Pontypridd RFC v Newport RFC 30th March 2023 by John Evans
Following last Saturday’s splendid win in the Welsh Cup semi-final, it was a quick turn around before the Black and Ambers faced the same opponents, but, this time, on the own patch at Sardis Road, the self-styled “House of Pain”.
Last weekend also saw a momentous change in the running of the Welsh Rugby Union when a vote was passed to reform the governance of the game in Wales. As a result of some of the WRU’s proposals, Pontypridd became quite vocal in the opposition of a proposed streamlining of the Welsh Premier League into an eight-team ‘Elite’ league. The presence of S4C’s cameras, broadcasting the game live on their ‘Clic’ YouTube channel, ensured that there would be a fair amount of attention on this game.
Newport rotated their squad, correctly, as the League Play-offs were still within reach before kick-off, plus, obviously, the Cup Final itself on April 23rd when Newport get to face their old foe/friends from Cardiff RFC.
The prior day’s wet weather had relented, briefly, to ensure a dry kick-off as Matt O’Brien launched the ball high into the Pontypridd night sky with Newport attacking the clubhouse end. Lloyd Lewis ran the kick-return back at the hosts before the ball moved across the line until Craig Hudd found himself isolated by eager Ponty defenders. The resulting penalty went to 15-metres out, terrace side. Home flanker Aled Ward took the ball at the tail of the line out and set the maul, allowing hooker Rob Jones to latch on and look for the weak points in the Newport defence; there were none, yet. Ponty went through the phases, the big boys with low numbers battering at the Black and Amber wall. It took a cheeky dive by scrum half Rory Harries to spot a quarter of a gap and thrust himself through it to gain the touchdown. Jamie Murphy, a recent recruit from Bridgend, added the conversion to make the score Pontypridd 7 Newport 0 with just 3 minutes played.
Newport endeavoured to provide a response, and one came on 7 minutes. Harry Ackerman, the bustling centre back from Wales U-21 duty, found some space, but a sweet pirouette from Craig Hudd wrong-footed the Ponty defence and made himself half a yard in which to set up a platform. Pontypridd dived in from all angles and ceded a penalty which Matt O’Brien slotted to make the score Pontypridd 7 Newport 3.
Newport garnered a 10th minute penalty which Matt O’Brien punted to the corner, stand side. Craig Hudd took the ball at the tail allowing a dynamic rolling maul to set. Kyle Tayler split off and crossed the line. The referee, Mr Tom Spurrier, wasn’t happy with the grounding of the score but, thankfully, the Television Match Official (TMO), Mr Wayne Davies, had no issues and the try was awarded. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Pontypridd 7 Newport 10.
From the restart, some confusion amongst the Newport ranks was mopped up by Lloyd Lewis who, running across the face of his posts, fabricated a long, flat pass out to his wing partner for the evening, an out-of-position Chay Foster-Smith. He outpaced his opposite number before passing infield to Luke Crane, who had Harry Ackerman blasting up in support to his right. Lloyd Lewis had resumed his wing position and hadn’t stopped running, but the pass out was loose, and the move broke down, but such ambition had to be applauded.
Pontypridd were slowly haemorrhaging penalties as Lennon Greggains took a quick tap and put the Ponty pack on the back foot. Luke Crane appeared to have taken a wrong option going right again, but his mates had his back and Newport retained possession and, indeed, drew another penalty. Matt O’Brien belted the ball into the corner for Lennon Greggains to take the line out catch. Kyle Tayler went close, but it was left to big Garin Harris to power over and nudge Newport further ahead on the night. The conversion was missed, making the score Pontypridd 7 Newport 15 on 18 minutes.
A loose ball on 20 minutes prompted hooker James Benjamin to look for the wide-open spaces of Sardis Road. Unfortunately, he found Fijian winger Niko Matawalu who stepped around most of the Newport team, and half of the people in the stand, before sprinting forward with Rory Harries and Aled Ward in support. Josh Reid, however, was having none of it, and his back-tracking tackle killed the move dead. Sadly, Reid didn’t release to Mr Spurrier’s liking, so Pontypridd put themselves into the corner. Number 8 Joe Miles, who had a decent game for the hosts, it must be said, crossed the line to touch down, but there was crossing in the build-up, so the score was marked off.
The Pontypridd line out was spluttering as much as their discipline. Messrs Ferriman and Hudd were able to make hay on opposition ball virtually at will. A 25th minute steal saw Luke Crane recover well and get the ball wide to Matt O’Brien. He passed onward to debut centre Joe Westwood, son of former Newport wing Jonathan. Joe displayed sone classic old-school centre play by easily blasting through a gap between Ponty’s 12/13 channel and sprinting into metres of open ground. Lloyd Lewis was alive to the situation and took the pass to run in from halfway unopposed, which had the viewing S4C commentators purring into their microphones. Lloyd even had the coolness to give an interview in Welsh to the cameras as he made his way back into position! The conversion drifted wide, but Newport were in command with 7 points to 20 lead on 26 minutes.
Newport were penalised for a high tackle in the half hour, but the Ponty lineout worked to Newport’s advantage again, and the immediate danger was cleared. He ball went long to full back Dale Stuckey who attempted to salvage something out of the chaos. He found Niko Matawalu, but no-one near was on their wavelength and the clever pass onward to Aled Ward was spilled.
Geraint O’Driscoll was touched in mid-air as he took a catch giving Matt O’Brien opportunity to tease and taunt Pontypridd as his kick released Chay Foster-Smith to sprint along his wing, pursuing the bouncing ball as light rain cascaded across the floodlight beams. The bounce won, on this occasion, but the Pontypridd defence were on notice that attacks could rain-in from any direction.
The constant indiscipline by Pontypridd was the main reason that they were unable to build anything at all, really. Prop Garyn Daniel changing his bind on a rolling maul was another careless example on 38 minutes. Matt O’Brien again placed Newport into the corner for Elliot Ferriman to take the lineout ball, but the rolling maul didn’t settle, and the ball was lost forward.
Newport secured the try-scoring bonus point inside the first half, two minutes into stoppage, as Chay Foster-Smith, showed an appetite for wing-work. The Black and Ambers guzzled up loose ball, Harry Ackerman stepped around the defensive line finding Josh Reid in support. Reid linked well, passing out wide to Foster-Smith who ducked and launched himself at the line. Again, Mr Spurrier requested the assistance of the TMO, and the TV pictures were clear; it was a great try! Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Pontypridd 7 Newport 27 as the House of Pain became the House of Rain.
Half Time Pontypridd RFC 7 Newport RFC 27
Jamie Murphy restarted the game with the Black and White-hooped hosts having it all to do in the subsequent 40 minutes of rugby. Elliot Ferriman attempted to take the ball, but the slippery ovoid squirted backwards prompting Luke Crane to get the ball under control.
Pontypridd did exert some authority at scrum-time, squeezing a few penalties out of Newport; Jamie Murphy placed a kick that gave Ponty a terrific placement and Aled Ward’s break from the back of the maul almost yielded a try until Kyle Tayler, clinging on like a limpet, got body parts under the ball and prevented the grounding. Again, Mr Spurrier sought the advice of TMO, Mr Davies, and “no try” was the call.
The hosts maintained a spell of decent possession around 52 minutes, without really presenting much threat. The ball went side to side, but with the worsening conditions, combined with the weight of the hits from the Black and Ambers, a spillage forward was almost inevitable.
Jamie Murphy fumbled a loose ball, but this was compounded when a support player picked up the loose ball in an offside position. Matt O’Brien walloped the ball 10 metres out, stand side. The lineout pods shuffled, Craig Hudd went for the catch, Elliot Ferriman broke from the rolling maul before Newport went about softening up the fringes. Che Hope, on for Luke Crane, spotting Lennon Greggains lurking to his left, popped the ball out, leaving the aggressive loose-forward to bully his way through the attempted tackle and score the try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Pontypridd 7 Newport 34. The House of Rain was also becoming the House of Gain for Newport RFC.
In a moment’s inattention, Newport were walked back off their own scrum ball, usually a cause for major alarm bells, but Pontypridd were woefully inaccurate, and their blushes were saved as Mr Spurrier brought them back for an advantage. The Black and Amber defensive wall was more than equal to anything that was thrown at them on this occasion. Like an old electrical device, now and again the Pontypridd lineout would function well, causing one to think that they’d sorted themselves out. Then, true to form, the next lineout would end up with Elliot Ferriman getting a hand to the ball again, causing the home supporters to curse their luck as the veins in their collective temples bulged.
Che Hope spotted an opening on 70 minutes as he cruised into top gear, but he was without support, and he was relieved of possession before his mates arrived to back him up.
Pontypridd were imploding. Matt O’Brien was brought off, with Geraint O’Driscoll moving up to 10 and Matt Bancroft slotting into full back. Jamie Murphy tried to fashion a chip ahead, which was gratefully scooped up by Chay Foster-Smith before another penalty was given away, combined with ten metres for chopsing and a yellow card for substitute James Murphy. By now, the conditions were saturated, and any thought of passing rugby was forgotten. Pontypridd were trying to play miracle rugby, but they struggled to do that in the dry.
Harry Ackerman had a 79th minute try chalked off as Mr Spurrier had positioned himself poorly and had prevented Pontypridd defending accurately, but the game was already over as a contest. Geraint O’Driscoll tried a few moves, a cross-kick to Dafydd Buckland when there was little on was inventive, Kyle Tayler worked tirelessly, turning possession over in injury time with the points in the bag and Lennon Greggains was bang up for scoring more tries but found himself isolated and conceded a late penalty. The game petered out. Neither Newport not Pontypridd could gain any more out of the game, and it was with some relief to the home supporters when Mr Spurrier blew for full time. Us Newport supporters were silently agog as we had witnessed as convincing an away win as any of us had seen at Sardis Road.
Full Time: Pontypridd RFC 7 Newport RFC 34
Newport RFC are next in action on April 4th when Carmarthen Quins RFC are our visitors. The match will be played at our Newport Stadium home but the following game, on April 8th will be at Rodney Parade. Merthyr are our visitors on that occasion. The run in to the end of the season has been finalised, as far as these things can be, by fixture secretary Mike Frost, and are available to view online. Lots of games have changed, please look at the fixture list for further information. https://newportrfc.live-website.com/fixtures-and-results
Tickets for the Cup Final will be released soon. Please try to buy from the club directly as Newport RFC benefit from the sale.
Finally, the Hall of Fame Dinner will soon be upon us. Please email Kevin Jarvis at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Craig Hudd
Final Score – Pontypridd RFC 7 Newport RFC 34