There are rugby matches and then there are Cardiff – Newport rugby matches. This was a typical derby that had all the traditions, good and bad, of this historic fixture.
A noisy crowd turned up to see Newport have the better of the opening minutes, although no real progress was made. The ball was only shifted from side to side. This lack of penetration lead to the inevitable kick through. Tom Slater though was there to charge the ball down, re-gather and race between the posts. Gareth Davies converted.
Newport hit back shortly after the restart. A backs move from a scrum saw full back Gareth Wyatt go through a hole opened up by a hint of crossing, one of several in the game, to put wing Alan Awcock in at the corner.
The home side too were starting to play some expansive rugby. And a flowing move saw captain Jamie Ringer scythe his way into the away twenty-two. From the ruck Slater spotted a gap only to be cut in half by a high tackle that was spotted by everyone in the crowd but missed by the officials. Play continued as Slater lay in a heap. But at the next breakdown there was another high tackle, this time spotted. Davies calmly added the three points following a bout of handbags; Slater was helped off the field to be replaced by Owen Ruttley
Then the moment which seemed as if it would change the game. Craig Morgan latched on to a loose pass to put Jimmy Norris clear. The winger headed for the corner only to be hauled down five metres short. At the resulting ruck Newport hands were all over the ball and referee Hayes was clearly shouting for its release. As Darren Ryan went in to release the hands Hayes awarded a penalty to the visitors and sent Ryan off for stamping? Cardiff were reduced to fourteen, but the offending Newport hands got away scot-free. The Blue and Blacks defence though was up to the task. Captain Ringer led by example to see the home side to half time with a 10-5 lead.
Cardiff now had the strong wind behind them and used it to launch the ball deep into the visitors half and put pressure on the retreating defence. Newport had no option but to run the ball back into the wind, and eventually the pressure resulted in and ruck penalty. Davies added three more to the Cardiff tally.
This pattern of the game continued. Newport intent on running the ball form most parts of the field, a tactic that resulted in the ball being dropped several times, and miss passes going behind the intended recipient. Cardiff’s scrum was solid and from one of these scrums they were awarded a penalty that Davies slotted from short range.
Although Cardiff didn’t have much of the ball the defensive effort was stopping the visitors gaining any momentum. When the ball was turned over, and this was frequent, it used to pin Newport back in their own half. On one occasion though the loose ball was picked up by Craig Morgan, he eluded all bar one of the defenders to be pulled down five metres short. Outside half Chris Wannell being stretchered off following his brave last gasp tackle.
Cardiff too were having to rely on last gasp tackles. Gareth Chapman putting in an outstanding cover tackle on Mike Poole just short of the Cardiff line. Newport though had gone up a gear. The ball was now starting to stick in the hands. Awcock scored his second try to reduce the deficit and when Poole scored a minute later. Things looked bleak for the Blue and Blacks. Crucially though only one try was converted.
Cardiff were now desperate to get their hands on the ball, and outstanding work by the forwards saw them turn the ball over just inside the Newport half. Referee Hayes spotted a Black and Amber hand and gave the Blue and Blacks a forty-five metre penalty chance. Davies sized up the posts and split the uprights with a few metres to spare to snatch back the lead deep into injury time
It still wasn’t over. Newport regained the kick-off and threw the kitchen sink at the now shattered fourteen men in Blue and Black. They held firm and were awarded a penalty close to their line and the ball was dumped into touch. From the lineout Cardiff controlled the ball through the outstanding forwards to run out the clock. Craig Morgan thumped the ball into row Z as referee Hayes ended the game.
Joy on the terraces for the home support, disappointment for the visitors. But for rugby another classic Cardiff – Newport encounter