It was very much déjà vu for Pontypridd as another first-half blitz of tries from Newport left Ponty with a second-half uphill struggle for the second time in five days.
Newport skipper Matt O’Brien kicked the contest off and it was Ponty that started the match well. After winning a penalty on halfway after good work at the breakdown, Jamie Murphy gave the home side good field position and Ponty’s pack took advantage. After securing the line-out ball the pack trundled towards the Newport try-line, the play broke up and then the forwards battered their way through numerous phases, inching closer to the Newport try-line and it was a back – scrum-half Rory Harries that finally burrowed over from close range. Murphy kicked the conversion and Ponty had a 7-0 lead after 4 minutes.
5 minutes later Matt O’Brien got the Black & Ambers’ first points of the match from a penalty after Ponty were penalised for offside.
The match began in a real frantic fashion. Newport attacked again, kicked the ball through but Ponty managed to scramble back, gathered the ball and kicked to touch but under pressure made little ground. Newport were then awarded another penalty in Ponty’s 22, this time they turned down the 3-points to kick into the corner and the gamble paid off. Newport’s line-out rumbled over the try-line and after consulting the Television Match Official, visiting openside Kyle Tayler was awarded the try. O’Brien kicked the conversion and the away side were in the lead 10-7 – a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Newport were intent on attacking from everywhere on the pitch and almost scored from their own try-line, denied when a loose pass didn’t go to hand when entering the Ponty half. The chance went begging but the try came soon enough – prop Garin Harris was the third player of the match to crash over from close. The conversion was missed but Newport had a two-score lead at 15 points to 7.
Then just after the first quarter came arguably Ponty’s best attacking moment. After struggling to gain their own line-out ball resulting in the play getting a bit messy, the home side found themselves under real pressure when Niko Matawalu gathered the loose ball. He went on a mesmerising run from deep, jinking through the Newport defence and fed the supporting Aled Ward who passed back to the Fijian Express but then the ball was spilled in the tackle by the supporting Rory Harries in the Newport 22.
A few moments later Joe Miles thought he had scored from a Newport line-out but Ponty were penalised for obstruction and the try was chalked off.
The missed chances were a hammer blow for Ponty when after 26 minutes, again attacking from deep Newport winger Lloyd Lewis scored – the away side ghosted through Ponty’s midfield and Lewis, who hit the line at searing pace was fed and cantered in from around 30 metres. The conversion was missed.
As play headed into first-half injury time Ponty were still in the match despite being 20 points to 7 behind. But then a key moment for Ponty’s chances in the contest. Newport left-winger Chay Foster-Smith went barrelling down the touchline and from the naked eye Ponty winger Ewan Skuse looked to have made a fantastic try-saving tackle. But after another TMO review the try was awarded, O’Brien added a superb touchline conversion and Ponty found themselves twenty points behind at the interval and faced a mountain to climb in the second half.
HALF TIME – Pontypridd 7-27 Newport
As they did in the first-half, Ponty started the second-half well applying pressure and working hard to get themselves up the pitch. After back-to-back penalties and a line-out for the home side, Ponty worked the ball down the blind-side and Joe Miles crashed over but the grounding looked dubious. The TMO agreed and Miles had his second try of the match chalked off.
In the 54th minute Newport dealt Ponty a body blow when after their first real chance of the second-half they scored their 5th try through no.8 Lennon Greggains. Matt O’Brien’s conversion was good and Newport extended their lead to 34-7.
Pontypridd had another couple of good attacking chances, firstly Matawalu went on another run coming off his wing but the ball was lost in contact a few phases later. Then on the hour mark Ponty’s pack demolished a Newport scrum, Miles picked up and made good yards before Tommy Morgan ran and chipped the ball over but no joy.
Just after the hour mark Ponty were awarded a penalty from a Newport scrum on the Newport 22, the ball was kicked into the corner and the home side had a good attacking platform. From the line-out the ball was worked along to the right-hand side of the pitch but again the ball was spilled with the try-line in sight.
Newport finished the match the better side and should have extended their lead. Ponty went down to 14 men when substitute James Murphy was sin-binned in the 70th minute. With their backs against the wall only excellent Ponty defence repelled Newport, driving them back from their own line. Dale Stuckey got possession and the home side worked their way up towards halfway.
Newport thought they had extended their lead in the 78th minute when they went over for a try, but the referee brought play back for a forward pass in the build up.
Another difficult evening for Pontypridd, and it doesn’t get any easier next up when the team head to Ebbw Vale next Thursday for another match live in front of the S4C cameras.
FULL TIME – Pontypridd 7-34 Newport (30/3/2023)
15. Dale Stuckey. 14. Niko Matawalu. 13. Ceri Morris. 12. Tommy Morgan (Jordan Howells). 11. Ewan Skuse (Iestyn Griffiths). 10. Jamie Murphy. 9. Rory Harries (Joel Raikes).
1. Tom Devine (Ben Stephens). 2. Rob Jones (Gavin Parry). 3. Garyn Daniel (Tom Harper). 4. Kristian Parker (c). 5. Mitch Barnard (Cai James). 6. Aled Ward. 7. Sion Parry. 8. Joe Miles (James Murphy).
Subs: 16. Gavin Parry. 17. Ben Stephens. 18. Tom Harper. 19. James Murphy. 20. Cai James. 21. Joel Raikes. 22. Jordan Howells. 23. Iestyn Griffiths
Try: Rory Harries
Conversion: Jamie Murphy
Yellow Card: James Murphy
15. Geraint O’Driscoll. 14. Lloyd Lewis. 13. Joe Westwood. 12. Harri Ackerman. 11. Chay Foster-Smith. 10. Matt O’Brien (c). 9. Luke Crane
1. Josh Reynolds. 2. Ellis Shipp. 3. Garin Harris. 4. Elliot Ferriman. 5. Craig Hudd. 6. Josh Reid. 7. Kyle Tayler. 8. Lennon Greggains
Subs: 16. James Benjamin. 17. Tom Workman. 18. Dan Suter. 19. Rhys Jenkins. 20. George Young. 21. Che Hope. 22. Dafydd Buckland. 23. Matt Bancroft
Tries: Kyle Tayler, Garin Harris, Lloyd Lewis, Chay Foster-Smith, Lennon Greggains
Conversions: Matt O’Brien x 3
Penalty: Matt O’Brien
Referee: Tom Spurrier
Assistant referees: 1 – John Darcy, 2 – Ellis Poulden, 3 – Neil Perkins
TMO: Wayne Davies
Golden Bob Man of the Match: Joe Miles
WRU Man of the Match: Sion Parry