Merthyr RFC v Newport RFC 10th December 2022 by John Evans
Newport were forced into quite a few unplanned changes due to illness and injury. Garin Harris and Ben Roach were late withdrawals from the XV originally selected, so Lennon Greggains started at 8 and Nathan Evans at prop.
Merthyr are always powerful, their collisions being just that, rather than standard tackles, looking more like car crashes to the average spectator. Newport are usually wise enough to stay away from such incidences! The Black and Ambers have a reasonable record at the Wern, having won on their last two visits. Fingers crossed for a similar outcome today!
The bitter cold in Newport was replaced by a sunny afternoon that, initially, had a slight warmth about it. However, as soon as the clouds blocked the sun’s rays, the biting cold reappeared.
Rhys Jenkins was made captain for the day, a role that he is familiar with having been club captain for a few seasons. Sadly, his temporary captaincy seems due to the enforced absence of Josh Skinner, whose leg injury appears to be worse than initially thought; fingers crossed for a full and speedy recovery as Josh will be sorely missed in Black and Amber.
Geraint O’Driscoll got the game underway with Newport attacking the small, covered terrace, the ‘Town’ end, if you like. Newport were soon on the attack, Henry Palmer clearing the ball away from a lineout and the phases commenced. Ryan Woodman carried the ball determinedly, but good whole-team work kept the pressure on and drew a penalty. Geraint O’Driscoll popped the ball into the corner, Ryan Woodman provided quick ball off the top as Lennon Greggains looped around the blind side and powered through the tackle to claim the opening score on 4 minutes. O’Driscoll added the touchline conversion to make the score Merthyr 0 Newport 7.
Merthyr wing Sam Jones placed a kick which Luke Crane not only dealt with but turned into an attack. A quick chip ahead and Crane was in pursuit, only being dealt with as an emergency by Merthyr. Ryan Woodman provided a stream of possession and the Newport maul rocked and rolled. Rhys Jenkins had a lurch towards the line but, unfortunately, Nathan Evans couldn’t pick the ball up cleanly and Merthyr were off the hook for now.
A Merthyr kick-to-nothing was dealt with by Elliot Frewen who ran back at the white shirts of Merthyr. Newport kept possession well, Chay Foster-Smith setting up a position in midfield while Harry Ackerman boomed a pass out to Oli Andrew on the wing. Neat interplay, ball being passed out of contact, saw Henry Palmer and Craig Hudd exchange passes as Newport surged forward. Still, Newport kept possession, winning a penalty as a bonus, before the ball swung left for Oli Andrew to score the try in the corner. Geraint O’Driscoll was unable to add the conversion, so the score now was Merthyr 0 Newport 12 on 14 minutes.
A rare foray by the home team into the Newport half was easily dealt with as the move broke down, Oli Andrew quickly seized on the loose ball before Geraint O’Driscoll could put Merthyr back into their own 22 metre area.
Lennon Greggains managed to get the ball away from the scrum while under pressure, Harry Ackerman passed out of contact to Chay Foster-Smith while Ackerman looped around him. A splendid kick ahead deceived everybody except Jonny Morris and Oli Andrew who chased the rolling ball into the in-goal area. Jonny Morris was there first and dropped onto the ball to claim try number three for the Black and Ambers. Geraint O’Driscoll was superbly accurate with his touchline conversion, so the score now was Merthyr 0 Newport 19.
There was a point, on 24 minutes, where the Merthyr of old would have guaranteed a score. A 5-metre line out was taken by big Craig Locke, their captain, but the second shove was resisted by the Black and Ambers and then, from a second lineout, Lennon Greggains got a hand to the ball and Newport were relieved.
However, the Merthyr approach did reap a reward on 27 minutes. Drive after drive, big men onto the ball at speed. It was left to Craig Locke to power into two Black and Amber tacklers and scrabble over for a try which was converted by outside half Josh Lewis.
Newport were back to bothering the Merthyr line when flanker Paddy McBride shot his own side in the foot, tackling a Newport player without the ball, from an offside position making it an easy decision for the referee, Mr Aled Evans. Off to the bench with you. Geraint O’Driscoll pumped Newport to the corner. The maul set up on Ryan Woodman but was in danger of being turned over. Kyle Tayler seized the momentum, dug the ball out before it was whipped out to Oli Andrew to pounce in the corner for the try-bonus point. Geraint O’Driscoll was on-point with his kicking accuracy making the score Merthyr 7 Newport 26 on 32 minutes.
Merthyr were very un-Merthyr-like as yet another maul was wrapped up on 40 minutes, Nathan Evans superbly relieving Craig Locke of possession in the tight areas. Newport infringed as they cleared away but, once reset, it was down to Craig Hudd to spoil the line out ball and make Merthyr re-group. The Merthyr phases were soon wrapped up before the Ironmen’s frustration saw them marched back for chopsing.
Merthyr attempted to capitalise on a rare Newport lineout mistake as prop Rhys Lewis charged ahead, sucking in defenders. Merthyr played on, but it was the Deck Expert, Kyle Tayler, who came up with the ball and Newport could run in for their half-time oranges knowing that they had giver Merthyr something to think about.
Half Time Merthyr RFC 7 Newport RFC 26
Josh Lewis restarted the game for Merthyr, fielded a kick from Geraint O’Driscoll before putting in a tidy 50:22 kick to give his side field position. However, Newport continued the first half display, spoiled possession and pushed away before O’Driscoll punted a tidy 50:22 of his own to launch a Newport attack. It was nullified, however, as Merthyr had clearly worked out that Ryan Woodman was Newport’s only reliable source of lineout possession so, by targeting him, they could stem the tide somewhat.
Merthyr were invigorated but that was partly because Newport were putting themselves under pressure. A pass from Elliot Frewen to Oli Andrew was unsympathetic resulting in Merthyr winning possession deep inside the Newport half. The Black and Amber defence numbered up and were heroic in delivering tackles, but Rhys Jenkins and Nathan Evans were over-enthusiastic in defence and shipped a penalty. Merthyr opted for the scrum but, just as Newport gained traction and powered through, Merthyr scrum half James Soanes burst from the blind side and skated across for a try. The conversion went wide of the posts, so the score now was Merthyr 12 Newport 26 with 48 minutes played.
An intelligent kick by Geraint O’Driscoll had the ball rolling towards the try line, bouncing wickedly for full back Ben Jones as he had Jonny Morris and Chay Foster-Smith bearing down on him, forcing him to touch down. An attacking scrum 5 saw the Black and Amber pack go for the forward drives. Newport punched away at the Merthyr wall before Luke Crane pulled the trigger, launched Geraint O’Driscoll who had two attackers outside him. However, Merthyr wing Sam Jones couldn’t resist rushing up for the tackle, knocking down the ball as he did so. Mr Evans took a moment to interpret what he had just observed, consulted with his assistant before brandishing a yellow card at Jones and jogging under the crossbar to signify a penalty try. The score now was Merthyr 12 Newport 33 on 55 minutes.
Newport punished the yellow card further just 4 minutes later with Oli Andrew’s third try. Merthyr were unconvincing in possession and Chay Foster-Smith almost intercepted a pass but, crucially, didn’t knock on. Elliot Frewen weighed in with a trademark Jack-in-the-box run before Geraint O’Driscoll kicked across field for Oli Andrew to jump higher than the defence, take the ball and sprint in to score. O’Driscoll added the conversion to make the score Merthyr 12 Newport 40.
Merthyr clawed a try back on 63 minutes, again via scrum half James Soames. Merthyr booted themselves to the corner following a Newport penalty. Paddy McBride, the home number 6, took the lineout ball, set the maul as it crept towards the line, Soames repeated his trick of earlier, breaking blind and scrambling over. Gareth Thompson’s conversion sailed wide to make the score Merthyr 17 Newport 40 on 63 minutes.
Harry Ackerman split the Merthyr defence wide open with Luke Crane haring up to his right. Ackerman drew the defender perfectly before leaving Crane to sprint toward the line before being nabbed by the corner-flagging defence. The 17-year-old from Newbridge has come on leaps and bounds in the last few games. Having men like Cameron Lewis, Chay Foster-Smith, Matt O’Brien and Geraint O’Driscoll in your ear, week after week, will only improve him. The fact that he was facing up to Merthyr’s Ashley Beck, a Wales international who was released by Worcester Warriors recently, and didn’t look out of place, is testament to his ability.
The Newport defence was impressive as Merthyr threw the kitchen sink at them as they searched for the try-scoring bonus point. Wave after wave of Merthyr jerseys piled into Newport, but the defence was firm as home prop Chris Phillips spilled the ball in contact. The scrum from the Ironmen was aggressive, however, and they won a penalty and reset. Tom Daley broke from number 8 before Paddy McBride picked up the ball to dot down and earn his team a try-scoring bonus point. Gareth Thompson added the conversion to make the score Merthyr 24 Newport 40 on 76 minutes.
Merthyr’s Lloyd Ashley seemed to want a written invitation to deal with the restart kick. George Young wasn’t one to stand on ceremony and secured the ball for Newport. The Black and Ambers spread the ball quickly but were guilty of hanging onto the ball in the tackle. Merthyr punted their way upfield as Tom Daley burst through the Black and Amber defensive line but Kyle Tayler, doing his thing, popped up with the ball which Geraint O’Driscoll banged dead for a terrific, somewhat against the odds, win.
Full Time: Merthyr RFC 24 Newport RFC 40
Newport are next in action on Saturday 17th December when Llanelli RFC visit us again, this time in an Indigo Premiership game. Kick off is at 2.30pm at Newport Stadium, come along, bring your mates, wear your Christmas jumpers and cheer the Black and Ambers onto, hopefully, another win! After Christmas we visit Ebbw Vale RFC on Boxing Day up at Eugene Cross Park. They’re bound to keep their usual warm welcome for all things Black and Amber. We’re running a bus for supporters to the game, but we need names soon as possible to ensure it runs. Please get in touch on the socials or email Steve Bennett directly at email@example.com.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Oli Andrew
Final Score – Merthyr RFC 24 Newport RFC 40