Newport 33-10 Llanelli
Llanelli came off second best at Rodney Parade in what was a disappointing performance following their recent wins over Quins & Bargoed.
Tom Lucas inadvertently spilled an awkward lineout ball allowing a Llanelli scrum close to the touchline on the Bisley side some thirty metres out. The ball passed left to centre Ryan Davies whose run deceived the Newport defence enough to carve through before passing out to onrushing fullback Kalum Evans to sprint in for a third minute try. Wing Tom Prydie slotted the conversion to make it Newport 0 Llanelli 7.
From the restart Llanelli conceded a penalty tempting Matt O’Brien to kick to the corner. With the ball won Newport began hammering at the narrow side with thrusts by Dan Preece and Will Evans in particular. With patient phases being worked the ball started to creep wide to create the almost inevitable overlap allowing Haydn Simons to gallop along the touchline for a well-taken try. Matt O’Brien added the conversion to make the score Newport 7 Llanelli 7 with five minutes played.
Llanelli were full of intent to attack, scrum half Gareth George looking particularly effective around the fringes. A loose ball had visiting flanker Joe Miles in a foot race with Haydn Simons to reach the ball first. Simons won the battle but Miles won the war as Simons was unable to ground the ball thereby giving Sospan a very handy attacking scrum five metres out. Llanelli knocked hard at the Newport front door but a promising situation was given up when prop Craig Thomas spilled the ball in contact allowing Newport to partly clear. Llanelli kept moving the ball until a Newport infringement gave them a chance of a penalty shot. Tom Prydie stepped forward to bang it over from 35 metres giving Llanelli a ten points to seven lead on fifteen minutes.
Newport won their own ball back at the restart and began to thump forward. A delayed pass brought Dan Partridge on to the ball. He broke their defensive line but was soon swallowed up. Chay Smith pierced the visitor’s 22 with a strong run while the Black and Ambers played with the referee’s advantage. None came so Matt O’Brien kicked to the corner. Andrew Mann took the aerial ball and set the maul up. Tom Lucas had wing Andrew Evans running an angle and delivered the pass. Evans nearly reached his target, being downed and crawling a few more centimetres on his knees and elbows. Lucas fired the ball out again to Tom Pascoe arcing around. Pascoe reached high, controlled the ball and dived across the white line for a try. Matt O’Brien had no difficulty adding the two points bringing the score to Newport 14 Llanelli 10 on 18 minutes.
Llanelli skipper Nathan Hart broke excellently from a 28th minute scrum before passing to wing Morgan Williams. Andrew Evans tracked back before collaring him. Chay Smith briefly regained possession for Newport but his kick went more “up and across” rather than “flat and straight”. Prop Simon Gardiner caught the ball enabling Llanelli to carry on the attack but they met with stubborn resistance from Newport who were rewarded with a penalty to clear the defence and go on the attack themselves. Matt O’Brien booted to the corner to win the lineout. Andrew Evans made an angled run again before the ball worked left. O’Brien, faced with rapidly reducing options, sized up the situation before placing a neat grubber kick aimed at the corner of the dead ball area. Haydn Simons sprinted and managed to beat the covering defence and the whitewash to dab down in the corner, Matt O’Brien, faced with his toughest kick of the evening, missed the conversion but not by much as the ball rattled the right hand upright. This made the score Newport 19 Llanelli 10 on 32 minutes.
Right from the restart, Newport once again regained possession and threatened Llanelli with some pacy back play. Chay Smith popped a neat pass to Tom Pascoe who then juggled a pass on to Andrew Evans to glide in for Newport’s bonus score, O’Brien again the conversion to make it Newport 26 Llanelli 10 on 34 minutes.
Newport had further opportunities to score before the half ended but some good defence kept the home side at bay.
Halftime – Newport RFC 26 Llanelli RFC 10
The second 40 turned out to be a somewhat frantic affair with both sides throwing the ball about.
It took seven minutes of the second half before Llanelli had any meaningful possession and then, when they did, they simply found roadblocks. Ioan Hughes, the Llanelli 10, tried to conjure something but his pass out was picked off by Elliot Frewen. Frewen passed to Dan Partridge as Newport worked to halfway before Llanelli conceded another penalty. Matt O’Brien kicked to the corner. The ball spun away to Chay Smith and replacement centre Josh Male before Andrew Evans made a tilt at the line, fending as he went, before being tackled just five metres out. Unfortunately for Newport, Tom Piper and Dan Preece had crossed wires in attack as they got in each other’s way, conceding possession for accidental offside.
This was breathless rugby as wave upon wave of attacks seemed to rain in on the Llanelli line, but the precision finishing of the second quarter of the game was slightly blunted. It was very entertaining though! Llanelli turned a ball over in the 53rd minute but again Ioan Hughes simply found Elliot Frewen getting in the way again. Haydn Simons took a pass and tried to pick a route through midfield before Newport eventually conceded a penalty allowing Llanelli to clear their lines.
Llanelli were galvanised to make more of a fist of their game. A lineout ended with Josh Skinner and visiting second row Chris Long involved in a scuffle. It seemed for a while as if Skinner might have been in trouble with the ref, however on this occasion Gwyn Morris keep his card in his pocket. For now. He had spoken with captain Rhys Jenkins about a series of penalties conceded by the Black and Ambers and his patience was clearly wearing thin. Newport’s defensive structures were now given a thorough examination that resulted in Newport conceded a penalty again, on 62 minutes, Ioan kicking Llanelli to a line out, fifteen metres out. Newport defended valiantly until Mr Morris tired of Newport infringing. He singled out Rhys Jenkins as the offender on this occasion and invited him to take ten minutes on the naughty step. Llanelli opted for the lineout rather than the scrum and were unable to secure possession and the chance was lost.
Newport were now being challenged. A promising attack was spoiled when Josh Skinner picked off a pass from wing Tom Prydie and then hoofed the ball upfield. Llanelli began to whizz the ball around themselves but with little end product.
A super 72nd minute touchfinder by Matt O’Brien put pressure on hooker, Greg George. Newport almost capitalised when Andrew Mann won the lineout ball but the ball dropped quickly and steeply onto Geraint Watkin’s boot, Watkin coming on for Tom Lucas previously, and Llanelli could gather and clear.
The final score came on 78 minutes. A scrum 20 metres out saw replacement Morgan Burgess on the end of a breakaway to well and truly seal the home win.
Llanelli now have to focus on the coming fixture next Sunday at Parc y Scarlets against title chasers Cardiff RFC.