Swansea RFC v Newport RFC 19th October 2019 by John Evans
Following a week featuring rain of, often, biblical proportions, it was a pleasure to make our way west, along the M4, to visit Swansea in something resembling a sunny and pleasant autumnal day. Newport made a few changes to the ranks but, importantly, there was one notable non-change. Garin Harris was selected to start, despite his travails at Aberavon in the previous game; presumably, our coaches had worked through the videos, looked at Garin’s technique, and found nothing to especially worry about.
St. Helens has often been a bit of a bogey ground for Newport RFC. Many supporters will remember travelling here with a team stuffed with International players and seasoned professionals and being given a schooling, Older supporters will confirm that similar things happened in previous generations too. However, recently, we’ve not done that badly here. What would today hold?
Swansea, decked out in their traditional white kit with maroon socks, started the game as outside half Josh Thomas kicked off with Newport attacking the Town end. Tom Pascoe jumped to take the catch allowing Newport the kick return. Swansea full back Phil Jones took the ball, passed to number 8, and captain, Jon Fox who set up a ruck for Tom Lucas, a summer acquisition to the Whites from the Black and Ambers, to box kick. Elliot Frewen took possession, passed out to Harri Griffiths but Swansea wing Nathan Trowbridge was offside, yielding Newport an early penalty. Matt O’Brien took the kick to goal from 40 metres to make the score Swansea 0 Newport 3 with two minutes played.
Matt O’Brien had another shot at goal on seven minutes after a Swansea knock on from a line out. The resulting scrum took several attempts to reset before the referee, Mr Jason Bessant, took the view that the Whites were infringing and awarded the penalty but O’Brien’s shot went awry.
Matt O’Brien caught the drop-out and feigned to drop a goal before running left. Lewis Smout and Jamie Jeune showed their versatility by linking up amongst the backs to feed Elliot Frewen who sprinted up to the home 22 metre line. Newport battled away but an unfortunate knock on seemed to end the move. However, Garin Harris had his opposite number in trouble as loosehead Eddie Drake conceded a penalty. Matt O’Brien stepped up again to knock the three pointer over from in front of the posts to make the score Swansea 0 Newport 6 on eleven minutes.
The Whites gave a show of what they could do up front when they won a 13th minute scrum penalty of their own. Centre Jack Evans took the shot but couldn’t open his team’s account.
Swansea held possession of the ball in their own half but the Newport defenders were getting at them aggressively. The Whites passed deep as the Black and Amber line advanced quickly forcing Swansea’s Tom Lucas to kick. Matt O’Brien jumped to make the catch but Whites wing Gareth Rees clumsily took him out in mid-air. Mr Bessant had no hesitation in reaching for his yellow card for dangerous play although, to be fair, it did look more accidental than dangerous. O’Brien gathered himself to take the kick to the corner. Josh Skinner took the ball at the tail of the lineout with balletic grace to set up the ruck. Josh Guy roared his forwards onwards before launching a series of drives at the line. Tom Pascoe, Garin Harris and Rhys Jenkins were just a few of the big fellas driving at the line but Swansea shipped yet another penalty as they failed to release a player in the tackle. Matt O’Brien, eager to keep the scoreboard ticking over, took the penalty kick to make it Swansea 0 Newport 9 on 19 minutes.
Newport were penalised on 21 minutes for a high tackle which Swansea kicked to the corner. Determined Swansea surges were met with equally determined Newport tackling. Whites’ scrum half Tom Lucas threatened to wriggle free before being flattened while flanker Callum Bowden tripped and stumbled as he broke from the back of a ruck. A gap eventually appeared on the wide right flank as the onslaught continued. Whites’ Josh Thomas spotted the gap and passed out to centre Callum Carson who floated a pass out to full back Phil Jones who winged in for the first try of the afternoon. The conversion was missed making the score Swansea 5 Newport 9 with 24 minutes played.
Swansea hit Newport with the old ‘one-two’. Harri Griffiths seized on a loose Swansea pass and threatened to break but was tackled. Tom Pascoe tried to create something from nothing but his pass went to ground. Whites’ centre Callum Carson reacted first, scooping up the ball and sprinting away, hitch-kicking through an attempted tackle. Tom Pascoe almost closed the situation down but Carson was aware enough that wing Nathan Trowbridge was sniffing around. Carson flicked the pass inside for Trowbridge to score the easy five-pointer. Josh Thomas aced the conversion to make the score Swansea 12 Newport 9 on 27 minutes.
Kyle Tayler was back to his Turnover King best as he burgled Swansea again on 30 minutes, the ball spun out to Garin Harris and Andrew Mann before a shout from Elliot Frewen had him cut Swansea open. Frewen made it to the Swansea 22 before trying to pass out of contact but the ball rolled harmlessly to touch. Josh Skinner was athletic again in the lineout as he stole possession and attracted a penalty as Swansea high-tackled. Matt O’Brien went to the corner but another penalty was given, along with a short speech from Mr Bessant to Swansea flanker Duane Eager about the regularity of collapsed rolling mauls in the SA2 postcode area. Matt O’Brien kicked to the corner again. The lineout completed, the rolling maul splintered as Garin Harris launched himself forward. Josh Skinner surged but a low pop pass up to Matt O’Brien had him duck under the defence to score a well-earned try. He added to his own score to make it Swansea 12 Newport 16 on 34 minutes.
Whites’ full back Phil Jones punctured the Black and Amber wall much too easily as he sprinted through and made a huge overlap with him, Callum Carson and Nathan Trowbridge all jockeying for position. Thankfully for Newport they dithered enough to allow Matt O’Brien to get back and slow everything down and let the cavalry arrive. Swansea drove and drove at Newport and Newport, ever so slowly, pushed them away from the line. Swansea tried to move the ball around and a pass out to hooker Owen Thomas tempted Newport wing Ryan Gardner to try to intercept. He knocked on but Thomas still caught it; was that a knock on or a penalty? Swansea retained possession after all? Mr Bessant judged it to be a penalty and Swansea kicked to the corner. The line out wasn’t thrown in straight but the resulting scrum was poor from Newport as the Whites’ pack had them in all sorts of trouble. Swansea had an attacking scrum five. Jon Fox was repulsed by Rhys Jenkins, Duane Eager was driven backwards by Andrew Mann and Newport pushed Swansea out again. The discipline in defence was good as the tight forwards blocked and the loose forwards went to meet their assailants and scavenged. An attempted kick through by Swansea cannoned off Lewis Smout’s shin and broke play up. Whites’ wing Gareth Rees broke down the right before the ball worked left. Harri Griffiths was about to tackle Swansea centre Jack Evans before he pulled off a remarkable piece of ball control by chesting the ball onwards to Callum Carson allowing him to execute the overlap and put wing Nathan Trowbridge in at the corner for a one-handed touch down. Josh Thomas added the conversion to bring the first half to a close at Swansea 19 Newport 16.
Half Time Swansea RFC 19 Newport RFC 16
Newport made a couple of changes at halftime with Henry Palmer replacing Jamie Jeune and Geraint O’Driscoll replacing Tom Pascoe in the centre.
Matt O’Brien restarted the game. Swansea set up the ruck, Tom Lucas box-kicked for them. O’Brien took the catch and found himself being dragged into touch. Swansea showed their intent to spread the ball but the attack shuddered to a halt when Rhys Jenkins ripped the ball clear and turned the tables. Elliot Frewen tried to step his way through centre-field, setting up a ruck, before Ryan Gardner was ultimately ushered into touch. Elliot Frewen continued to try to pinball his way through the midfield whenever he had the opportunity. Joe Bartlett showed up well in the loose as he carried hard into the Swansea 22. Matt O’Brien ran through his repertoire, a no-look pass to Garin Harris to thunder towards the line, feignts, dummies before Rhys Jenkins and Kyle Tayler snarled and battered the Whites’ defence. A loose pass was gathered up and whipped out to Josh Skinner lurking on the wing but he was well marshalled as he took the ball, tried to pass back infield but the ball was picked off by the Whites and they could clear.
Swansea did well to turn a Newport scrum on 50 minutes. They ball squirted out to Tom Lucas who went to the blind side, passed out to wing Nathan Trowbridge who kicked ahead and chased, managing to get hands to the ball first and claim the bonus point try for Swansea. Josh Thomas converted that and made the score Swansea 24 Newport 16.
Newport showed flashes of attacking vigour. Elliot Frewen was approaching his best as he skipped through tackles and generally made Swansea be aware of where he was at all times. He made a splendid run to enable Dai Richards to come onto the ball at speed but this particular attack ground to a halt when a Newport forward went off his feet at a promisingly positioned ruck. Dai Richards was making ground again as he took a lovely floated pass from Geraint O’Driscoll. Swansea were off their feet, yielding a penalty. Matt O’Brien kicked to the corner but the Swansea defence was strong and organised, stopping the Black and Ambers in their tracks.
Newport continued to batter the Swansea defence. Drive after drive went close to the Swansea line, all well-executed and all recycling the ball cleanly. Swansea had an obvious pride in defending their line, so much so that they sometimes became a little carried away. Wing Gareth Rees was in trouble again on 64 minutes. Mr Bessant considered his opinion before reaching for a second yellow for the wing man and, therefore, a red card. The Whites made sure that Matt O’Brien’s options were limited. A pass was boomed out behind Harri Griffiths. Griffiths recovered, worked free of a white-shirted tackler and made a pass to Ryan Gardner to crash over in the corner for a hard-earned but deserved score. The conversion wasn’t made so the score now was Swansea 24 Newport 21 with 66 minutes played.
Garin Price was exchanged for Andrew Mann on 69 minutes and made an instant impression. Dai Richards took a high catch close to the touchline on the stand side. Geraint Watkin, on for Josh Guy at 9, looked to run the narrow side but was snared. Garin Price took the ball and sprinted away along the wing, skipping through tackles before passing low. The ball fell into Elliot Frewen’s path enabling him to kick forward and dive on the ball in the in-goal area. Newport were, suddenly and unexpectedly, in the lead. Matt O’Brien added the two-pointer to make the score Swansea 24 Newport 28 on 71 minutes.
Newport had just nine minutes, plus stoppage, to see this game out and claim four precious league points. Sadly Newport seemed unable to switch from ‘attack’ mode to ‘shut up shop’ mode. They took the restart and tried to play rugby in their own 22 with a slender lead. Swansea were onto the ball like a fat kid onto chocolate. They made thrusts of their own at the Newport line before replacement scrum half Chris Morgan unfurled an arm to claim another Whites’ try and retake the lead on 73 minutes. Josh Thomas added the two points to make it Swansea 31 Newport 28.
Newport huffed and puffed and tried to get back into the game but they were offloading to players that weren’t there, coughing up the ball and allowing Swansea to retaliate. A chip kick to the try line had Tom Lucas, the Swansea 9 moved out to the wing, racing Garin Price for a kick to the line but Price covered it well but Newport knocked on while trying to escape. A powerful Swansea scrum enabled them to lock Newport onto their own line. They went through the phases, strangling the Black and Ambers, until Chris Morgans booted the ball dead with just one minute’s stoppage played to claim the win and gift Newport the losing bonus point.
The games come thick and fast for Newport in the Indigo Group Premiership now. Next Sunday, October 27th, we host champions Merthyr. The Ironmen are always a tough challenge and Newport will have to step up their performance to get anything from this fixture. We need you to come along, support the boys and make yourselves heard! Come on Newport!
Onwards and upwards Newport.
Your City. Your Colours. Your Club
Newport RFC Man of the Match – Rhys Jenkins
Final Score – Swansea RFC 31 Newport RFC 28