Cardiff RFC v Newport RFC 23rd September 2023 by John Evans
Newport were treated to an away game just twelve miles from home this weekend, rather than the half-a-day slog to Colwyn Bay that resulted in five precious league points last weekend. Focus turned to the Premier Challenge cup, on this occasion, a competition that Newport have had a nice run in over the last few seasons, reaching consecutive finals, winning one, against Aberavon, and losing the other, to today’s opponents, Cardiff RFC.
Ty Morris made a few changes to the successful RGC-defeating team, Jon Verrier and Henry Palmer starting in the pack, Dafydd Buckland starting at 9 and Lloyd Lewis on the wing, in for the injured Elliot Frewen.
Jac Lloyd kicked off for the Black and Ambers, which Cardiff number 8, and captain, Morgan Allen took, before the ball was kicked to touch. Newport won the lineout, Jac Lloyd cheekily trying a cross-kick for Lloyd Lewis to chase. However, the kick was slightly too far in front of the flying winger giving Cardiff centre Luke Pollock the chance to run out of defence. He took his opportunity well, kicked ahead and won the footrace to dot the ball down in the corner and give Newport RFC the worst possible start. Harrison James, the Cardiff outside-half, added the conversion to make it Cardiff 7 Newport 0 with only two minutes elapsed.
The Black and Ambers were stung into action as the pack punched holes in the Cardiff defence. Garin Harris and Kyle Tayler looked particularly effective as they drove forward. Matt O’Brien cut a terrific line between the Cardiff defence, delayed his pass by half a second, enough to put doubt in the last tackler’s mind, before passing right to Kyle Tayler, who unleashed Oli Andrew to his right further. Oli still had some work to do, but made no mistake, using his strength to get himself across the line. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer to equalise the scores at 7-7 with only 4 minutes played.
McKenzie Martin, playing at 6 for Cardiff, but wearing shirt number 5, muscled his way through some would-be Newport tacklers before skilfully finding support. The Newport line advanced quickly, a grubber kick ahead cannoning off shins and feet as it pinballed around the melee, but the referee, Mr Adam Jones, indicated that Newport had strayed offside in the confusion. Harrison James lined up the simple-looking penalty to nudge Cardiff back into the lead, the score now reading Cardiff 10 Newport 7 with 7 minutes on the clock.
Morgan Allen clumsily spilled the restart, affording Newport a terrific platform to launch an attack from. A mega-scrum from the ‘Port won a penalty from Mr Jones, Newport opting to go to the corner. Ben Roach couldn’t quite take the ball cleanly, Kyle Tayler mopped up well, but Henry Palmer was effectively wrapped up by Cardiff flanker Nathan Hudd as he lunged for the line.
Newport worked quickly to keep the ball alive, Joe Westwood seeking to release Lloyd Lewis as early as possible. Unfortunately, Luke Pollock read the intention and picked the pass off, haring towards the line. It’s testament to Lloyd Lewis’ raw pace that he turned and caught Pollock before the line and forced the knock-on. Remarkable defending. Sadly, Newport were soon reduced to fourteen players, when Dafydd Buckland instinctively stuck out a hand to intercept a pass, knocking on as he did so. The yellow card was somewhat inevitable and the Black and Ambers would have to manage short-handed.
Cardiff continued to attack, and an infringement spotted by Mr Jones, when a high tackle went in on a Cardiff player, drew another three points from the boot of Harrison James, making the score Cardiff 13 Newport 7 with 17 minutes played.
The Blue and Blacks maintained the upper hand as they got the ball away from their struggling scrum quickly. Harrison James had spotted the Newport defence up quite flat and angled a kick to the corner for winger Dewi Cross to chase. The bounce sat up nicely for Cross, leaving very little that Oli Andrew could do to defend it. Cross glided nearer the sticks to make James’ conversion less tricky, leaving the score at Cardiff 20 Newport 7 with 24 minutes played.
Cardiff nearly broke free again on the half hour, but Carwyn Penny got his hands on the ball and countered. He sprinted away before kicking ahead, forcing Cardiff to ground the ball dead and give up the goal-line drop kick. Newport punctured the Cardiff line well, Joe Westwood strolling through the defence with ease before finding Oli Andrew to his right. Oli had too much to do, but the opportunity was lost when the marauding Garin Harris couldn’t hold onto the pass as he went into contact.
Newport prop Thomas Davies was evidently doing his job very well as Cardiff couldn’t change their tighthead quick enough once Freddie Barnes went off injured. Adam Williams replaced him but was still ineffective against the Newport strongman.
Newport attacked hard, but the Cardiff defence was suffocating. Matt O’Brien was snagged in defence and was penalised, but Mr Jones quickly reversed the decision when centre Arron Pinches was somewhat over-exuberant in celebrating his little victory. Matt O’Brien slotted the three-point gift to make the score Cardiff 20 Newport 10 on 36 minutes.
Cardiff were on the front foot again as Harrison James darted for the Newport line. He was stripped of possession as Dafydd Buckland looked to carry the ball away. Dewi Cross was in trouble, however, as he tackled Buckland clumsily and, pretty much, dropped him onto his head. Mr Jones took a moment to consider what he had just seen, chatted to his Assistant before judging that Cross should have a ten-minute break to consider his tackle technique.
Unfortunately for Newport, Cardiff weren’t done with this half of rugby as the Black and Ambers slipped off tackles, Nathan Hudd making ground before popping a lovely pass out of contact to scrum half Tom Habberfield, as Cardiff soon found an overlap for Morgan Allen to canter across the line and touch down, making the score Cardiff 25 Newport 10 as the whistle blew for half time,
This had been a very un-Newport like half of rugby. Us supporters have become accustomed to discipline in defence and flair in attack. The half had produced little of either. Newport would desperately need to up their game to reach the next round of the cup this year.
Half Time Cardiff RFC 25 Newport RFC 10
Newport were unchanged at the start of the second half as Harrison James kicked toward the Black and Amber pack. As Matt O’Brien made a solid tackle on Cardiff prop Oliver Evans and drove him backwards, leaving Henry Palmer to get across the ball and win the turnover, it looked as though Ty Morris’ hairdryer treatment at halftime may have had an effect. Sadly, the resulting lineout went awry, and Cardiff were released from defence with a free kick.
The situation worsened on 43 minutes when Newport strayed offside at a ruck. Harrison James gestured at the posts from fully 54-metres, his kick sailing straight between the uprights to make it Cardiff 28 Newport 10. The Black and Ambers needed to start pulling a few rabbits out of hats, and quickly.
46 minutes marked a change-up in the Newport roster, as Tom Workman, Rhys Jenkins, and Josh Skinner, following nearly a year out of action, were introduced into the fray. This proved to create a spark as Kyle Tayler was outstanding on the deck again, relieving Morgan Allen of possession, before Newport executed complex backs moves as Cardiff were penalised for a no-arms tackle. Matt O’Brien punched Newport to the corner, but Josh Skinner couldn’t collect the ball cleanly. Newport worked forward, Ben Roach fully involved, Josh Skinner lunging forward, but Joe Westwood appeared to knock the ball on with the line at his mercy. Newport kept battering at the front door, but the Cardiff defence was outstanding until Arron Pinches got an arm around the ball and came away with possession. McKenzie Martin carried the ball and Cardiff could clear comfortably.
Jac Lloyd was withdrawn on 52 minutes for the newly married Johnny Morris, Matt O‘Brien stepping up to 10, while Wade Langley came on for Henry Palmer. Dafydd Buckland was also withdrawn for Che Hope minutes later.
Newport were making uncharacteristic errors, forcing passes, but were still dominant in the scrum. Garin Harris got the upper hand over Oliver Evans on 58 minutes, when the Cardiff loosehead was penalised for collapsing. Ben Roach took the ball off the top of the lineout, 35 metres out. Johnny Morris joined the line at speed and immediately caused chaos in the Cardiff defence, before passing out to Carwyn Penny to score the try out wide. Matt O’Brien couldn’t improve the score, so it was Cardiff 28 Newport 15. This was the sort of thing the supporters wanted to see! Was this the start of the fightback?
With Dan Suter on for Garin Harris on the hour, an overthrown lineout saw Che Hope pop the ball to Rhys Jenkins who trucked the ball forward. Newport looked devoid of attacking ideas as the Cardiff defence swarmed around them. Joe Westwood’s loose kick appeared desperate but actually paid off as Cardiff kicked directly to touch, giving Newport a handy line out. Unfortunately, Newport were wrapped up by an eager defence before Cardiff second row Craig Hudd, formerly of this parish, stripped the Newport ball-carrier and Cardiff were off and running again.
The Black and Ambers were awarded a 70th minute penalty, which Che Hope took quickly before racing off. It was symptomatic of Newport’s afternoon that the first support runner, Mr Ultra-Dependable Ben Roach, couldn’t hold onto the pass. It was one of ‘those’ days.
73 minutes saw Cardiff now gain the upper hand entirely as they won their first scrum penalty of the game. Harrison James made no mistake and kicked the 30-metre goal to make it Cardiff 31 Newport 15 and the game was effectively over as a contest.
Carwyn Penny stood down to enable Jacob Lloyd to take the field on 74 minutes as Newport went close, but a pop from Josh Skinner to Lloyd Lewis was inaccurate and the ball was spilled. The situation wasn’t helped further when Craig Hudd managed to pick off two consecutive Newport lineouts to get themselves closer to the Newport line.
Newport were unrecoignisably sloppy in added time with a Cardiff line out within their own 22, following a long, raking kick, which Jacob Lloyd worked hard to prevent. The Blue and Blacks peeled away from the lineout and hooker Alun Rees blasted across the line to score, hurling the ball into the air in celebration as Cardiff completed the job on their near neighbours. With the conversion going over, it sealed a humbling 38-15 defeat that will leave everyone involved with much to think about.
Congratulations are due to our friends at Cardiff RFC, and best of luck in the competition this season. The capital club were worthy winners. Newport had best concentrate on the Indigo Premier League this season, then!
Speaking of the Indigo Premier League, the Black and Ambers are back in action next Saturday, September 30th, when they host Swansea RFC in a league game at Newport Stadium. Kick-off is at 2.30pm. The Whites are always an exciting side to watch and will provide a real challenge to our boys. They will want to prove that the Cardiff result was a one-off and get the metaphorical show back on the road. Please come along, support the boys, and bring your loudest voice!
Come on, Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score – Cardiff RFC 38 Newport RFC 15
Newport RFC Player of the Match – Matt O’Brien