The Steelmen travelled to Newport buoyed by last week’s excellent win at Sardis Road, and the fact that they had already beaten the Black and Ambers 30-6 at Eugene Cross Park earlier in the season. For their part, Newport have had an impressive run, slightly derailed by last week’s loss to Cardiff, so the scene was set for a battle royal.
Newport had by far the better of the early play and scrum half Ryan James bagged their first try after just 3 minutes, converted by Arwel Robson, who soon added a penalty to make the score 10-0.
The tempo of the game was slow, unlike Ebbw’s previous outing at Pontypridd. Possibly, the wet ball and the windy conditions didn’t help, but neither did the frequent whistling by Mr Grove-White of the SRU. His decision to card Ross Jones for a breakdown offence looked likely to give Newport the opportunity to stretch their lead but it actually spurred Ebbw on, and organised defence kept the home side at bay. As half time approached, Ebbw went on the offensive, and Tom Edwards spun away from a powerful driving maul to score at the posts. Dai Langdon’s conversion brought the scores to 10-8, which would have been a very acceptable – if flattering – half-time score from Ebbw’s point of view. However, a poor clearance gave Newport the opportunity to attack and Jon Morris went over in the corner. Robson’s excellent conversion from the touchline gave his team an 18-8 half time lead.
The half time talk amongst supporters was that the next score would be decisive in determining the final outcome, and it was Ebbw who obliged. After Newport fell foul of the scrum penalty tombola, Langdon kicked to the corner. The Steelmen’s line out – not up to its usual quality – worked superbly on this occasion and a driving maul saw Ashley Sweet score. It was 18-14, and Ebbw seemed to be right back in the game.
Newport took the game upfield and pressurised the visitors’ defence, but great work by the forwards snuffed out the attack and the ball was cleared – only for the Black and Ambers’ speedy full back, Elliot Frewen, to gather and run through the Ebbw team from 40 metres with barely a hand laid on him. Robson’s conversion put Newport clear at 26-14 and, try though Ebbw might, they could not breach their opponents’ defences.
The scrum penalty tombola continued: Newport penalised for wheeling at one, then Ebbw at the next – though Ebbw must have wheeled worse, because Ross Jones received a second yellow card. It took a few minutes for Mr Grove-White to realise the enormity of this, and he had to stop play to run over to the dugout and brandish the red card.
The final action was a bonus point try for Newport, scored by the alert and dangerous Man of the Match Elliot Frewen, which Robson converted to secure a 34-14 win.
It’s hard to say anything other than the better team won, and that Ebbw’s performance was particularly disappointing within the context of their win at Pontypridd.
The teams will meet at Eugene Cross Park on November 18th in the Fosters Challenge Cup second round.