Newport RFC v Aberavon RFC 20th January 2024 by John Evans
Newport commenced a short, but very welcome, run of three home fixtures at Newport Stadium, by welcoming the Wizards of Aberavon RFC for an Indigo Premiership game. Games against today’s opponents are usually interesting; they play in a similar style to Newport and often seem to have a good team spirit about them. Conducted from number 10 by the veteran Aled Thomas, formerly of this parish, they are an entertaining side to watch. Interestingly, Aled made his debut for the Black and Ambers in September 2005, scoring 16 points in an away victory at Glamorgan Wanderers, but had left to join London Welsh in 2008, when many of our current squad were in Primary school! To his credit, the casual observer wouldn’t know this, and her certainly ran the show for much of the first half.
There was a strong wind across the Stadium pitch as the game kicked off, a prelude to the forecast Storm Isha that was to hit south Wales that weekend. Aberavon played with the wind in the first half leaving Newport to attack the Cricket Club end.
There was an emotion-packed minute’s silence for one of the true greats of Newport RFC and, indeed, Welsh Rugby as a whole. Brian Price needs no introduction at our club. His name will forever be carved in stone and, whenever the ‘old days’ of the Black and Ambers are talked about in pubs, clubs, cafes and bars, Brian will come up in conversation at some point. His achievements don’t need listing here, that’s available on most search engines. What Google won’t tell you is what a lovely, gentle, caring man he was. Newport RFC sends his wife, Dorothy, and the family, our deepest condolences.
Carwyn Penny kicked off the game, Aberavon’s number 8, Rhys Thomas caught the ball under pressure from wing Oli Andrew. The Wizards set the ruck and kicked the ball clear.
Aberavon were intent on wounding Newport early on and a fine break by centre Callum Carson set the tone. With possession retained, a pass boomed out to prop Geraint James had Newport at sixes and sevens as wing Chris Banfield took the ball on. His pop to scrum half Liam Seaward would have been outstanding, had the no. 9 not fumbled it.
Following a scrum penalty, Aled Thomas kicked The Wizards into the corner. With good work following the lineout, Shay Smallman, ‘Avon’s big second row made inroads into the tight defence, before the ball spun wide. Callum Carson stood the ball up long enough for his counterpart, Joe Gage, to take a pass and run, unmolested, to the line and score the try. Aled Thomas added the conversion to make it Newport 0 Aberavon 7 with 8 minutes played.
Just two minutes later, Newport were penalised for crossing as Ioan Davies tried to run out of defence. Taking advantage of the wind, Aled Thomas gestured at the sticks and extended the visitors lead to 0-10. Right then, time to roll the sleeves up.
A super flowing move by Newport, on 13 minutes, was easy on the eye, as the ball went crisply through the hands ending up with Ben Roach out wide. Aberavon infringed while trying to kill the move. Carwyn Penny punted Newport to the corner, but the lineout was spilled forward. Aberavon’s kick away was poor, still inside their own 22, affording Newport the chance to reset. Ben Roach was up at the tail, making the ball available, but Matt O’Brien’s cross-kick was anticipated as winger Banfield made life awkward for Oli Andrew. But Newport had been playing with an advantage. Newport edged their way forward, but the ensuing move, with a grubber being heavily punted through, giving the pursuing Oli Andrew absolutely no chance, hinted at an element of impatience within the Newport ranks.
A sublime pass from Carwyn Penny to Ioan Davies allowed the fullback to cleave through the Wizards defence, sprinting into the 22, finally being downed around the 5-metre line. Aberavon, in their desperation, were penalised for hands in the ruck. Matt O’Brien paused, took in his options, and a discreet nod at Josh Skinner saw the mighty Newport ‘4’ hit the defensive wall with such aggression that he powered through the first contact and had enough momentum to reach the try line to score. The conversion was close, cannoning off the right-hand upright, so the score was Newport 5 Aberavon 10 with 21 minutes played.
From the restart, Newport infringed prompting Aled Thomas to kick to the corner again. However, smart Newport defence saw the pack wrap up the maul and earn a defensive turn-over. However, they weren’t out of trouble completely. Following smart interplay between Messrs. Carson, Gage and Banfield, again, Aberavon were primed to extend their lead further. A cross-kick of their own, out to Rhys Thomas, came to nothing as Newport were offside. Aled Thomas’ kick at goal drifted wide and the score remained at 5-10.
Newport began a spell of patient, steady attacking. Phase upon phase, progressing nicely upfield. Aberavon remained equally patient in defence. The best part of three minutes of focused attacking was spoiled when one stray pass was picked off by Wizard winger Frankie Jones, who popped the ball back infield, allowing Aled Thomas to kick Newport back to exactly where they started.
Accuracy was missing from the Black and Ambers attacks, and they struggled to shake themselves clear of Aberavon’s defensive shackles. This, though, was about to change. The ball presented itself at Che Hope’s feet, the young number 9, seeming slow to pick the ball up. He then seemed to take an age deciding what to do next, but that worked to his advantage as the Wizards stepped up quickly in defence presenting the kind of dogleg that whippet-like scrum halves dream about. In the blink of an eye, he was through, arcing his run at the corner flag, arching his back to make himself slightly harder to catch. Chris Banfield made a good effort at catching the Newport man, but, as they tumbled over the line, Che Hope grounded the ball for the try. Carwyn Penny added the two-pointer to make it Newport 12 Aberavon 10 on 36 minutes.
Into added time in the first half and Newport were awarded a penalty. Carwyn Penny kicked to the stand side of the pitch. The lineout went well and a huge effort by the pack saw them march upfield until Henry Palmer broke, offloading in contact. Ben Roach juggled but kept the ball alive and play moved left. Jonny Morris dived headlong at the line, but Newport had another advantage. With nothing coming, play stopped for the penalty. Again, Matt O’Brien took a look at the prospects, tapped, went left and found space that allowed Elliot Frewen to sprint in near the corner flag. The conversion went wide, leaving the score at halftime at Newport 17 Aberavon 10.
Half Time Newport RFC 17 Aberavon RFC 10
Newport had the wind advantage now, but a club like Aberavon are likely to hit back in a situation like this. It’s never wise to disregard a cornered Wizard. Aled Thomas restarted, Josh Skinner taking the catch, but Che Hope’s relieving kick went out on the full. Not a problem; Skinner claimed the Aberavon throw in and let his (comparatively) little mate have another go. This time Che Hope nailed it; Wizard Frankie Jones spilled the ball under pressure from Oli Andrew and the pack worked hard to give Newport go-forward. Crisply across the backs the ball went, Oli Andrew hurtled along the touchline, cut infield, but was downed just metres short of the line. Matt O’Brien was first in, popping the ball off to Jonny Morris who crashed over the line to secure Newport’s bonus point try. Carwyn Penny added the two-pointer to make it Newport 24 Aberavon 10 on 43 minutes.
Henry Palmer’s last action of the game, for now, came a few minutes later when he executed a textbook turnover to give Newport possession following a determined Aberavon attack. Palmer made way for Brodie Coghlan, while wing Elliot Frewen allowed Iestyn Galton to take his place.
Aberavon became slightly disorganised in attack, with a pass from Aled Thomas spooning wildly forward, landing in the lap of the one player that oppositions really wouldn’t want it to: Mr Broken Field himself, Matt O’Brien. He spotted Iestyn Galton as an easy option, but his grubber kick ahead was too strong, and the only danger was to club photographer Simon Latham and his expensive camera equipment!
Further changes ensued, Jac Lloyd coming on for Carwyn Penny, whilst Elliot Ferriman replaced captain Ben Roach. The game entered a slightly chaotic period, when possession changed hands regularly and play seeming to stagnate in the middle third of the field. Both sides probed and poked at each other, but, clearly, it was Aberavon who needed to turn threat into reality.
Josh Reid was tigerish in attack, throwing himself into contact time after time, doing the unheralded dirty work, while Barney Langton-Cryer always seemed to break the first line of defence. Jac Lloyd and Matt O’Brien tried to pick points of attack, but the Wizards defence was proving obstinate.
Around 63 minutes, the aforementioned Reid made way for young Tom Capel, while the two starting props Thomas Davies and Nathan Evans, stood aside for Tom Workman and Dan Suter. Around this time, too, Dafydd Buckland took Che Hope’s place.
Aberavon were proving to be something of a disappointment, inasmuch that they seemed relatively toothless in attack. A terrific opportunity on 70 minutes, when Newport were on the rack somewhat, saw the Black and Ambers off the hook with a hopelessly high, wide and inaccurate pass that harmlessly bounced to touch and hand the hosts the ball back.
Tom Capel proved lively and confident, following his debut at Swansea last weekend. He stepped around an Aberavon defender, launching an attack, before Aberavon returned the kick. However, Brodie Coghlan stepped across the runner, rather too obviously, which had the referee, Mr Dewi Phillips, reach for his pocket and show Coghlan a yellow card. Henry Palmer jogged back on to ensure the front row could remain competitive.
Sadly, the game ground to a halt following a 76th minute scrum. The scrum collapsed, leaving Dan Suter prone on the ground. He was moving, which was a good sign, but the medical teams rushed on, gave him top class emergency care, and carried him off safely on a stretcher. It goes without saying that Newport RFC wish Dan a speedy recovery and, hopefully, he can be back in a Black and Amber jersey as soon as he’s fit enough. Equally, the club would like to record its thanks to Aberavon RFC for their assistance with Dan, both medically and practically after the game.
Tom Capel wrong-footed an Aberavon defender again, once play had resumed, popping the ball to Ioan Davies. He couldn’t hold onto it, but The Wizards had infringed once more. Usually, supporters might expect Newport to go to the corner, catch and drive – try time. Now, whether nobody fancied playing anymore in the light of Dan Suter’s injury, who knows? But Jac Lloyd lined up the kick at goal and extended the lead to Newport 27 Aberavon 10 on 80+4 minutes.
The game petered out. Aberavon crackled and fizzled in attack, like jump leads to a live car battery, but offered no real threat and the fourteen men of Newport could soak up the pressure with relative ease.
It was with some relief that Mr Phillips blew for full time. Most supporters in the stand were starting to turn blue with the cold, nobody looked like scoring and Newport had the five points that they wanted in their back pockets. Time to start thinking about next Saturday now.
Newport RFC are back at Stade de Newport on January 27th, when they host Carmarthen Quins in an Indigo Premiership game. February 3rd is a week off as Wales kick off their 6 Nations campaign in Cardiff. February 10th, then, sees the Gogs of RGC visit us for a 2pm start in another Indigo Premiership game. We’d appreciate your support! A stand full of Black and Amber can only inspire the boys to greater heights!
Come on, Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score – Newport RFC 27 Aberavon RFC 10
Newport RFC Player of the Match – Barney Langton – Cryer