Newport Overwhelm Bridgend as Records Tumble

Newport RFC v Bridgend RFC 13th April 2024 by John Evans


As the regulation season draws to a close with a visit to Newport Stadium by the Ravens of Bridgend RFC, it’s only the Play-Offs that remain. Who Newport RFC will play in that competition depends on the results of others, at the moment. All Ty Morris could do was ensure the team remained focused on the job, acquire as many league points as possible, and see what happens next.


Bridgend have had a middling season in 2023-2024, currently sitting 9th with eight wins. However, they could still do the Black and Ambers a good turn; their final fixture is away at Llandovery. Denying the Drovers a win would go a long way towards determining who gets home advantage against whom in the play-off.


The weather was kind to the fixture, presenting the city of Newport with two dry days in succession, probably a record for 2024. There was a slight breeze but, otherwise, the conditions were perfect for rugby.


Matt O’Brien kicked off with Newport attacking the SDR end of Newport Stadium. A few rucks and Bridgend scrum half Callaghan Smith box kicked the ball away. Dai Richards ran back at the Ravens, Matt O’Brien picked his runners, but Rynard Landman couldn’t hold onto the ball and spilled in contact. Bridgend kicked through forcing Dai Richards to minor the ball and Matt O’Brien took a goal line drop out. Ravens number 8 Jordan Collier burst through, but Chay Foster-Smith did well to get across the tackled man and force the penalty. Ben Roach caught the subsequent lineout, jumping middle. Josh Reid, acting as scrum half, passed the ball out. Iwan Pyrs-Jones was released to sprint along the wing but found three blue and white jerseys blocking his path and he was manoeuvred into touch. However, Bridgend hooker Gareth Harvey conspired to overthrow the lineout. Henry Palmer seized the loose ball and Newport began to batter the Bridgend line. Josh Skinner, Thomas Davies, and Rynard Landman all going close, the latter especially so, but the defence had been sucked in enough to make room for Matt O’Brien to dart over for the opening score of the game. He converted his own try to make it Newport 7 Bridgend 0 on 5 minutes.


A poor restart from Newport, as a fumble simply nudged the ball into the path of Bridgend captain Zac O’Driscoll. Gareth Harvey surged forward but was held up. Newport had infringed, however. O’Driscoll took a quick tap penalty, but the Ravens fluffed their lines with a knock on in contact. Newport failed to release the pressure when a pass whipped out to Lloyd Lewis was judged forward. The scrum edged left allowing Jordan Collier a fabulous attacking platform to launch at Newport, but a solid Black & Amber defence thwarted him. The Ravens huffed and puffed, Gareth Harvey showing up well, but winger Iwan Griffiths was ultimately ushered into touch.


Bridgend worked hard at keeping the ball alive, moving it around, and were rewarded with a try on 14 minutes by wing Corum Nott. He was put into space, having to just wrong-foot Iwan Pyrs-Jones to crash over in the corner. Outside half Jamin Hodgkins slotted the conversion to equalise the scores at 7 points apiece.


Bridgend contrived to knock the ball into touch from the restart. Ben Roach took the restart, but Josh Skinner’s grasp of the ball wasn’t clean, and the ball was lost in contact. Bridgend sensed an opportunity and Jordan Collier broke through. Iwan Pyrs-Jones was back quickly and downed the big man. The ball worked loose and became aerial. Matt O’Brien was taken out in mid-air as he sought to take the ball affording Newport a penalty.


Newport attacked again, Joe Westwood running over, literally, Jamin Hodgkins leaving the Bridgend man needing a moment to regather his thoughts. Henry Palmer linked well to keep the ball alive, but Iwan Pyrs-Jones had too little room in which to create something. However, he had retained possession and the ball worked back infield to Che Hope, but a pass to Thomas Davies was unsympathetic and the big man was unable to hold the ball.


Henry Palmer scooped up another loose lineout ball and passed on to Che Hope. He sold the Bridgend defence a massive dummy and bought himself acres of space and sprinted through the gap, drawing the last defender, and released Joe Westwood to race in for a try. The conversion went wide, so the score now was Newport 12 Bridgend 7 on 21 minutes.


Dai Richards ran the restart back at the Ravens, but Newport shipped a penalty. Bridgend went to the corner. Zac O’Driscoll took on the captain’s responsibility to spearhead the charge, but he was held up by a determined defence. He was wrapped up and Newport won the turnover.


Newport visibly stepped up a gear. Joe Westwood tried to blow a hole through the Bridgend defence. Chay Foster-Smith bustled forward, both centres drawing defenders as they went. Dai Richards worked hard in contact before passing out to Iwan Pyrs-Jones who sprinted in for a try. Matt O’Brien converted making the score 19-7 on 27 minutes.


Bridgend were wrapped up in contact, Che Hope digging hard to release the ball, but the referee, Mr Jason Bessant, awarded Newport the scrum. From the set piece, Che Hope easily picked out Lloyd Lewis on the wing. He set off at lightning pace as the blue cover piled in. Lewis evaded the defenders, chipped forward, outpaced the full back, former Newport player Edd Howley, and touched down the bobbling ball in the corner. That was Newport’s bonus point try in the bag on 31 minutes. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer to make the score Newport 26 Bridgend 7.


Suddenly, Newport were rampant. Bridgend were like a rabbit caught in headlights in defence as a deft flick put Joe Westwood into space as he glided towards the line before unselfishly popping the ball to Che Hope to score near the posts. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 33 Bridgend 7 on 33 minutes.


Newport were running from all angles and Bridgend were overwhelmed. Matt O’Brien kicked a penalty to the corner. With the lineout complete, Joe Westwood battered into contact before popping the ball to Matt O’Brien to score his second try. He converted his own try to make it Newport 40 Bridgend 7 on 36 minutes.


Bridgend were unable to respond to what Newport were raining in on them. Dai Richards and Chay Foster-Smith were imperious in attack as the ball worked wide to Iwan Pyrs-Jones who kicked ahead. Edd Howley was back for the Ravens but Newport smothered him. Josh Reid retrieved the ball for Newport and whipped it out to Chay Foster-Smith who sprinted around Ravens’ flanker Alfie Llewellyn to score. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make in Newport 47 Bridgend 7.


Bridgend managed to work their way into the Newport corner, stand side. Corum Nott, the Bridgend wing, won a penalty as Newport infringed on the deck. The Ravens went to the corner, but Ben Roach picked off the lineout ball as Che Hope kicked the ball dead to bring the half to a close.


47-7. At half time. Crikey Moses!


Half Time   Newport RFC 47 Bridgend RFC 7


Jamin Hodgkins restarted the game for Bridgend, kicking long. Dai Richards looked to run out of defence. Matt O’Brien flicked the ball on to Lloyd Lewis who kicked ahead, but Edd Howley emerged with the ball and cleared well for the Ravens.


Carwyn Penny replaced Dai Richards on 43 minutes as Newport tried to continue in the vein of the last fifteen minutes.


Chay Foster-Smith and Joe Westwood maintained their intensity at centre, thumping into contact while Matt O’Brien brought runners on to him. Henry Palmer worked hard to maintain continuity before Iwan Pyrs-Jones created space enough for Ben Roach to gallop across for a try. Matt O’Brien converted to make it Newport 54 Bridgend 7 on 47 minutes.


Josh Skinner and Henry Palmer were relieved of duty on 47 minutes, Jon Verrier and Wade Langley replacing them.


Bridgend temporarily broke Newport’s vice-like grip on 50 minutes. Iwan Griffith found space on his wing before kicking long. Lloyd Lewis was quick enough to win the foot race and dot the ball down, but the Ravens had earned themselves an attacking scrum five. Jordan Collier broke to the blind side but, despite the cover, Corum Nott managed to wriggle his way across the line for a score. Jamin Hodgkins missed the conversion, so the score now was Newport 54 Bridgend 12 on 52 minutes.


Thomas Davies and Garin Harris were next to bow out, Josh Reynolds and Chris Davies taking over at 1 and 3. Dafydd Buckland replaced Che Hope at the same stoppage.


Ben Roach bagged another try on 54 minutes and was, possibly, the score of the game. The Newport captain flung the ball wide as Lloyd Lewis and Dafydd Buckland combined beautifully to progress upfield, when a terrific pass from Buckland made space for the supporting Roach to take the ball and barrel over for the try near the posts. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 61 Bridgend 12.


Just seconds later, Carwyn Penny broke the Bridgend line with embarrassing ease. Chay Foster-Smith sprinted ahead but he was hauled down before Carwyn Penny continued the move, keeping the ball alive for Rynard Landman to take the pass and dive in the corner for what was certainly the most popular try of the afternoon. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 68 Bridgend 12 on 56 minutes.


As it turned out, that was the big South African’s last action of the game as he was replaced by Lewis David.


Newport were irresistible. All the training ground tricks and flicks were being utilised before Josh Reynolds powered into contact. Matt O’Brien’s trickery, combined with Chay Foster-Smith’s directness were causing huge problems for the visitors before Ben Roach crossed for his hat-trick of tries within fifteen minutes. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 75 Bridgend 12 on 62 minutes.


Bridgend kicked long allowing time for Dafydd Buckland to spread to Carwyn Penny. Lloyd Lewis easily skipped through the tackle before popping the ball back to Carwyn Penny. Matt O’Brien combined with Penny and Lewis before a blind pop ended up in the grasp of Josh Reid, and he sprinted under the posts to score. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer to make the score Newport 82 Bridgend 12 on 66 minutes.


Newport ran from deep on 68 minutes as Bridgend pressed high up the field. Ravens got a hand to the ball and Gabe Lacey scooped up the loose ball and cantered under the posts for a try. Despite the protestations of the Newport players, Mr Bessant awarded the try, judging that there was no knock on. Jamin Hodgkins added the conversion to make it Newport 82 Bridgend 19.


It went from the sublime to the ridiculous on 78 minutes as Edd Howley broke from deep. He kicked ahead as Lloyd Lewis streamed back. Howley chased his own kick, the ball bobbling off his shin. As the ball crossed the line, Howley swiped at the ball, knocking it forward, appearing to have utterly blown the opportunity. Unbelievably, Mr Bessant decided to award the try, to the disbelief of Lloyd Lewis and the formal protestations of Ben Roach. Jamin Hodgkins kicked the conversion making the score 82-26 and the Ravens had been gifted a try-scoring bonus point.


To balance things out, Bridgend foolishly tried to run from deep, flinging the ball around. A loose pass was seized upon by Lloyd Lewis who waltzed over unopposed to score under the crossbar. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score, unbelievably, Newport 89 Bridgend 26.


The Ravens huffed and puffed as they camped on the Newport line, but a solid defence shut the blue and whites out. Mr Bessant had seen enough and brought the game to an end.


What a performance. Some of the handling was sublime, while the power that both Newport centres generated obliterated their opposite numbers, causing chaos at times. This performance also broke four different records for the club, especially in the semi-pro era; most tries scored (13), biggest winning margin (63), most points scored (89) and most conversions scored (12).  The King of Newport victories remains the 96-0 dismantling on Penarth in 1984, but this goes straight into the top 20 of Newport wins within the last 50 years. What a privilege to have been there.


That was the end of the regular season for the Black and Ambers. The Play-offs await and, depending on other results, our opponents are still to be confirmed. However, Newport will be at Newport Stadium on Saturday May 4th. Please remember that this game is now outside the reach of a season ticket and is ALL PAY. However, what the squad need is your support. Whoever comes to face us will come in numbers and be loud in their support. The club need us supporters to come in numbers, wear our Black and Amber and be equally loud in our support of Newport RFC!


Come on, Newport!


Onwards and upwards Newport.


Your City. Your Colours. Your Club




Final Score – Newport RFC 89 Bridgend RFC 26


Newport RFC Player of the Match – Ben Roach