Pontypridd RFC v Newport RFC 29th February 2024 by John Evans


Newport ventured up the A470 for an Indigo Premier League game against Pontypridd RFC. Quite when the Black and Ambers will take to the field at Sardis Road again is anybody’s guess; they have chosen to not take part in the Elite League next season, so have effectively relegated themselves to the Championship. For a club that set the benchmark for semi-professional rugby in Wales for the best part of a decade, this is quite a comedown.


When Pontypridd travelled to Newport in November, they were subjected to what was, apparently, their second heaviest defeat ever, according to Alun Granfield’s programme notes. Surely the squad would find that motivation enough to put on a display worthy of their club’s badge?


The three-quarters empty terrace was a sign of the times at Sardis Road. Populated by a knot of hardcore home supporters and a fair amount of travelling Black and Ambers, time was when you had to squeeze in to get a spot. It looked like you could throw a cricket ball along there now and not hit anybody. Possibly the persistent heavy rain showers had put some spectators off, maybe the fact that it was available to watch on S4C’s Clic YouTube channel made that the more appealing option? It’s difficult to know. Former Newport and Pontypridd player Llywarch ap Myrddin was present in his role as guest for the broadcasting.


Joel Raikes, the talented Pontypridd scrum half, led his team out on the occasion of his 200th appearance for the club. Newport played toward the clubhouse end, with Matt O’Brien kicking off, going long to fullback Josh Phillips who cleared the ball to about 30 metres out. From the outset, Newport demonstrated their attacking intent; Jonny Morris bashed up the middle as Jac Lloyd supported the run, but Pontypridd wing Niko Matawalu was penalised for a deliberate knock on, which, later in the game, may have earned him a ten-minute sit down. Matt O’Brien parked Newport in the corner before winning the line out. The backs combined well, Chay Foster-Smith setting ball up in midfield, leaving Matt O’Brien time and space to work out his options before releasing Elliot Frewen, but his pass out of contact was forced and possession was lost.


A big scrum from the Ponty eight earned them a penalty, but it was spoiled by outside half Ben Burnell’s dead straight kick infield, which Jac Lloyd fielded easily. The Newport forwards set about their grey-shirted opponents and soon regained possession before Matt O’Brien conjured up a grubber kick for Josh Reid to chase, but he was downed by Josh Phillips from fullback. Going back to the advantage, Newport went to the corner again, but the Pontypridd pack did excellently by splitting the Newport rolling maul and winning the turnover.


Josh Skinner won lineout ball before Chay Foster-Smith carved a gap through the middle of the home defence before Elliot Frewen collected a loose pass, affording Jac Lloyd space to jink around some covering defenders to score the opening try of the game. Matt O’Brien’s conversion, from out on the 5-metre tramline, bounced in off the left had upright to make it Pontypridd 0 Newport 7 with 9 minutes played.


The restart kick cannoned off Lloyd Lewis’ breastbone giving Pontypridd a decent field position. The Newport defence stepped up, but it proved too far as they were penalised for offside. Ben Burnell kicked Pontypridd to the corner, but Ben Roach, the reliable Newport captain, jumped front, calmly claimed the lineout and Newport could kick the ball away. However, Ponty did have another bite at the cherry when the long throw fell into the grasp of their prop Tom Devine. He scuttled forward, but Ben Burnell’s booming wide pass was so forward that even the Pontypridd supporters didn’t question it.


Pontypridd’s scrum dominance was beginning to ebb now that Nathan Evans and Josh Reynolds had chance to work them out. The two big men won a penalty for the Black and Ambers at a 19th minute scrum allowing Newport the opportunity to go to the corner again. Rynard Landman caught the throw, Henry Palmer circling to hold the ball on his hip. As the maul edged forward, the nearest backs joined on to give it momentum, but it collapsed over the line. The referee, Mr Gareth Newman, took his time to work out what had happened eventually awarding Newport a penalty try and showing Pontypridd captain Kristian Parker a yellow card for dragging the maul down. That made the score Pontypridd 0 Newport 14 on 21 minutes.


The hosts got themselves on the scoreboard just two minutes later when Newport were in front of the kicker; Josh Phillips kicked the relatively easy penalty to make it Pontypridd 3 Newport 14 on 23 minutes.


Lloyd Lewis worked hard to pressurise Josh Phillips at the restart, shutting him down inside his own 22. Pontypridd cleared the ball to touch but kept pressure on themselves by conceding a penalty at the lineout. Matt O’Brien punished them by placing Newport back on the 5-metre line. The lineout didn’t go to plan, but Pontypridd couldn’t take advantage. With a steady Newport scrum, Dafydd Buckland could provide good ball to Chay Foster-Smith who linked with a looping Matt O’Brien. He boomed an accurate long pass out to Elliot Frewen who ghosted around his opposite number, Tom Edwards, to touch down. The conversion was missed, so the scoreboard now read Pontypridd 3 Newport 19 with 29 minutes played.


Kristian Parker returned to the field as Newport won a lineout, but Elliot Frewen couldn’t hold on to the rather lively pass that came his way.


Pontypridd were proving to be the architects of their own downfall as a poor kick from Burnell gave Newport the ability to run back from a lineout that gained very little ground. Matt O’Brien drifted out to the 12 channel to link with Elliot Frewen as Jac Lloyd raced up to create the overlap before firing the ball out to the flying Lloyd Lewis. Lewis still had work to do as the defence closed in, but some acrobatics ensured the ball hit the deck in the right place. The conversion went wide so the score now was Pontypridd 3 Newport 24 on 39 minutes, with the try-scoring bonus point already in Newport’s back pocket.


Newport were to have the final say of the half as the pack gained another scrum penalty. From the lineout, Dafydd Buckland mopped up sloppy ball before Ben Roach strong-armed his way up field, setting up the ruck. Pontypridd prop Tom Harper entered the ruck from the side, a poor decision at best, considering field position and what Newport were liable to do with it. Rynard Landman took the lineout ball but fell backwards suspiciously quickly. With a penalty awarded, Josh Reynolds fancied his chances, tapped the ball quickly and barged over for a try that effectively ended the game as a contest. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Pontypridd 3 Newport 31 at half time.


The House of Pain was quickly becoming the House of Gain for the Black and Ambers.


Half Time   Pontypridd RFC 3 Newport RFC 31


Newport set out on the second half as they finished the first. Jonny Morris looked to play Josh Phillips’ restart while Chay Foster-Smith snarled at the defence. Matt O’Brien kicked long, Josh Phillips spilling the ball giving Newport position. Dafydd Buckland broke blind from the scrum as Matt O’Brien linked with Elliot Frewen, but the defence were equal to it. Nathan Evans took on a solo burst but was isolated and the penalty was conceded. The Pontypridd kicking to touch was poor, gaining little ground, but it was also compounded by far too many poor lineout throws.


Following seven full minutes of being strangled by the Black and Ambers, Pontypridd slowly broke away from their line. Nathan Evans was penalised at a scrum, Ben Burnell placing the hosts in an ideal position in the corner, but the throw in was as straight as a politician. However, with a little momentum, Pontypridd seemed to have Newport in trouble at scrum time. With two penalties conceded, and a yellow card twitching in Mr Newman’s pocket, Ty Morris took the bold move of making mass replacements; off went Messrs. Reynolds, Palmer, Evans, Landman, Jenkins and Buckland. On came Messrs. Workman, Langley, Harris, Ferriman, Tayler and Hope. Guess what? Scrum penalty to Newport.


Josh Reid did excellently to secure the bouncing ball for Newport and a wicked kick by Matt O’Brien had the Pontypridd defence covering desperately, but they managed to snuff out the threat.


On 57 minutes, it was Newport’s turn to be shown a yellow card, when Garin Harris was found to have faulted at a scrum. Nathan Evans returned as cover, but a terrific 50-22 kick from Che Hope kept Newport marching forward. From the lineout, the rolling maul edged onward, Che Hope waiting for the nod from Matt O’Brien to release the ball. O’Brien’s chip ahead, however, was slightly too strong for Lloyd Lewis and Chay Foster-Smith, Lewis dotting down behind the dead ball line.


A 61st minute lineout put Newport in contention for another try as Elliot Ferriman took the lineout ball. Wade Langley hooked on at the back of the maul, hanging onto possession before Che Hope found Josh Skinner in a great position, the big man powering through contact to score the try. Matt O’Brien’s conversion hit the right hand upright this time, before dropping in for the two points. The score now was Pontypridd 3 Newport 38.


Elliot Frewen and Chay Foster-Smith had done enough, and they were replaced by Lewis Bates and Iwan Pyrs-Jones.


Ben Burnell lofted a kick which Pontypridd appeared to have knocked forward. Lewis Bates couldn’t gather the loose ball, but Ponty flanker Cal James could. He sprinted clear and scored the try, everyone else appearing to look at Mr Newman in disbelief. Nobody in the crowd could quite understand how Mr Newman had missed that either. Ben Burnell added the conversion to make it Pontypridd 10 Newport 38. If ever a try was the equivalent to a Blankety Blank Chequebook and Pen, it was this one.


The rain began falling again, and the temperature dropped notably as a hideous knock on by Ponty wing Tom Edwards gave Newport a terrific attacking platform. Jac Lloyd stepped up as first receiver, leaving Matt O’Brien space to angle his kick-pass out to Iwan Pyrs-Jones, who sprinted onto it and touched down for a fine try. O’Brien added the conversion to make it Pontypridd 10 Newport 45 on 67 minutes.


Garin Harris returned to the field moments before Lloyd Lewis took a heavy knock in a collision as he chased a kick. With Newport having used all of their replacements, they were forced to end the game with fourteen players, Lewis being assisted by kitman Dave Young as he gingerly walked back to the bench.


The yellow cards hadn’t finished yet. Pontypridd replacement Ben Stephens saw yellow on 75 minutes. Che Hope tapped the quick penalty with Wade Langley in support, but the move broke down and possession lost.


Still looking for more tries, and with passive scrums now in effect, a final pass out to a flying Iwan Pyrs-Jones was forward enough to be called back.


Into injury time, and everyone appearing to just want the game to end. Pontypridd, in an act of frustration, started getting punchy. Replacement Curtis Greenslade can consider himself fortunate not to have been carded for his careless upending of Josh Skinner. It’s a pity that Pontypridd hadn’t been that aggressive in the first half as they probably wouldn’t have been on the end of their heaviest home defeat to Newport in their history.


Rolling the dice one last time, Newport kicked to ten metres out. The Black and Ambers could make nothing of it, but the paucity of Pontypridd’s play was stark when Niko Matawalu broke clear with fellow wing Edwards in support, Matawalu passed to evade the covering defence and Edwards managed to spill the ball.


Newport’s previous biggest win at Sardis Road was on April 7th 1986, when they won 0-34 with a Charlie Faulkner coached team. No travelling Newport supporter expected to ever see that bettered.


Full Time: Pontypridd RFC 10 Newport RFC 45


Newport RFC are now unbeaten in 2024 and have won eight consecutive games with maximum points. That’s absolutely brilliant, isn’t it? However, tough challenges are ahead, few tougher than our old friends and foe, Cardiff RFC, who visit us for an Indigo Premier game at our ancestral home of Rodney Parade on Saturday March 9th, kick off at 2.30pm. Following that is another home game on Friday March 15th, when Neath RFC visit us for their first ever game at Newport Stadium. Kick off for that fixture is at 7.15pm. Come along, bring your mates and support the Black and Ambers!


Onwards and upwards Newport.


Your City. Your Colours. Your Club




Newport RFC Man of the Match; Ben Roach


Final Score – Pontypridd RFC 10 Newport RFC 45