Newport RFC v Carmarthen Quins RFC 27th January 2024 by John Evans
After a week in which the ground had to deal with two, separate named storms, Isha and Joscelyne, it was with some relief that a weak winter sun and dry, firm conditions greeted the players as they arrived at Newport Stadium.
Due to the potential clash of shirts with Carmarthen Quins, Newport took to the field in their Monmouthshire Blue change shirts for this fixture.
Quins outside half, Harri Williams, got the game underway, with Newport defending the SDR end. Oli Andrew was straight into it as he took the catch, powered into contact before Tom Workman set the ruck allowing Dafydd Buckland time to kick the ball clear.
Both teams were guilty of some indifferent handling as possession changed hands multiple times over the opening few minutes.
A scruffy lineout was rescued by Wade Langley as he scooped up the bouncing ball and got his backs moving. Newport kicked clear, but the situation was lost by a needless push on a defender and Quins could boot their way back into the Newport half. Harri Williams placed his pack inside the Newport 22, second row Ryan Bean securing possession, but Quins were as guilty as Newport of ropey handling and the Black and Ambers were off the hook.
Sadly, the long-anticipated return from injury of fan favourite Dai Richards, the buccaneering full back, only lasted six minutes before he was forced off with injury, Chay Foster-Smith being a more-than-able replacement.
Newport did make a good break, when Matt O’Brien whipped out a flat pass that cut out Quins defenders, but Dafydd Buckland ran up something of a blind alley and was easily snared. The Black and Ambers looked a little more like their normal selves on 10 minutes, when an excellent kick-pass from Matt O’Brien fed Oli Andrew perfectly. He cut infield with Ioan Davies in support, but the Quins were back and covering well. Josh Skinner added some bludgeon to the rapier, but the follow up kick to the corner bobbled into touch and Quins could ease their way from danger.
The hosts still mounted their attacks, but with increasing inaccuracy. Joe Westwood set up well in midfield before Oli Andrew took ball in hand on the wing. He raced off, but left Chay Foster-Smith too much to do in support as the overhead pass saw the replacement wing manhandled into touch. Quins seemed desperate to have Newport score as they opted to throw the lineout long to flanker, and captain, Tom Phillips, who spooned the ball forward. Sadly, Newport seemed equally keen to not score. Josh Skinner, Tom Workman and Joe Westwood provided the heavy metal as they battered into contact, but the ball was spilled. Newport scrummaged effectively, winning ball on Quins put-in, but Joe Westwood was possibly being used on the crash ball too often and Quins were waiting for him.
A misunderstanding at the base of a 21st minute scrum may have been costly, the Quins pack putting the squeeze on a disrupted Newport pack, earning a penalty. Harri Williams placed his side into striking position while second row Josh Helps secured the ball. Smart defending by Newport, however, wrapped the ball up in the maul and earned the turnover.
The game was proving to be a difficult watch.
Quins were penalised for a 27th minute collapsing scrum. Matt O’Brien planted Newport firmly into the corner. In a planned move, Rhys Jenkins looped to the short side while Garin Harris was on hand to power forward with the ball. The ball moved quickly wide, Kyle Tayler straightening the attack, before Jac Lloyd picked out Josh Skinner, lurking out on the touchline, to race over and open the scoring. The conversion was missed, so the score was Newport 5 Carmarthen Quins 0 on 30 minutes.
A splendid retrieve by Oli Andrew, claiming Matt O’Brien’s aerial bomb, had Newport moving forward. The winger had the presence of mind to find support before Ioan Davies was through the broken-field defence. Chay Foster-Smith carried the ball forward but was, again, bundled into touch just metres out.
With all the attacking opportunities, Newport held onto a narrow lead and could easily have gone into halftime trailing. Quins scrum half Rhodri Davies was alert and skipped through some half-hearted tackling before sprinting to the line. Thankfully, Ioan Davies was the last line of defence and ushered the visiting number 9 into touch.
The accuracy of both sides had been poor during the half. Newport supporters could only hope that normal service would be resumed in the second half.
Half Time Newport RFC 5 Carmarthen Quins RFC 0
Ty Morris switched the props at halftime, Garin Harris and Tom Workman making way for Nathan Evans and Thomas Davies.
Jac Lloyd restarted the game, and it seemed to have made an instant impact. Thomas Davies was eagerly into contact before the ball found Josh Skinner lurking along the touchline again. He lunged at the line but was short. Dafydd Buckland recycled the ball quickly before Quins had the chance to block all the gaps and Jac Lloyd danced across the line for Newport’s second try. The conversion, nicely near the posts, was easy for Matt O’Brien and the score now read Newport 12 Carmarthen Quins 0. That was more like it, the supporters thought, Newport have turned up.
Playing with an advantage following a high tackle on Jac Lloyd, Newport inched their way upfield, Dafydd Buckland digging the ball out of rucks time and again before the referee, Mr Jamie Parr of the RFU, decided no advantage was coming and Matt O’Brien pinged Newport into the corner once more. The Black and Ambers set about their task again, but a stray Quins boot purposefully kicked ball away at the base of a ruck. In an effort to steady the nerves, Matt O’Brien gestured at the sticks and slotted the three-pointer to make it Newport 15 Carmarthen Quins 0 on 46 minutes.
Newport were loose at the restart and the Quins poured through. Smart linking up saw captain Tom Phillips go very close to the tryline, but he was penalised for no release in the tackle.
Dafydd Buckland and Rhys Jenkins were withdrawn to make way for Luke Crane and Josh Reid as Newport tried to extend their domination in territory and make it count, but inaccuracy was killing their ambition. An excellent rolling maul from a lineout was too tempting for Quins number 8 Lewys Millin and he felt obliged to join from the side. With no advantage developing, Mr Parr reached for his pocket and invited Millin to take a breather for ten minutes. With a repeat performance ensuing the rolling maul set up, ball on Barney Langton-Cryer’s hip before he, somehow, became embroiled in the middle of the maul and Quins managed a terrific turnover of their own.
Tyler Olding took over from Wade Langley in the middle of the front row, his first job being to pack down in an excellent scrum that saw the Quins hooker fail to do that one job, and the Newport front five putting a shove on to claim a second scrum off opposition ball that afternoon. Rhodri Davies took a little nibble at Luke Crane, enough to warrant a penalty, but, again, the ensuing penalty came to nothing as the clock ticked away.
Newport kept trying to make inroads; the intent was never in doubt. Carwyn Penny, on for Jac Lloyd just minutes earlier set up the ball nicely before Matt O’Brien tried a cross-kick to Ben Roach, but the ball bounced agonisingly away from the pursuing number 8.
Two Newport lineouts were both pulled down by Quins. Mr Parr was quite lenient in letting the line reset a third time, but Newport fluffed their chance when the lineout was lost, and Quins could take the scrum. However, the next minute set Newport supporter’s nerves jangling. With a super display of derring-do, Quins went coast to coast for an excellent try. Breaking out of defence down the narrow side of the scrum, Rhodri Davies indulged his obvious love of running with the ball before finding support to carry the move on. The Black and Ambers defence streamed back before the move was halted just metres out. Davies was first on the scene to pop the ball up to centre Iestyn Gwilliam to crash across from close range. Taking his first kick at goal, in the 73rd minute, Harri Williams pulled the kick across the face of the posts and the score now was Newport 15 Carmarthen Quins 5.
Nerves were settled just 3 minutes later when Chay Foster-Smith finally got the try he’d been threatening to score all afternoon. Ben Roach popped a ball of the back of a scrum, Matt O’Brien applied the perfect weight and timing to the pass for the makeshift wing to burst onto and sprint to the line, almost untouched. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 22 Carmarthen Quins 5.
A strong scrum got the squeeze on the Quins front row, and the set piece turned quickly to the right. Matt O’Brien punted Newport deep into Quins territory, as Newport hunted for the try bonus point. Elliot Ferriman, on for Barney Langton-Cryer, took the ball at the front of the line as the brakes released on the rolling maul. Quins replacement prop, James Newman, had other ideas. He pulled the maul down. Mr Parr had no qualms in showing Newman a yellow card and running under the crossbar to award Newport a penalty try. With no conversion necessary, that was the bonus point in the bag and the score now reading Newport 29 Carmarthen Quins 5 with 80 minutes played.
With the pressure off, Newport suddenly looked like the Black and Ambers we know and love. A Matt O’Brien kick-pass to Ioan Davies was taken superbly as he danced along the touchline. Chay Foster-Smith was roaring up in support infield. He linked with Carwyn Penny who found Oli Andrew cutting infield at pace, taking the pass and crossing for the best Newport try of the game. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer to make the score Newport 36 Carmarthen Quins 5 and, being honest, giving the score a veneer that it didn’t deserve. The records will look like it was a regulation five-point win for the Black and Ambers but, as late as the 76th minute, they were never really clear of a dogged, determined Quins XV.
Newport have a weekend off now, as the Six Nations Championship gets underway. The next game for the Black and Ambers is on Saturday February 10th, when the North Walians of RGC visit. Kick-off is slightly earlier, at 2pm, for this Indigo Premiership game. Following this, Newport are away at Merthyr on Thursday 15th February, with the game being broadcast live on S4C’s Clic YouTube channel. In other dates for your diary, the rearranged game at home versus Neath RFC will now be played at Newport Stadium on Friday March 15th, while the away game at Ebbw Vale, scheduled for Saturday March 23rd, has also attracted S4C’s attention and will now be played on Thursday 21st March at Eugene Cross. Big challenges ahead, but big challenges tend to bring out big performances.
Come on, Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score – Newport RFC 36 Carmarthen Quins RFC 5
Newport RFC Player of the Match – Josh Skinner