Llanelli RFC v Newport RFC 15th April 2023 by John Evans
Much has been said about Llanelli RFC’s seemingly controversial move, to not partake in the Indigo Premiership next season. This is, apparently, in order that the Scarlets professional team can stabilise their assets and provide a squad of competitive players during a World Cup season. Whether Llanelli RFC, as we know it, survives, and emerges from its chrysalis for the Elite League in September 2024 is anybody’s guess at this juncture.
So, with the curiosity of the situation in mind, Newport RFC and its supporters journeyed down the M4 for a, potentially, final visit to Parc y Scarlets and a clash with Llanelli RFC. Sospan have had a torrid time of it this season, sitting flat bottom of the league with only two wins during this Indigo Premiership competition. Indeed, player availability appears to be somewhat of a problem as Llanelli could only muster four reserves for the bench.
It was a beautiful day for rugby, bright spring sun shone onto the far, empty, stand at the Parc, while a few hundred of us rattled around in the cold shadow of the main stand.
Llanelli outside half, Josh Phillips, kicked off and Newport wasted no time in getting the scoreboard ticking over. A penalty put Newport around 30 metres out before Craig Hudd took the ball, jumping middle. A dynamic rolling maul set off as Llanelli threw up minimal resistance. Henry Palmer, riding shotgun at the tail of the maul, broke, dodged through some tackles and crossed for an early score that Geraint O’Driscoll improved on, making it Llanelli 0 Newport 7 on 2 minutes.
The Newport scrum announced itself as utterly dominant on 5 minutes, when Sospan were marched off their own ball, prompting Llanelli flanker Llew Phillips to fringe in pursuit of a lost cause.
Josh Phillips, the Sospan 10, made a super break on 8 minutes, a neat chip and chase going his way as he caught the Newport defence flat-footed. His wing, Liam Hutchings, was up in support but couldn’t take the pass. They regained possession and scored a well-worked try on 11 minutes, as centre Joe Hutchings wrestled his way over the line. Llanelli worked the phases well. Hutchings, keen to carry, smacked into contact and virtually carried a Newport defender over the line with him to score. Josh Phillips added the conversion to make it Llanelli 7 Newport 7.
Newport appeared to be over-eager to get the job done before they had established their dominance. They were flinging the ball around, Barbarian-esque, with no real thought as to how they were going to move upfield, seemingly. Prop Nathan Evans did well to turnover possession on the floor but was soon lost again as Newport held on too long in the tackle. Luckily for Newport, the lineout was overthrown, and Jonny Morris was able to clear up before Luke Crane booted the ball clear.
Matt Bancroft put in a superb 50:22 on 19 minutes to set Newport up for an attack. Craig Hudd took the ball in the middle again before Henry Palmer passed out to Jonny Morris for him to dive in athletically at the corner. The conversion was missed, so the score now was Llanelli 7 Newport 12.
A monster of a scrum on 24 minutes had the Llanelli pack all ends up. They were marched backwards as the referee, Mr Adam Jones, awarded Newport a penalty. The Black and Ambers kept the pressure on as Luke Crane broke feeding Josh Reid. He found Lloyd Lewis outside him, and the speedster used his 7s know-how to sprint into the Llanelli 22, but he was isolated. However, a penalty was coming Newport’s way. A quick tap saw Craig Hudd transfer to Rhys Jenkins and out to Jonny Morris on the wing. Sadly, that pass was spilled but, no matter, Llanelli weren’t back 10 metres. Utilising the scrum power, Newport opted to do just that. The pack marched forward with such pace that Rhys Jenkins had some trouble controlling the ball at his feet. Luckily, Luke Crane was on hand to make sure, and he used his fingers to make the simplest of touch downs. Geraint O’Driscoll added the two-pointer to make the score Llanelli 7 Newport 19.
Sospan weren’t about to lie down, though. Kyle Tayler broke clear on the half hour, with Luke Crane and centre Jacob Lloyd in pursuit. Tayler was eventually caught in the home 22 but was unable to control the ball as he went down. Llanelli fullback Jac Davies did very well to read the situation and act on it. His run took him through the heart of the Black and Amber defence before taking a line that outpaced his opposite number to claim a fine solo try. Josh Phillips added the conversion to make it Llanelli 14 Newport 19 on 31 minutes.
Llanelli were asking for trouble on 34 minutes, just as they were elbowing their way back into the game. Hooker Isaac Young made a dummy throw-in movement which awarded Newport a free kick within their 22. Newport opted to scrum before Llanelli infringed. Matt Bancroft kicked Newport to the corner allowing Craig Hudd to set up a rolling maul and have Henry Palmer score his second try of the afternoon as he latched onto the tail of the maul. Geraint O’Driscoll added the conversion to make the score Llanelli 14 Newport 26.
Llanelli were unforgivably loose at the restart as Jonny Morris caught the kick, sliced through the defence before finding himself in yards of empty field. Chay Foster-Smith was alert to take the pass before setting off, fighting off would-be tacklers before taking the try and, effectively, ending the game as a contest. The score now was Llanelli 14 Newport 31 with 37 minutes played.
Matt Bancroft made a neat break as he windmilled his way through a tackle and popped the ball away. Kyle Tayler, like the good openside that he is, was on his shoulder to provide support getting deep into the Llanelli 22. Nathan Evans was cheeky in dummying from the base of the ruck and going himself before the ball went left with Newport players queueing up to score. Unfortunately, the last pass to Josh Reid was at knee-height and the chance went begging.
Half Time Llanelli RFC 14 Newport RFC 31
Newport took the opportunity to change their entire front row at half time; Thomas Davies, Henry Palmer and Nathan Evans had done their job and it was now down to Tom Workman, Jack Gillard, and Dan Suter to continue the dominance.
Matt Bancroft kicked off and Newport soon retrieved possession. A strong carry by second row John Verrier made ground for Newport before Bancroft took the ball right before launching Jonny Morris. The Ninja Warrior was scragged, but Newport regained the ball at the scrum as Luke Crane eased the ball onward before Matt Bancroft sprayed a pass out to wing Lloyd Lewis to scamper over for a score. The conversion was missed, so the score now was Llanelli 14 Newport 36.
The 44th minute injury to Llanelli prop Morgan James was unfortunate as Sospan had no suitable replacements for him, so uncontested scrums it was and, instantly, Newport’s main area of dominance was nullified.
As play broke up, Jonny Morris was around to make sure that any loose possession went the Black and Amber’s way. A spiralling kick had Morris challenging for it as he patted the ball backwards. Jacob Lloyd released Lloyd Lewis to his right who battled hard to get forward, getting up from an attempted tackle to turn Sospan fullback Jac Davies inside-out and claim his second try. Geraint O’Driscoll added the conversion to make the score Llanelli 14 Newport 43 with 48 minutes played.
Llanelli were paper-thin in defence at times. Jacob Lloyd barged his way forward before Chay Foster-Smith pumped further forward along the flanks, bristling with energy. He was downed just short of the line, but Craig Hudd was first there to pick up and cross the line for another Newport try. The scoreboard now read Llanelli 14 Newport 48 with 52 minutes played.
Sospan managed to work another try back, and very well executed it was. From a scrum, number 9 Harri Williams put in a perfectly weighted kick out to wing Rhys Harris which was far enough from the covering Geraint O’Driscoll to leave him stranded. Harris sprinted in for the touch down to make it Llanelli 19 Newport 48 on 57 minutes.
The next score was through debutant Iestyn Galton, onto the wing for Jonny Morris. A centre-field scrum prompted Dafydd Buckland to break right and pass on to Matt Bancroft finding Galton in space, with the ability to scorch along his wing and add to Newport’s tally. The score now was Llanelli 19 Newport 53 with 68 minutes played.
There was still time for more tries; Matt O’Brien, on for Matt Bancroft, took advantage when Llanelli were offside in defence. A quick tap and search left before finding Lloyd Lewis who charged in for his hat-trick and Newport’s tenth try of the afternoon, making the score Llanelli 19 Newport 58 with 74 minutes on the clock.
A 77th minute breakout had Lennon Greggains lurching forward in wide-open space. He chipped the ball ahead for Lloyd Lewis to hunt down, but Llanelli scrum half Harri Williams was on hand to minor the ball for a drop out. However, they doubled-down and then kicked the ball out on the full, handing Newport an attacking scrum, 5 metres out. Matt O’Brien fancied getting onto the scoreboard, as did Lennon Greggains, indeed, he went very close, but it was Chay Foster-Smith that got the touchdown on 78 minutes, making the score Llanelli 19 Newport 63, thereby inflicting Llanelli’s heaviest defeat of the season, and Newport’s record score away against them. The score was also a subtle reminder that more than one club in Wales has achieved historic wins against southern hemisphere teams.
Special mention should go to Rhys Jenkins and Geraint O’Driscoll; both players were certified as being official Newport RFC Hall of Fame members the previous evening in a dinner at Rodney Parade. Their contribution to our club has been huge, and they both continue to add to their record. They are brave, talented players as well as both being wonderful people. Llongyfarchiadau, both.
Right, then. Massive game coming up. Next Sunday, April 23rd, we’re in the Welsh Cup final! We play Cardiff RFC in the Principality Stadium, kicking off at 5.35pm. It’ll be massive. Are you coming? Of course you are! Got tickets yet? No? Visit here https://www.blackandambers.co.uk/cup-final-tickets-4 to find out how to secure yours.
Following this, we welcome Llanelli RFC to Newport Stadium on Saturday April 29th with a kick off at 1pm. This is an Indigo Premiership game and will be a great opportunity to cement Newport’s place in 4th and confirm a Play-off spot with a game in hand! After that, we’re at home again on Saturday May 6th when the Drovers of Llandovery visit. Please come along, support the boys and make lots of noise for the Black and Ambers!
Blimey, here we are, middle of April and we’re in a Cup Final and a win away from a Play-off semi-final spot.
Come on, Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match; Kyle Tayler
Final Score – Llanelli RFC 19 Newport RFC 63