the attack. Cardiff’s Bleddyn Davies was proving effective for his team as he selected passes intelligently putting people into space. As play went left, though, a pass was flung out which the ever-alert Jonny Morris sniffed out, intercepted and raced away with just the corner-flaggers in pursuit. Morris dotted down under the sticks to make Matt O’Brien’s conversion simpler. The score at halftime was Cardiff 19 Newport 20. The game was eminently winnable for Newport. They now just needed to get on and actually win it!

Halftime – Cardiff RFC 19 Newport RFC 20 

Matt O’Brien led the team back out with Henry Palmer replacing Evan Whitson at hooker. Gareth Thompson restarted the game for Cardiff. Possession changed hands a few times, a kick cannoned off Tom Pascoe which Cardiff flanker Tom Daley rescued. Rynard Landman continued smashing people like there were Club Card points in it for him until Cardiff prop Peter Lloyd conceded a full penalty when he couldn’t resist getting his hands into a ruck. 

Newport had a let-off on 43 minutes when Cardiff nearly executed a splendid move when Gareth Thompson lofted a gentle kick ahead which centre Joe Gatt caught but his defence-splitting pass to Bleddyn Davies was judged to have been forward.

Cardiff continued to press but met with a solid wall of Newport defenders. Mr Davies picked up on a high tackle and let Cardiff play a jolly generous advantage before Gareth Thompson kicked ahead. Jonny Morris gathered before Mr Davies called play back to the original offence some minutes earlier. Thompson nailed his kick at goal to make the score Cardiff 22 Newport 20 on 46 minutes.

Newport had an opportunity on fifty minutes when Cardiff kicked directly to touch from inside their on 22. Newport had several drives at the heart of the defence, Lewis Smout going well and making ground. From a ruck, a pass to Rynard Landman was especially unsympathetic resulting in him being isolated, turned and robbed of the ball by the scavenging Cardiff loose forwards. Newport continued to front up, battering away, softening up the defence and making space for the backs to work in. Tom Pascoe did well to hold a scruffy pass before colliding with the Blue and Black defence. Chris Williams drove over him to secure the ball. Josh Reid and Morgan Burgess pummelled forward before Matt O’Brien found a half-yard gap for Chay Smith to run into. Smith powerfully rolled through the tackle and dabbed the ball over the Cardiff try-line under pressure. Matt O’Brien added the two points to make the score Cardiff 22 Newport 27 on 52 minutes.

Cardiff hit back when a Newport kick was too long for the chasers. Cardiff ran back at Newport initially hitting a solid phalanx of defenders but gaps appeared allowing Llywarch ap Myrddin to run cleanly through the Newport defence and score the try that secured a bonus point for the hosts. Gareth Thompson added the extras to make the score Cardiff 29 Newport 27 on 56 minutes.

Newport entered a good phase of keeping possession, working hard and carrying well, the position only being lost when replacement prop Jack Williams unfortunately spilled the ball as he tried to pass out of contact. Elliot Frewen was a constant threat to the Cardiff defence, keeping them honest as he varied his runs, making the home centres work hard. Sadly, unforced errors were beginning to litter the game, Newport giving away threatening positions and Cardiff missing touch more than once, immediately inviting Newport back on to them. Matt O’Brien managed to make a half-break but his backhanded pass to Morgan Burgess took the flanker by surprise and the pass was spilled. Newport continued to push ahead but Geraint Watkin, on for Ryan James at scrum half, was isolated and stripped before the ball reached Cardiff wing Matthew Powell. Powell stepped around two Newport defenders in about the same space as a ‘phone box before sprinting away. Cardiff spread the play left but managed to knock on themselves.

Mr Davies seemed to have issues with the Newport front row all afternoon, regardless of which of the four props utilised was on the field. When a set of scrums on the 76th minute wasn’t settling it was not a surprise to see the referee’s arm go up on the Cardiff side. The Blue and Blacks kicked to just over halfway then went for safety with a front-of-lineout ball. Cardiff patiently built up the phases until Geraint Watkin stripped the ball away from the ball-carrier and moved it right. Newport began to threaten until the pass from Rhys Jenkins to young David Richards, on at fullback for Harri Lang with Frewen moving to his natural wing spot, being called as forward. 

Again, it was no surprise when an 81st minute penalty was called against Newport. Cardiff kicked into the Newport half and secured the line-out. They went through the phases really well, allowing Newport nothing at all. Thump after thump of Blue and Black ball-carriers hurtled forward and the game seemed up until Chay Smith snaffled a ball on the far touchline and Newport could build from deep.  Virtually everybody on the field in Black and Amber played a part in marching Newport back up field. Cardiff had to quickly switch to ‘defensive’ mode. The travelling Newport supporters found their voice, the chant of “Newport! Newport!” ringing around the ground as the  players battled forward. The clock was now on 89 minutes and the option of a cheeky drop-goal was looking more likely. Matt O’Brien barked his orders as he sought the best position to try from. Geraint Watkin got his torso through a tackle to hand on to Tom Pascoe who was snagged as he tried to bust through. Frustratingly, Mr Davies spotted an accidental offside and the game really was up. The Newport players took to their haunches to reflect on the league points that were left on the field.

Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Newport’s next fixture is at home on Sunday 23rd September when Bedwas RFC travel along the A468 to Rodney Parade for a Principality Premiership fixture. Recent fixtures against Bedwas have all been tough, keenly contested games and Newport will have to be at their best to win. Kick-off is at 2.30pm, make sure you bring your loudest cheering voices and help the boys to a valuable league win!

The week after, Newport travel west to Llanelli RFC for another Sunday game on September 30th. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust are running a bus for supporters so if you would like to reserve yourself a seat then please get in touch soon.

Your City. 

Your Club. 

Come on Newport! #cotp

Newport Man Of The Match – Elliot Frewen

FINAL SCORE _ Cardiff RFC 29  Newport RFC 27

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