Newport RFC v Llandovery RFC 4th May 2019 by John Evans
The end of a season usually signifies a time of change at a club like ours and this year is no exception. Moving on is Head Coach Craig Warlow, who has stamped an enormous mark on our club with the style of play being a joy at times. Also on the move is talismanic scrum half Ryan James, who is retiring from the game. Centre Chay Smith moves on as well. Chay has started every league game for the Black and Ambers this season and his abilities have clearly been noted as he moves on to, hopefully, bigger things. Newport RFC wish all who are moving on this year their best wishes for the future.
Llandovery RFC have had a pretty good season, reaching the semi-final of the Welsh cup, losing to eventual winners Cardiff in a game at the Gnoll and arrived at Newport second in the league with a mighty 98 points in the bag. They gave Newport a schooling when we visited them before Christmas, losing 43-10 with only a penalty and a consolation try by Geraint Watkin at the end of the game to show for their efforts.
Saturday afternoon was a bright spring day with a gusting breeze coming from the north that kept the temperature down a little. Jonny Morris led Newport RFC onto the field to mark the occasion of his one hundredth appearance for the club, holding hands with his younger brother Gethin as they ran on. Gethin was one of a series of mascots for the club in what is slowly becoming a lovely end-of-season family occasion for the players where they have their children or younger siblings as mascots. Taking part this year were the children of Dan Preece, Matthew Reed and kit man Dave Young.
Llandovery outside half Jack Maynard kicked off with Newport attacking the North Terrace end. Geraint Watkin box-kicked the first ruck, Elliot Frewen chased, palmed the ball backward to Dan Partridge who set up another ruck but couldn’t prevent losing the ball. Dafydd Land, the Drovers 9, kicked ahead but the ball ran dead for a Newport drop-out. Llandovery’s opening score was too easy for them. Jack Maynard threw an outrageous dummy which bought him space and time. He ran forward and could easily pick out Aaron Warren on the wing. The long pass fired out to Warren who skimmed around the outside of the Newport defence for a first minute try. The conversion was missed making the score Newport 0 Llandovery 5.
Llandovery flanker Stuart Worrall knocked on the restart allowing Newport to build. Garin Harris and Evan Whitson were used as first-up runners, hitting the defence hard. Matthew Reed, in his inimitable style, picked up and crashed through would-be tacklers to get the Black and Ambers into the Drovers’ 22. A pass out to Chay Smith was spoiled earning Newport a penalty which Matt O’Brien took quickly. He took on the covering defence before passing to Evan Whitson on his right. Whitson went close enough for O’Brien to regather the ball and crash across the white line to even the scores. This brought Matt’s career points tally for Newport RFC up to 750. The conversion was wide so the score now read Newport 5 Llandovery 5 with five minutes played.
Llandovery earned themselves a scrum penalty on ten minutes which Jack Maynard kicked to the corner on the Hazell side. Drovers second row Rhys Jones didn’t jump for the ball but set up a rolling maul which looked for the weakest point before rolling forwards. Newport were unable to halt its progress and it was left to loosehead prop Jamie Hughes to be the man at the tail and claim the try. Again the conversion was missed making the score Newport 5 Llandovery 10.
Newport retaliated as they pushed and pulled Llandovery. Newport edged forward but the potentially ‘killer’ pass to Elliot Frewen was behind him and the ball sailed harmlessly into touch. Newport quickly regained possession and continued probing only for Matthew Reed’s pass out of contact to be taken by Llandovery’s Dafydd Land and the Drovers could clear.
The Black and Ambers were enjoying a spell of possession but weren’t able to convert it into pressure. A 17th minute surge by Dan Preece saw him isolated and turned over while a 22nd minute tap penalty by Matt O’Brien enabled him to split Llandovery apart. Kyle Tayler and Matthew Reed were on hand to make pumping runs but a pass out of contact to Garin Harris cannoned off the big man’s shoulder.
Matt O’Brien looked to keep the tempo of the game high with a 30th minute tap-and-go from his own 22. Newport eased away from their own end of the field through patience and working hard. They entered the Llandovery half but loose work saw Dafydd Land retrieve the situation for Llandovery again as he came away with the ball allowing Jack Maynard to boot Newport back to where they had just come from. Llandovery were proving pretty effective at forward as they harassed the Newport line out jumpers, The ball struggled to get back to Geraint Watkin cleanly on a few occasions, which allowed the loose forwards to get around into positions where they could stint Newport attacks. It worked like a charm this time as Newport knocked on and conceded the scrum. Llandovery went right, down the narrow channel on the Hazell side, but solid defence from Jack Wright in the centre for Newport saw him ditch wing Richard Williams into touch.
Llandovery kept the pressure on as Newport conceded a 37th minute penalty for hauling down a lineout jumper. Centre Kristian Jones punted to the corner but the lineout was overthrown allowing Evan Whitson to take the ball and lead the charge away. A stroke of luck came, following a Newport knock-on, when Llandovery were penalised for pushing too early at a scrum and Matt O’Brien to clear to 45 metre out.
Into added time in the first half and Newport were keeping the ball well and threatening again. Matt O’Brien was pulling the strings, Matthew Reed ran hard, knees high and elbows pumping, while Elliot Frewen demonstrated great tenacity keeping possession while under pressure. Newport powered into the Llandovery half but needlessly gave the ball away when a defender, Drovers’ Jack Jones was manhandled out of position. Llandovery kicked the ball to touch. The referee, Mr Mike English, appeared to signal the end of the half with that play as players appeared to jog towards the changing rooms. However, of course, the lineout still had to be played. Nothing came of it and the half petered out regardless.
Half Time Newport RFC 5 Llandovery RFC 10
Matt O’Brien restarted the game and Newport began to run through the phases neatly without gaining too much territory. Drovers flanker Stuart Worrall was pinged for not supporting his body weight at a ruck which drew a penalty from Mr English. Matt O’Brien lined the kick up, fully from 48 metres but with the breeze behind him. The kick had the distance but drifted wide.
The game had changed complexion from the opening twenty to thirty minutes; the quick, zippy running and passing by both teams had been replaced by something more stodgy and error-strewn. Llandovery looked to damage Newport on 46 minutes, pushing up as far as the 22 metre line but their progress stalled with successive knock-ons. Llandovery second row Rhys Jones was eventually offside enough for the referee to notice and conceded the penalty which Matt O’Brien belted to 25 metres out on the Bisley side.
They next few minutes were little short of shambolic as a line out deteriorated into a melee with Llandovery hooker Matthew Moore being seen to land at least three punches into Andrew Mann, right under the Assistant Referee’s nose. Somehow Llandovery came away with the penalty and the punching was unpunished. The next line out resulted in an all-out punch up with Dan Preece and Drovers’ number 8 Richard Brooks trading blows. Both received yellow cards. However, if the refereeing team had dealt with the earlier incident sufficiently well then the second one may well not have happened. One shouldn’t be surprised to learn that Llandovery again received the benefit of the penalty decision. However, one thing that is guaranteed to get the Black and Ambers support vocal and animated is a bit of perceived injustice, so when Jack Maynard kicked the penalty dead it was met with a cheer as loud as for a home try.
Newport settled into playing with fourteen much quicker than Llandovery did. An infield kick was taken and moved away quickly. Good, fast hands across the line suddenly had Elliot Frewen and Chay Smith in a two-on-one overlap. Frewen turned the defender inside out before passing left to Chay Smith to sprint in from thirty metres, exhibiting strength enough to barge Drovers’ Jack Maynard away and crash over near the corner on the Bisley side. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 12 Llandovery 10 on 58 minutes.
Llandovery didn’t help themselves further when they brought on a glut of replacements on 61 minutes. As those players were still getting their heads into the game, Elliot Frewen was off again, cutting a path through the middle of the Drovers’ red-shirted ranks. Chay Smith, again flying in formation with the Wing Commander, chased alongside until he received Frewen’s pass. Smith was partially tap-tackled but quickly regained his feet, just metres from the line, before diving across for a well-taken try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion for a 19 points to 10 lead.
Jack Maynard, an excellent player and usually so dependable with his kicking had a patch to forget as his restart failed to go ten metres then a penalty kick to touch failed to make its intended target and Newport were able to clear comfortably. He was back on target though on 67 minutes when a penalty to touch found home. Rhys Jones jumped in the second row for the Drovers and it was Richard Brooks who found himself at the tail of the rolling maul to claim a try. Maynard’s conversion was good and the score now read Newport 19 Llandovery 17.
Llandovery kept attacking but a 70th minute surge was killed stone dead when Elliot Frewen made a hard, textbook hit on his opposite number, drawing a knock-on as he did so.
Both teams looked to kill the game off and it was Newport who were going closest. Jack Wright made a half break. Newport were patient, launching runners at the Llandovery big men. Dan Partridge had a lunge forward while Tom Lucas, on for Geraint Watkin at scrumhalf, kept the ball alive. It was all a bit lateral for Matthew Reed, however, who picked up and biffed his way forward but, unfortunately, became isolated and lost possession. He atoned for this on 76 minutes, though, by making a nice, clean break from the back of a scrum, going right to the narrow side. Quick passes by Matt O’Brien and Chay Smith outmanoeuvred the Drovers cover as Jonny Morris sprinted in, outstripping the three corner-flaggers and diving, literally, into the corner to secure Newport’s bonus point try and give the Black and Ambers a healthy lead. Matt O’Brien nailed the tricky conversion to make the score Newport 26 Llandovery 17.
As full time approached a powerful Llandovery scrum had Newport buckling. The penalty landed some fifteen metres out on the Bisley side. A well-worked and controlled rolling maul crept in the entire distance to the line for a score credited to replacement Dino Dalavalle. Thankfully for Newport, the conversion attempt by centre Kristian Jones went wide and afforded the Black and Ambers a little breathing space to secure the win. The score now read Newport 26 Llandovery 22.
Newport restarted. Llandovery knew that they needed a try to win the match so they set about looking for it. They progressed, albeit slowly, but the Newport defence was strong and unyielding. As the seconds ticked away Llandovery were forced to become more ambitious if they weren’t prepared to settle for two league points. They went for gold but didn’t bargain on Jonny Morris popping up, intercepting a pass, standing strong while held by the leg and popping a simple pass to Tom Lucas who looped around and went haring into the corner for a try that was met with raptures from the stand. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to close the game with a deserved win of Newport 33 Llandovery 22.
That’s Newport RFC done for the 2018-2019 season. It looks as though Newport will have to settle for seventh position in the league, in all probability, as some clubs around us are still not finished with their fixtures. While that’s no disgrace at all, it does give new Head Coach Ty Morris plenty to build on next year where a top six finish is easily within this squad’s abilities.
It is still unclear how next season will look, with an uncertainty as to which sides will actually be in the Premiership next season and what format the fixtures will take, indeed, when the season actually starts, what with the prospect of a World Cup this autumn. Please look out for announcements about season ticket renewals across the summer, these, alongside sponsorship, are important to the club and help keep Newport RFC on a reasonably even keel financially.
The End of Season dinner is approaching. That is on Friday May 17th and is in the Business Suite at Rodney Parade. Tickets are selling well so please get in touch with the club if you would like tickets for this enjoyable evening.
Thank you for your support this season. It is invaluable, it isn’t taken for granted and the club are extremely grateful for it. See you next season!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score Newport RFC 33 Llandovery RFC 22
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Chay Smith