Newport RFC : 2009/10 Season Summary

Season 2009/0

P36 W23 D1 L12 : F901-A678 (Tries 110)

Premier Lge Record : P26 W18 D0 L8 F685-A470 (Tries 81-47)

British Irish Cup : P5 W3 D1 L1 F81-A54

Swalec Cup : P2 W1 L1 : F51-A28

Premier League : 3rd place

Capt : Andrew Coombs

Newport continued with the same coaching set-up of Sven Cronk, Dai Gray and Jon Bryant. Players who were to make their debuts this season included promising young scrum-half Jon Evans (Pontypool), back-row Toby Faletau (future Welsh international), centres Rhodri Gomer-Davies, Adam Hughes and Pat Leach, scrum-half Jamie Leadbeater, wings Ryan Owen and Matthew Pewtner, Dragons Academy No 10 Lewis Robling, 2nd row Dafydd Rosser and props Dan Watchhurst and Englishman Dan Way.

The season started with the Men of Gwent 7’s at Rodney Parade and first up for Newport – again captained by Wales 7’s World Cup winning side were invitational side Welsh Wizards. Newport knew this would be a difficult match as the Wizards had been very successful in a number fo 7’s tournaments. In the end it was a 14-14 draw. Newport then accounted for Newbridge (31-15), Caerphilly (26-0) and local rivals Cross Keys (28-12) in S/F. This set up a return match with the Welsh Wizards. Newport went 15-0 up at HT and ran out deserved winners 20-7 to retain their trophy from the previous season. Craig Hill said afterwards “We saw their strengths and weaknesses (after 1st round drawn match). We tried to rattle them in the final and it worked. They play 7’s week in week out so credit to the boys. And we only had one forward in the whole, squad because of injuries”. Newport scored 22 tries in their 136 pts tournament total with wing Mike Poole being top scorer with 5 – he also kicked 1 conversion. Alan Awcock was Newport’s top scorer with 32pts from 4t, 6c. Ryan Owen and Mike Poole each scored hat-tricks. Welsh Wizards Paul Jarvis was Man of tournament.

Newport entertained past favourite Rod Snow’s team Newfoundland Rock from Canada in a PSF (W47-21). Snowy said that he was still enjoying playing at the age of 39.The season got under way proper with a home league match vs  newly promoted Carmarthen Quins who had recruited several useful players. It was a dream start with a bonus point 36-6 win but Newport soon came back down to earth at St Helens. They went down to a record defeat in the semi-pro era since 2003 to an impressive Swansea 6-38. Numerous missed tackles saw them concede 6 tries. A scrappy win against local rivals Ebbw Vale was followed by another poor performance at Glamorgan Wdrs where they went down 19-25. Home wins then followed vs Pontypridd and then Bedwas when Newport showed glimpses of the previous season’s form. Newport then turned in another poor performance at Pandy Park helped by a controversial yellow carding of centre Scott Williams for “lazy running”. This was later rescinded but at the time it allowed Cross Keys to score 2 tries. In a game of two halves Newport won at home vs a useful Llandovery with new half back pairing of Chris Wannell and David Walsh. Newport then beat Pontypool at Rodney Parade 53-14 in a match not remembered for 9 tires scored but more for some ugly scenes that saw 5 yellow cards and 1 red card – Pontypool were down to 12 men at one stage. Newport recorded the biggest win by either side in the 141 matches played to date and it should have been more. In a nail biting match at Sardis Road, Newport took the lead 20-18 with a Shaun Connor penalty on 78 mins but then conceded a penalty on 81 mins for Pontypridd to stay top of the Premier league with a 21-20 win. Newport then surprised many with their first win of the season on the road at Talbot Athletic Grounds when they beat Aberavon 27-20 with Newport’s pack in impressive form. Newport had yet another new centre paring vs the Old Enemy but once again Cardiff failed to win at Rodney Parade – they have never won a league match there since the semi-pro era. Rain and wind made things difficult for both sides but Newport got home 23-17 vs Llanelli RFC in an entertaining game. This then brought us to the new competition British & Irish Cup and Newport were to face Exeter Chiefs. They were unbeaten in the English Championship and were eventually to be promoted to the top flight Premier League. It was a small crowd but many compared it to the Heineken European Cup match vs Bath in 2000 for sheer excitement. Newport went into a 21-0 HT lead and then fought a magnificent rearguard action to hold off the visitors and deservedly won 21-14. In the next round they held Plymouth Albion 3-3 at home in appalling weather conditions. December saw Newport back to domestic action with a visit to the Gnoll where they have never won in the semi-pro era. They duly lost 21-13 which flattered Neath. Newport retained their unbeaten home record and recorded their first double of the season vs the Wizards. There then followed 4 postponed matches due to frozen pitches.

Back in action at Merthyr in the Swalec Cup Newport comfortably won against a gallant side to go into the next round. This was lock Mark Workman’s 275th appearance for the Black & Ambers. After a shaky start Newport got their 2nd double of the season at Bedwas but there then followed a further postponed match at Cardiff (frozen pitch) at the end of January. Newport had lost their last 3 outings vs Cross Keys but made no mistake with a five- try 45-19 win at Rodney Parade. Further B&IC action saw Newport see off Scottish visitors Gael Force 27-5. A dramatic comeback saw Cardiff pip Newport in the Swalec Cup with a try on 80 mins. Newport had led 20-3 and made several replacements and as coach Sven Cronk said “We stopped playing”. It was Cardiff’s first win at Rodney Parade in semi-pro era. At the end of February Newport scored a sensational win at Leinster in the B&IC and they then gained revenge for early season defeat by beating Swansea 43-9 at Rodney Parade which brought the table toppers back down to earth. Then Newport’s magnificent run in B&IC came to an end way to the eventual winners Cornish Pirates. They were just 8-11 down at HT having played against a gale force win but then failed to make best use of the conditions in 2nd half and went down 20-26. Newport won at Llandovery but the next match at Pontypool was called off due to a water-logged pitch. They then edged past Ebbw Vale at Eugene Cross Park only to go down to 14 man Cardiff 17-19 losing in injury time. Parc y Scarlets saw Newport pipped yet again in injury time when Llanelli scored the winning try in the 6th min of stoppage time. Stop-start Newport then won at home vs Glamorgan Wdrs and an excellent performance gave Newport the win over Premier Champions Neath 27-24. A poor performance at Pontypool Park secured Pontypool’s Premer league status for another season. 14 man Newport then wound up the Premier season with a 47-14 win at Carmarthen Quins. Once again the red card vs Newport’s Sam Waldron was rescinded on appeal.

And so Newport finished 3rd in the Premier League behind Neath and Swansea. There then followed 3 meaningless play-ff matches – supposedly to decide the seedings of the Welsh clubs in B&IC. Newport struggling with injuries lost to Swansea (A) and beat Llanelli (H). This meant yet another visit to St Helens when they lost again. The outcome was that Newport were still to be in same group of B&IC the following season !

Supporters Player of Year : Mike Poole. Clubman of Year : Andrew Brown. Players’ Player of Year : Mike Poole

Coaches’ Player of Year : Dai Pattison.

Principality Premier Awards :  Player of Season : Andrew Coombs.