Swansea RFC v Newport RFC 13th January 2024 by John Evans
Having had an enforced lay-off over Christmas and New Year, it was time for Newport RFC to get back into action. Head Coach Ty Morris named a much-changed team from the last outing at Pontypool Park. Matt O’Brien was away in Italy with the day job, alongside blockbusting centre Harry Ackerman, who was making a start for the Dragons against Zebre. Josh Reid was preferred to Kyle Tayler, whilst Jonny Morris’ run at centre came to an end with the return of Joe Westwood. Rynard Landman was unavailable, so fit-again Elliot Ferriman was first choice in the second row alongside the ever-present Josh Skinner.
Black and Amber supporters would need no reminding that Swansea won the reverse fixture at Newport Stadium, so they were clearly deserving of our respect. Newport teams rarely visit St Helens expecting anything other than a tough game; today would prove no different.
Jac Lloyd kicked the game off for Newport, with the Black and Ambers attacking the Patti Pavilion end of the ground. Swansea centre Osian Knott took the catch and set up the ruck, before the Whites, or more accurately today, the Navy Blues, moved the ball right and tried to run out of defence, but Newport had shipped an early penalty and Swansea could clear easily. Ben Roach, jumping at the tail, burgled the home lineout ball, allowing Newport the opportunity to get warmed up, virtually everyone getting hold of the ball at some point and trying to blast a hole through a firm wall of Swansea defenders. Eventually, hooker Wade Langley was stripped of the ball in the tackle. Swift action by Swansea saw the ball belted long, rolling towards the corner flag, only to hit the padded upright and bounce infield. Ioan Davies was calmness personified as he cleared the ball into touch.
Newport were getting into their stride; quick ball being presented to Dafydd Buckland who was able to pick his runners. Big forwards ran into big forwards, and the process was repeated until Joe Westwood lofted a pass to his left. The despairing fingers of home fullback Gareth O. Rees knocked the ball forward, attracting the attention of the referee, Mr Gareth Newman. A flash of yellow at the Swansea man and Jac Lloyd was able to boot Newport into the far corner and set up an attack. Ben Roach climbed highest again, the maul setting up on him. Swansea flanker Lloyd Evans couldn’t resist a little dabble with the ball whilst Daf Buckland was preparing to launch it, earning himself a yellow card too. With 13 players on the field, things were about to get tricky for Swansea. The lineout reset, the rolling maul folded just short of the line, Buckland spotted Elliot Frewen lurking. Frewen wriggled close, but the next phase found space for Ioan Davies to cross out wide for the game’s opening try. Jac Lloyd added the conversion to make the score Swansea 0 Newport 7 with 17 minutes played.
A depleted Swansea, wisely, tried to slow the game down, ebb time away and get back to full strength, but Josh Skinner was astride a downed White, wrestling the ball away. Joe Westwood spotted an overload on the left. Josh Skinner carried hard, Nathan Evans made his presence felt but Dafydd Buckland, roaring up in support, was released to skate over near the posts for a second try. Jac Lloyd added the two-pointer to make it Swansea 0 Newport 14 with 21 minutes played.
With Newport gaining confidence, a sharp reminder of what Swansea could do, now they were back at full strength, came when a kick-pass from Jac Lloyd bounced horribly, fooling everyone except home centre Joe Thomas. He sprinted toward the Newport line, eventually passing to wing Harri Houston, but he, too, was floored and it was down to Elliot Frewen to carry the ball away from defence.
However, the Black and Ambers were on the attack again, culminating in a terrific team try finished off by Lloyd Lewis. A superb offload by Elliot Ferriman kept the ball alive for Newport before a delightful pop-pass by Wade Langley into the breadbasket of a flying Elliot Frewen carved Swansea wide open. Prop Nathan Evans continued the move, carrying hard inside the home 22, before Dafydd Buckland could use Ben Roach and Lloyd Lewis to combine on the right for the winger to score. The conversion was missed, so the score was Swansea 0 Newport 19 with 26 minutes played.
Swansea looked distinctly out of sorts, trying miracle passes, that weren’t really on, when in decent attacking positions, making the Newport defence’s job that much easier. It’s not that they were playing badly, far from it, but there were far too many individual errors to build a cogent attack on.
The Whites finally got their act together at the end of the first half as Harri Houston carried hard into contact. Rhys Jenkins’ tackle was careless and high, but we would come back to that. Joe Thomas spotted a gap on Newport’s right and charged into it. With Gareth O. Rees in support, the defensive claxons were sounding. Elliot Frewen put himself in harm’s way again, securing the ball, but Mr Newman wasn’t happy with several things. He consulted with his Assistant before calling Rhys Jenkins across and brandishing a yellow card at him. He then singled out Dafydd Buckland for a deliberate knock-on and he, too, was invited to sit down for ten minutes. Mr Newman was proving consistent, at least. With a penalty awarded, the Swansea lineout functioned well, allowing their forwards to batter at the Newport line. It was a matter of time until second row Matt Dodd barged across for a Swansea try, with wing Brandon Wood converting, making the score at half time Swansea 7 Newport 19.
If Swansea could get their act together, Newport could be in for a torrid opening to the second half.
Half Time Swansea RFC 7 Newport RFC 19
Jacob Symes, the Whites’ 10, got things underway in the second half and Newport instantly fumbled the catch. Harri Houston carried hard going forward while Matt Dodd strode into the Newport 22, but centre Osian Knott spooned his pass forward while under pressure from Joe Westwood.
The minutes nervously ticked past as the temperature dropped under the slab white sky over Swansea Bay. The Newport 13 were battling hard, while Swansea remained inaccurate, passes being dropped, fumbles by the scrum half relieving them of possession. One could fully sympathise if the Swansea coaching team had their collective heads in their hands while uttering a few expletives. But just as it looked as though the Black and Ambers would escape with minimal damage, Swansea struck. With an overlap on the Swansea left, a strong carry along the wing, followed by an accurate long, rolling kick, was seized upon by winger Houston who crossed out wide, followed by an excellent conversion by fellow wing Brandon Wood. With 48 minutes played, it was Swansea 14 Newport 19.
With Newport back to 15, Swansea were starting to look confident, whereas Newport’s inspirational leader, Ben Roach, was being led from the field with a back injury. Time to roll the sleeves up. Lewis David took over at number 8, whilst Garin Harris and Harry Fry provided fresh legs at prop and Che Hope offered a different outlook at scrum half as Dafydd Buckland was withdrawn.
The effect was almost immediate. Joe Westwood isolated Gareth O. Rees, earning a penalty. Jac Lloyd kicked for position, but Swansea wandered offside following the lineout. Che Hope punted to the corner. Elliot Ferriman took the lineout ball before a dynamic ruck formed around him, moving towards the line steadily before Wade Langley, ball on hip, was shunted over the line to score Newport’s bonus point try. Jac Lloyd ably punted the ball across for the extra points, making the score Swansea 14 Newport 26 on 64 minutes, and the travelling Black and Amber supporters could breathe a little easier.
That was Jac’s last contribution to the game as he was replaced by Carwyn Penny to see out the game, as well as Tyler Olding replacing Wade Langley and debutant Tom Caple coming on for Elliot Ferriman. Finally, Jonny Morris relieved Chay Foster-Smith of midfield duty.
Swansea were still seeking to damage Newport, and some slick ball transference in midfield only came to a halt when Elliot Frewen, again, tipped the ball backwards then snarled and ripped at the attackers, carrying the ball before allowing Carwyn Penny to clear it long.
Patient approach work from Swansea carried them into the Newport 22, some terrific kicking manoeuvring them into position nicely, until they were let down by individual inaccuracies again, and Carwyn Penny was able to boot the hosts back to where they started. To their credit, they rebuilt and worked themselves to a position where Swansea had a lineout just metres from the Newport line. With the maul set, the managed to fluff their lines by crossing as they broke to the left and Carwyn Penny could kick the ball clear with no pressure.
As injury time loomed, Elliot Frewen worked hard to keep the ball alive, Joe Westwood could pick out a gap on the left to give Lloyd Lewis half a metre of space before the jet-heeled winger was away. Leaving the navy shirts for dead and angling towards the posts, Lewis backed himself from the halfway line, Harri Houston did manage to catch the Newport flyer, but Lewis wasn’t going to be denied. Carwyn Penny added the conversion to make the score Swansea 14 Newport 33 on 80+1 minutes.
Lloyd Lewis looked to claim a hat-trick of tries just moments later after Swansea’s restart went out on the full. Che Hope boomed a pass right for Lewis to chip and chase. Unfortunately, Lewis pulled up sharply, clutching his hamstring and Newport were forced to finish the game with 14 players.
With 86 minutes played, Swansea were keen to finish with a flourish, running the ball in the face of their own posts. They did keep possession well but ran out of confidence as they approached the Newport 22, wing Brandon Wood kicking ahead to chase, but Carwyn Penny was as cool as a mountain stream as he casually kicked the ball to touch to bring the game to an end.
Newport RFC now have a run of two home games, and tricky ones they appear to be. Next Saturday, January 20th, we host the Wizards of Aberavon RFC at Newport Stadium whilst the following weekend, January 27th, we welcome Carmarthen Quins. Both are good sides who play entertaining rugby. It’ll be cold, so wear your Long Johns, but come along and support the boys. The best way to keep warm is shout and cheer the Black and Ambers to, hopefully, a couple of wins!
Come on, Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Final Score – Swansea RFC 14 Newport RFC 33
Newport RFC Player of the Match – Josh Skinner