Left too late

Newport RFC v Cardiff RFC 22nd September 2022 by John Evans


Newport were back in action following a two-week break, one expected after a bye-week in the Premiership Cup pool, the other less so, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The postponement of the fixture away at RGC has yet to be re-arranged but will be publicised well in advance.


Cardiff were visiting our new home at Newport Stadium for the first time. Having played them four times last season, and emerging victorious on all four occasions, the Newport camp were fully aware of the talents within the Blue and Black camp; they weren’t eventually crowned champions for no reason.


Both teams stood for the two-minutes silence, which was impeccably observed by the crowd. Light rain drifted across the floodlight beams as the only noise was from the Southern Distributor Road traffic.


The availability of Will Reed to Newport provided a frisson of anticipation amongst the Newport support as it was hoped that the 10/12 axis of Reed and O’Brien would carry on from where it left off last season


Will Reed kicked off the game in front of the S4C cameras who were showing the game live on their Clic livestream as part of their Thursday night game programme. The kick went out on the full, so Cardiff were awarded a scrum back on the centre spot, which Newport went and conceded a full penalty from. Cardiff went for the corner, second row Sean Moore taking the ball well, before Cardiff set up phase upon phase of determined attacking. Newport set about their task of defending well and eventually snuffed out the danger when Cardiff centre Joe Goodchild was pinged for hanging onto the ball in the tackle.


Cardiff conceded a penalty on 10 minutes allowing Newport the opportunity to build an attack. Josh Skinner pumped forward with the ball attracting another penalty. A planned move from the line out took place which changed the focus of the attack as Dan Hill motioned forward. The maul was set, but the ball was lost over the Cardiff line allowing the Blue and Blacks to clear via a dropout.


Matt O’Brien had found his kicking range early on when he provided his team with a 50:22 which the Assistant Referee declined to give. With the cameras present, the referee, Mr Mike English, had the ability to ‘go upstairs’ for a second opinion which proved that Newport were due the lineout. Unfortunately, the lineout was overthrown. Cardiff seized on the loose ball and went wide, quickly. Wing James Beal hurtled along the touchline before putting an infield kick towards scrum half Jamie Hill. With the Black and Amber defence streaming back in defence, it still wasn’t enough to prevent Hill diving in for the game’s opening score. Mr English consulted with the TV replay and declared himself happy with the score. Full back Cameron Winnett added the conversion to make it Newport 0 Cardiff 7 on 19 minutes.


Newport responded immediately, going wide themselves. Cardiff conceded a penalty for sealing off in the tackle. Will Reed lined up the kick and narrowed the gap to Newport 3 Cardiff 7 with a successful kick on 20 minutes.


With Dan Fish, Cardiff’s talismanic outside half, retired hurt, it was down to Harrison James to steer the ship. His first meaningful act was to push a penalty shot wide on 23 minutes after an off-the-ball tackle.


The Blue and Blacks were hitting their straps as their big men started to carry the ball. Morgan Allen and Arron Pinches battered at the Black and Amber defensive line, but it was the rapier of Cameron Winnett that did the damage, slicing Newport open before giving a deft pass out to his right for wing Tom Habberfield to sprint in to score. Harrison James missed the conversion making the score Newport 3 Cardiff 12 on 25 minutes.


Cardiff were penalised as a scrum folded on 29 minutes. Will Reed’s shot from 35 metres was good, so the score now was Newport 6 Cardiff 12 on 29 minutes.


Dai Richards demonstrated quality on 34 minutes with a kick out of hand that was sublime, a massive 50:22 that turned defence into attack, just when Newport looked as though the weight of the attack may buckle them. Sadly, though, it came to nought again. Josh Skinner trucked the ball up into defence, Will Griffiths carried the move on, but the Cardiff defence were alive at the breakdown and managed to regain the ball and clear the danger.


Newport gained a penalty in defence as Cardiff made a double movement, but the Assistant Referee had spotted a high tackle previously, so that was given instead. Cardiff fluffed the lineout, prop Thomas Davies being alert and securing the ball and giving Newport a moments respite. Mr English seemed ambivalent about the straightness of the Cardiff throw, but that was academic as it wasn’t Mr English that missed the tackle that allowed hooker Efan Daniel to bustle through and dash to the line and score. Harrison James improved the score, making it Newport 6 Cardiff 19 on 40 + 2 minutes.


Just when Newport were spinning from that assault, Cardiff delivered a sucker punch. Josh Skinner palmed a lineout ball which evaded Dafydd Buckland but bounced beautifully into the path of flanker Gwilym Bradley, who sprinted 60 metres without a finger being laid upon him. Harrison James added the two-pointer to make it Newport 6 Cardiff 24, the visitors having the try-scoring bonus point in the bag before half time.


Josh Skinner was prepared to carry the fight, his injury time run into the Cardiff defence caught them offside. Will Reed, in an attempt to narrow the gap, booted Newport to the corner. The hosts went through the phases, but to no real effect. Cardiff were sharp in defence while Newport looked lumpen. Cardiff got themselves over the ball-carrier and that was the end of that.


Half Time   Newport RFC 6 Cardiff RFC 24


A half time change of personnel, switching Ben Moa for deck expert Kyle Tayler, was obviously an attempt to seek parity in the breakdowns. Cardiff’s Harrison James restarted but the Newport defence was able to absorb the attacks before winning a penalty in defence.


Cardiff let rip. Newport were being made to look quite ordinary as they were cut to ribbons. A neat pass from flanker Olly Robinson, son of Bath and England legend Andy, put scrum half Jamie Hill into space and the finish was a foregone conclusion. James added the conversion to make the score Newport 6 Cardiff 31 on 42 minutes.


It became one-way traffic as the Blue and Blacks launched their big men who ran hard and direct at the valiant Newport defenders. Cardiff were going forward almost at will but, crucially the Black and Ambers did just about enough to hang in there


Chay Foster-Smith made a welcome return to Newport colours following a stint at Aberavon, just in time for Will Reed to boot Newport to the corner and set up a dynamic maul. Newport went for the guts of the Cardiff defence and were rewarded when debutant prop Nathan Evans emerged with the ball for Newport’s first try of the evening. The conversion was missed, so the score was Newport 11 Cardiff 31 on 52 minutes.


With the hour mark approaching, head coach Ty Morris took the gamble of emptying the bench. Mass changes were made, and Newport seemed to take the infusion of new blood well, but it got worse before it got better. Newport conceded a 63rd minute penalty which Harrison James slotted, making it Newport 11 Cardiff 34.


The game stopped on 67 minutes when Chay Foster-Smith was withdrawn following a leg injury. Hopefully he’ll be back on the field soon. The result now was that Newport would have to complete the game with fourteen players.


A strong Newport scrum on 71 minutes had replacement scrum half Luke Crane whip the ball away. Josh Skinner was available again for carrying duties. Ryan Woodman was eager to attack before Nathan Evans burrowed in to score his, and Newport’s, second try. Will Reed added the conversion to make it Newport 18 Cardiff 34.


The game slowed right down, peppered with injuries. It was like watching a pan of popcorn at times. Nothing happened for quite a while until, suddenly, things exploded all over the field, a player down, a tackle in midfield, substitutes on and off the field.


Cardiff’s vice-like grip on the game had dissipated and Newport were finally in the ascendency. The old Newport popped up on 77 minutes when Matt O’Brien found Jonny Morris with a cross kick. Dai Richards jinked infield as the Newport back row bombed on, but Cardiff flanker Robinson scooped the ball up, one-handed, and the ball was spirited away.


Cardiff, evidently feeling sorry for the Black and Ambers, evened the numbers up when Ellis Thomas was shown a yellow card and invited to sit on the naughty step for the rest of the game. However, Newport prop Joe Popple then went one better and retired hurt, leaving Newport with thirteen to Cardiff’s 14.


Newport were beating at the front door, but Cardiff’s scramble defence was outstanding, strong and organised. Matt O’Brien was trying to spark something, a pass out to Henry Palmer was fumbled, but went backwards, throwing the defence off guard enough to allow Elliot Frewen to characteristically pinball his way through bodies and dive in to score a try. Will Reed added a conversion to make the score Newport 23 Cardiff 34.


This was bonkers.


Cardiff made a howler as an attempted 50:22 went dead, Newport gaining the scrum on Cardiff’s 40 metre line. That collapsed, Will Reed punting to the corner again. Lineout won, the rolling maul set up and another penalty was garnered as Cardiff’s Eddie Drake mucked about offside, pulling at jerseys. Josh Skinner claimed the high ball, Henry Palmer mopped up the loose ball before the ruck set and the unlikely figure of Elliott Frewen, the Wing Commander, picked up the ball from close in and pounced to score. Will Reed added the conversion to make it Newport 32 Cardiff 34 deep into stoppage time. This score gave Newport a try-scoring bonus point and a second bonus point for being within seven points.


We couldn’t. Could we?


We could have a good go! From the restart Newport were tempted to go for gold. Matt O’Brien launched a cross-kick to Elliott Frewen who scarpered along the touch line, before replicating Cardiff’s Beal earlier and placing an infield kick for Luke Crane to pursue. Unfortunately, Crane was pinged for holding onto the ball in the tackle and Cardiff could board the bus back to Cardiff with a ‘W’ in their back pocket.


Full Time: Newport RFC 32 Cardiff RFC 34


Undoubtedly Cardiff, at times, were excellent. They were probably the best side Newport had face since the Merthyr team in the ill-fated 2018 cup final. But Newport laid a glove on them. They didn’t have things all their own way and may consider themselves fortunate to get the win at all, considering the last 15 minutes. It could be argued that Newport’s toughest opponent of the evening was the clock.


Newport are in action again next Saturday, October 1st, when they travel to Llandovery RFC for an Indigo Group Premiership fixture. The Friends of Newport Rugby are running a bus for supporters to the game. Priced at £20 per seat, reservations are available by contacting Steve Bennett by email at stattonrfc@live.co.uk

Following this, the Black and Ambers host Bridgend in an Indigo Group Premiership game at home, in Newport Stadium, on Saturday October 8th. We’d love to see you there!


Onwards and upwards Newport.


Your City. Your Colours. Your Club




Newport RFC Man of the Match – Rhys Jenkins


Final Score – Newport RFC 32 Cardiff RFC 34