P31 W21 D0 L10 : F892-A510(Tries 102-50)
(incl sesqui-centenary match vs Blackheath RFC)
Premier League Record : P26 W18 D0 L8 F746 A418 (Tries 84-42)
Premier League Runners Up
Capt : Andrew Coombs
Forwards coach Sven Cronk took over as Head Coach, former player and Newport U21 / Pontypool coach Dai Gray as forwards coach and former Pontypridd / Dragons / Wales centre Jon Bryant who had been coach at Merthyr took over the backs with Mike Sage as Team Manager replacing Phil Ramsey. Andrew Coombs was made captain. There were the usual comings and goings with long serving Matt Veater and high try scoring Ryan Howells going to big spending Cardiff RFC. Cardiff RFC had recruited strongly as had Neath RFC and were tipped for honours during the season. In-coming players included lock Matt Amos (Cardiff), prop Alex Murphy (Glamorgan Wdrs), back-row Dan McShane (Cardiff), wing Matt Pizey (Bedwas), scrum-half Tom Isaacs (Cardiff), centre Tom Riley (Pontypridd) and wing / full-back Paul Jones with the core of the previous season’s squad being retained.
The season started with a well coached and organized squad - M Leaman, A Brown, T Organ, T Isaacs, A Quick, T Riley, M Burke, S Williams, P Jones, M Poole (6t / 2c / 34pts) - captained by outstanding Craig Hill winning the Men of Gwent 7’s at a sunny Rodney Parade. Newport beat Newport HSOB and Pontypool in the pools and Bedwas in the Q/F. They then demolished the Dragon Academy team 33-7 in the S/F to go on and beat Cross Keys 19-5 in the final. It was a reminder of the old days when Newport was the dominant 7’s side in Wales.The first official match vs Pontypridd was postponed due to water problems at Sardis Road and the following Saturday they welcomed star-studded Cardiff at Rodney Parade. Few would have predicted the final result wit Newport demolishing the old enemy 30-3 with a superb 4 try bonus point win. Victories followed against Llandovery at home and Bridgend and Ebbw Vale away. This set up the match at the Gnoll against always strong Neath. Man of the Match was Andrew Coombs but a couple of late sin-binnings and missed chances cost Newport dear. A magnificent 65-21 win vs Swansea and an away win at Memorial Ground vs Glamorgan Wdrs got Newport back on track but then followed one of Newport’s off-days - there were to be more during the season ! Newport went down 13-17 to unbeaten Premier League leaders Llanelli throwing the match away in injury time. Newport beat Pontypridd 35-0 only to fail at home to high flying Aberavon with another sub-par performance. A weakened Newport team lost at Blackheath in a match to celebrate 150 yrs of fixtures but the trip was enjoyed by supporters and committee as the were made very welcome at the Rectory Field. Newport got back on track with league wins at home to Pontypool in the fog and Bedwas. They then beat high flying Div 1 side Blackwood in the Swalec Cup but then followed a run which was to cost Newport the Premier title. Cross Keys used the conditions of Pandy Park better while Cardiff RFC padded their side with Blues Welsh internationals Rhys Williams, Chris Czekaj to seal a bonus point win at Cardiff Arms Park. Swalec Cup wins vs Bridgend and Llandovery with a bonus point league win vs Ebbw Vale in between bought Neath to Rodney Parade. In a great advert for Premier rugby Newport won 34-32 with replacement full-back Dan Griffiths kicking a penalty on the final whistle. Newport had t fight hard at St Helens but got a bonus point win as he did home to Bridgend. Another sub-par performance in the Cup Q/f on a Friday night at Talbot Athletic Ground put Newport out of the Cup but then followed a match which effectively ended Newport’s league title hopes at Pontypool Park. In a dreadful midweek re-arranged match neither side could score a try and Pontypool won with a Driscoll drop goal in the 83rd min. Ironically this was the start of a remarkable recovery by Pontypool who looked destined for relegation. They had a great run culminating with a win at Cardiff Arms Park against champions on the last Saturday of the season against champions Cardiff. It was Bridgend who were then relegated due to less wins although same points. Newport then beat Glamorgan Wdrs and were unlucky to go down 26-28 at Sardis Road. Newport may still have still been in with a chance of the title but a woeful performance against neighbours Cross Keys ended that dream. Things started to look bad as Newport looked for qualification for next season’s new British Irish Cup with a run of 4 tough away matches. To their credit they rose magnificently to beat Llandovery 32-16, Llanelli 36-10, Aberavon 34-20 and finally Bedwas 33-22. Against all odds they had scored 135 pts / 14 tries and secured 4 bonus points wins. Captain Andrew Coombs rightly converted Tom Riley’s 83rd min try to bring the curtain day on a highly successful season. Fullback and outside were problem positions due to injuries to Paul Jones and Dan Griffiths who also lost some form and Jason Tovey played mainly for the Dragons. Later in the season fullback Alan Awcock (UWIC) and outside-halves Mike Scropfer (dualled with Merthyr) and Chris Wannell (Blackwood Div 1 champions) showed great promise. Wing Mike Poole endeared himself to the crowd with his do or die efforts to get to the line and ended as top try scorer on 19. classy Tom Riley and Scott Williams were the best centre partnership in the league and Riley stood in admirably at outside-half and too over the place-kicking for a time. Dan Griffiths ended the season on 1461 pts and often put over critical kicks. Tom Isaacs was impressive at scrum-half and was often drafted into the Dragons side. The front row of Pattison, Brown, Leaman, Robinson and Evans did their job admirably with Brown often having no replacement other than Robinson when Leaman dislocated his shoulder. Workman incredibly was playing as well as ever and Alex Jones (UWIC) was outstanding and unlucky to break his ankle but he came back well. Dale, Williams and Coombs we excellent in the back-row but unluckily all missed games due to injury. Craig Hill broke into the Dragons team at the end of the season. Newport were also fortunate to have the hard working Dan McShane. Andrew Coombs can feel well satisfied with his first season as Newport RFC captain. 50 different players were used with 22 making their debuts. Leading try scorer was Poole (19) followed by Riley 12 who also scored 86pts. Dan Griffiths was leading scorer with 217 pts. Scott Williams and Mark Workman played in 30 of the 31 matches and Andrew Brown, Ian Evans, Dan McShane and Andrew Quick in 29.
Newport missed out on the Premier Title due to some inconsistency and losses against the so-called lesser sides Cross Keys (only double conceded) and Pontypool - injuries and Dragons calls did not help also. Newport had the satisfaction of being arguably the best side in the Premier League - playing some of their best rugby in the semi-professional era - once again the best supported both home and away and scored the most points, tries and conceded the least. They also accumulated the most bonus points including bonus point wins. It was therefore apt that coach Sven Cronk was voted best coach by his peers. He rightly thanked his team of Dai Gray, Jon Bryant and Mike Sage and also captain Andrew Coombs. Tom Riley was short-listed for best player eventually won Aberavon’s Ashley Beck. One of the most satisfying changes was to see the players enjoying their rugby once again. It was a happy team and much credit must go to the Committee for turning thing around. The signs were good for next season.
Richard Dale and Paul Williams received their club caps while a special presentation was made to Mark Workman for passing 250 appearances.
Tom Riley, Tom Isaacs, Craig Hill and Tal Selley all played for Wales 7’s and Isaacs, Hill and Selley (Man of Tournament) were in the World Cup winning team.
Newport's Winning Men of Gwent 7's Squad