Newport RFC v Ebbw Vale RFC 4th May 2024 by John Evans


The league table doesn’t lie, and, at the end of Newport’s Indigo Premier League season, they were squeezed into second place behind a Llandovery team that could play jaw-dropping rugby on occasion. Fair play to the Drovers, they’ve earned it. However, it has left the Black & Ambers with the formidable task of playing Ebbw Vale in the League play-off competition. The winners of this game would go on to face the victors of the Llandovery – Cardiff game that was being played concurrently.


The Steelmen have been strong this season, with 18 wins out of 24, one of which was at our home ground of Newport Stadium. Indeed, since the move out, they have recorded, along with RGC, the most wins at our home ground. They have no fear of Stade de Newport. However, they will be fully aware of Newport’s resilience, us desperately hanging in there at Eugene Cross Park, only to come away with a five-point win following an injury time try by Elliot Ferriman.


Demand for tickets was strong in the days leading up to the game and, with capacity extended with an extra 200 standing positions available, a big, noisy crowd was evident on the day.


Newport had taken a couple of weeks off since the thrashing of Bridgend here, time enough to get rid of a few aches and pains in key players and make sure that the whole squad was fully rested for this important fixture.


The weather had finally seemed to relent a little, the near-constant seven months of winter finally being replaced with some warming sun; even the Swallows, skimming the pitch for flies pre-match offered a sign of Spring.


Newport attacked the SDR end of the ground, Matt O’Brien getting the game underway. Ebbw Vale took the ball before outside half Evan Lloyd cleared it to touch.


Matt O’Brien was in the thick of the action straight away, making a half-break that saw Ben Roach and Elliot Frewen team up to work forward, however, O’Brien had been high-tackled and a very kickable penalty was awarded to the Black & Ambers. Matt O’Brien slotted it to make it Newport 3 Ebbw Vale 0 with 2 minutes played.


Dai Richards spilled the ball forward while jumping high. The scrum had Vale’s number 8’s boots on the ten-metre line. Unfortunately, Newport yielded a penalty as the scrum wouldn’t settle. Evan Lloyd stepped forward and equalised the scores to Newport 3 Ebbw Vale 3 with 6 minutes played.


Play evened out as both sides tested each other. The middle third of the field was where the majority of action took place, and it could be argued that the Steelmen were shading the exchanges, stepping up quickly in defence and being hugely physical. An old-school trick by Matt O’Brien forced Ebbw scrum half Jon Evans, formerly of this parish, to knock on. However, Vale had the last laugh, on this occasion as the scrum overpowered Newport and gained another kickable penalty for the visitors. Evan Lloyd made sure, and put his side in the lead, 3-6, with 14 minutes played.


Ebbw found themselves offside at a ruck. Matt O’Brien kicked to the corner for Henry Palmer to find Ben Roach in the lineout. The rolling maul set, but the big Vale forwards did well to get amongst Newport and disrupt, forcing Che Hope to knock on. The Black & Ambers front five had begun to get the measure of their opposite numbers and a solid scrum won a penalty for Newport. The lead up was familiar, O’Brien, for Palmer, to Roach, as Ebbw again tried to disrupt the maul. Rynard Landman took a surge at the line, followed by Josh Skinner, the Ebbw forwards being sucked in tight, until Matt O’Brien spotted the moment to release his back line. Dai Richards joined the line at speed, getting shut down, but Matt O’Brien was on hand to flick the ball out to Joe Westwood, lurking out wide, to gallop in for the opening try. Matt O’Brien converted, making the score Newport 10 Ebbw Vale 6 with 19 minutes played.


Rynard Landman caught the restart, and, after some to-ing and fro-ing, Dai Richards executed a long kick that sent the ball, end over end, along the Newport Stadium surface. Ebbw wing Harry Rees Weldon tried to control the ball, failed, and gifted Newport a line out. However, the lineout didn’t function well, alowing the Ebbw backs a free shot. Impressive centre Ethan Phillips broke through the Newport line and carried hard, reaching the home 22-metre line before being hauled down.


Newport were back on the attack when a clever kick from Matt O’Brien forced Harry Rees Weldon to pause, as the oval ball bobbled dangerously in knock-on territory. This gave Elliot Frewen and Dai Richards an extra second to close him down, which they did well. This soon led to another Newport penalty for holding on. The Black & Ambers went to the corner again. Che Hope had a look, opted to burst blindside, and went close to the line. Henry Palmer was on hand, but he was tackled into touch. Ebbw did their best to move the ball around, away from the Newport high defensive line, but they managed to lose it in the shadow of their own posts. Matt O’Brien picked out Barney Langton-Cryer as first receiver. Newport bashed through phase upon phase, eventually drawing a penalty from an undisciplined Vale defence. Matt O’Brien took the opportunity to extend the lead, kicking the three-pointer, making the score Newport 13 Ebbw Vale 6 on 28 minutes.


The Black & Ambers shipped a penalty for offside themselves, just a minute later. Evan Lloyd spurned the kick to go to the corner. However, they hadn’t reckoned with Ben Roach’s athleticism as he scooped the ball away from the attack. Indeed, defence instantly turned to attack as a long flat kick along the touchline found the Ebbw fullback, Morgan Richards, out of position. Lloyd Lewis scorched along the touchline, pursuing the ball, but the unlucky bounce put paid to, what could have been, the ultimate poacher’s try. Still, it moved Newport up the field.


Evan Lloyd spilled the ball, giving Newport a great opportunity at the scrum, just outside the visitor’s 22. Che Hope broke right, Dai Richards found himself upside down before the ball worked left again. Josh Reid and Nathan Evans were eager carriers before Matt O’Brien spotted the gaps out wide. Dai Richards joined the line at speed before giving the final pass to Elliot Frewen to motor across the line, then sprint around nearer the posts in an effort to make Matt O’Brien’s conversion less difficult. This made the score Newport 20 Ebbw Vale 6 with 37 minutes played.


Newport were pushing their superiority on the visitors now, forwards linking with backs, and vice versa, playing with a penalty advantage, Josh Skinner, as scary as he appears, gambolled around the field, ball in hand, like a day-old lamb. With no advantage coming, Newport went to the corner again. The routine was repeated before Henry Palmer locked onto the tail of the ruck. He broke left, along the narrow side and stumbled. Whether this had the effect on the Vale defence of not quite being sure what to do next, was difficult to say, but Palmer popped the ball away off his knees to Che Hope, who inter-passed with Elliot Frewen before taking the scoring pass back and crossing for the try. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer, making the score Newport 27 Ebbw Vale 6 on 39 minutes.


Ebbw broke out of defence well as Newport over-complicated their exit strategy, resulting in Lloyd Lewis being hustled over the dead ball line while in possession. Unfortunately, the end of the half was mired in a little chaos as Newport felt that Matt O’Brien had been given a few ‘afters’. The referee, Mr Keith David, consulted with his Assistant Referee and, probably wisely, brought the half to a conclusion and allow a few hotheads to cool down.


Half Time   Newport RFC 27 Ebbw Vale RFC 6


Evan Lloyd restarted the game but, rather than boot the ball away to clear, Newport sought to build, progressing patiently, but Ebbw were firm in defence. Che Hope burst along the narrow side before the patience went and Newport loosened their grip on possession when Lloyd Lewis found himself being barged into touch. However, Barney Langton-Cryer pickpocketed the Vale lineout and Newport built again. A good break by Dai Richards found the duo of Che Hope and Josh Skinner interpassing, and Skinner was away. As much as we admire Josh Skinner, sprinting isn’t one of his strongest gifts, so it was more in hope than expectation that he threw back his head and ran for the line. Predictably, he was overhauled by the Ebbw greyhounds, but he did enough to maintain possession as the Black & Ambers tried to fashion the gap. A despairing Ebbw hand knocked the ball forward, but Mr David quickly judged that it was a genuine attempt at the ball, and no further action was taken.


Newport were consistently getting into the Vale 22 but weren’t quite clinical enough, but it was soon to click. Rynard Landman pinched a Vale lineout. Lots of clever running, combined with the controlled aggression of men like Joshs Skinner and Reid, made Ebbw deal with wave upon wave of Black & Amber attacks. From a lineout, then, on 49 minutes, Che Hope picked out Joe Westwood again, going wide quickly, leaving the big centre to barrel over for his second try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to take the score to Newport 34 Ebbw Vale 6.


Another smart kick by Matt O’Brien put Vale back into their own 22. Ebbw’s releasing kick was fielded by Dai Richards, who passed to Elliot Frewen, hoping the winger could produce some of his usual magic. He didn’t this time, but Che Hope’s long, searching kick managed to fox Ebbw centre Phillips as the ball bounced over his head and into touch. Such was the Ebbw man’s frustration that he threw the ball directly at Lloyd Lewis, gift-wrapping Newport a penalty on the edge of their own 22. Cue another bout of ‘handbags’. The net result was a kick to the corner, Roach up, Che Hope called for Joe Westwood onto him at full tilt, and the big man crash-balled his way through the Ebbw defence and scrambled over the line for his hat-trick of touchdowns. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make it Newport 41 Ebbw Vale 6 on 54 minutes.


Garin Harris replaced Nathan Evans and, amongst his first actions of the game was to win a scrum penalty for Newport. However, it couldn’t be capitalised on as Vale managed to break out as the ball went loose. However, Evan Lloyd’s kick skewed off the side of his boot allowing Lloyd Lewis to retrieve the ball, but Newport conceded another penalty as Josh Reid bustled forward.


Ty Morris rung the changes as Wade Langley, Jac Lloyd, Kyle Tayler, Lewis David and Dafydd Buckland took their places, Josh Reynolds having come on at halftime for Thomas Davies.


The Steelmen opted to go to the corner, but stubborn resistance from the Black & Amber defensive wall kept them out. The green-shirted visitors went through their phases until Mr David called a halt to the play. On the far touchline, Matt O’Brien stood with blood pouring from his mouth, next to an Assistant Referee with his flag held out. The referee consulted and had no hesitation in showing a yellow card to Ebbw’s number 6, Lewis Young. All the good work that the Steelmen had done to get to that position was undone by an act of stupidity.


Ebbw were still up for the fight, though, in both senses, as they set about getting a foothold in Newport territory. Phase upon heavy phase saw them inch closer, until Owen Conquer found gap enough to dive over to score. Evan Lloyd kicked the conversion to make it Newport 41 Ebbw Vale 13 on 71 minutes, a score they fully deserved.


Newport put the crown on a resounding victory on 79 minutes with a Lloyd Lewis try. Hamish Anderson had put himself into the Newport 22, but his support didn’t back him up. Wade Langley stepped across him, easily retrieved the ball and Newport were away. Matt O’Brien spotted the opportunity, cross-kicked to Lloyd Lewis who jinked past the last two green shirts to sprint in unopposed for fully 40 metres to score. Matt O’Brien wrapped the scoring up with the conversion to make it Newport 48 Ebbw Vale 13.


With Llandovery being victorious over Cardiff by a margin of 34 points to 13, Newport RFC will now travel to Church Bank on Saturday May 11th to face The Drovers in the Premiership Final. The Friends of Newport Rugby Trust have organised transport for supporters. A bus leaves at 12 midday from the Riverfront Theatre, leaving Llandovery at 6pm, at a cost of £10 per seat. For further information, please email Steve at This should be quite an occasion and we urge you to attend, if you can, wear Black & Amber, and shout the boys on in one of the biggest games we’ve had in the semi-professional era.


Also to tell you about is the club’s end of season event, at the Pen & Wig on Stow Hill. £15 per ticket features hot food, live music and the usual award-giving events.


On September 7th, the club celebrates its 150th anniversary with a gala dinner at the Celtic Manor. Tickets are selling well. Please see the club website for further information at or email



Come on, Newport!


Onwards and upwards Newport.


Your City. Your Colours. Your Club




Final Score – Newport RFC 48 Ebbw Vale RFC 13


Newport RFC Player of the Match – Joe Westwood