The omens had been far from good in the early stages. Craig Evans could be forgiven for missing with an ambitious 49-metre penalty goal in the sixth minute, but when another from barely 30-metre range three minutes later was blasted high and wide, experienced Arms Park watchers could be forgiven for thinking it was going to be one of those afternoons.
Those fears multiplied as the visitors then racked up 13 points without reply. James Dixon slotted penalty goals in the 13th and 21st minutes and then planted a magnificent penalty punt down
50 metres of the left touchline to set up an attacking lineout. From the set-piece peel the pack drove towards Cardiff's posts and hooker Andrew Brown claimed the final touchdown for Dixon to convert.The first half had been familiarly abrasive with a couple of unpleasant off the ball brawls that produced nothing more than a general warning to both sides. One of the more remarkable statistics by the end of the match was that despite the awarding of 20 penalties (11-9 in Cardiff's favour) there were no sin-binnings – the first time this has happened this season.With the last kick of the half Evans put some points on the board with a short-range penalty but there was still a feeling that the Blue & Blacks would have to improve considerably to get back into the game.
They did so with a quick one-two reminiscent of how Glamorgan Wanderers did that to them a fortnight ago. This time it was Cardiff's turn. Turnover ball allowed Grant Epton to race along the left touchline and although he was overhauled the ball was quickly recycled and moved to the far right where Ryan Howells provided the scoring pass for Roger Davies' try. Sensing the time was ripe to increase the pressure on the visitors, significant changes were made in the back row where Adam Whitney replaced Nick Hampson and, less predictably, Damian Welch took over from Ben White.
The latter was a master stroke by Justin Burnell who explained later, “Damian has all the skills with his pace as an added ingredient so I had no worries about putting him onto the blindside flank rather than his usual place in the second row.”Within minutes the experiment paid off as a great chase by Ryan Howells forced a dropped catch in Newport's defence and the ball reached Welch who galloped over for his third try of the season. Evans' conversion nosed Cardiff ahead at 15-13 only to lose the lead when Dixon's replacement, Dan Griffiths kicked a penalty goal from 42 metres.
Five minutes later he almost repeated the medicine from slightly longer range but justice was done when the ball sailed wide – the penalty award had been one of the most contentious seen at the ground for a long time as a scrum near the touchline was wheeled and the referee blew up, apparently on a touch-judge's intervention, for an off-side by Cardiff's stationary backs in midfield.
As if stung by the injustice, Cardiff regained the initiative, Craig Evans showed great character after his earlier misses to stroke over a magnificent penalty goal from five metres inside his own half. He then missed one from 25 metres – and had the last laugh with another successful effort from 40 metres. Five minutes later all the home crowd were smiling as the Blue & Blacks completed their first win in nine attempts against the old enemy.