For the neutral spectator, if there were any present at the Ivor Preece Field on Saturday, they will have no doubt enjoyed an entertaining, expansive game of rugby, played in good spirit and very much in the balance until the very last second.
Newport and their management will however be analysing how and why they lost control of the game, for an extended period, when apparently cruising at 26-7, after only 35 minutes. In the end they dug deep, and had enough quality and resolve to nick the game at the death, but it was so very close to being a drawn game, and that after recent results would have put a severe dent in their ambitions for this season.
With several key players unavailable Bob Adams had rung the changes, but with a deeper squad this year, it was still a strong eighteen that was named. Connor Adams made his first start this campaign, at scrum- half, with Benny Elliot moving back to fly-half, after several games at full-back. Declan Hadley joined Sam Evans and Toby Evans in the back three. Up front Chris Taylor was brought in on the flank and Will Roach returned at lock. On the bench, Matthew Dight made his debut, where he was joined by the returning pair of Jordan Grass and Rhys Morgan.
After mid-week concerns as to whether the game would go ahead, the pitch on the day was in good condition and there was no significant wind to worry about.
Right from the get go, both teams signalled their intent to keep the ball in hand and play all-court rugby and the first fifteen minutes was a fairly even contest. Pleasingly for Newport, their issues at scrum time, seemed for the most part to have been rectified and Connor Adams was afforded that golden luxury of some front-foot ball from which to get the three quarters moving.
On fifteen minutes Newport pounced on a mishandled ball just inside their own half and some text book passing, put the pacey Sam Evans away on the left wing to open their account. Within two minutes Broadstreet had replied after their full-back, Dale Glover fielded a Newport kick and sliced straight through the midfield to put his scrum-half, Chris Easton away. A fantastic chase down by Ryan Crowley prevented him crossing the line, but the ball was hacked forward and Glover sprinted through to ground the ball. The successful conversion put Broadstreet ahead at 7-5.
The following twenty minutes saw Newport add three quality tries and open up a nineteen point advantage and also secure the bonus point. The first of these was scored by Hadley, the beneficiary of a perfect draw and pass from Crowley, the second by Monty Maule, whose dancing feet allowed him to jink and weave a path to the try line through a bemused defence, after strong carries from Ben Vai and David Manning and the third, where the impressive Crowley used footwork and an injection of blistering pace to again leave would-be- tacklers grasping at shadows.
Broadstreet despite their lowly position in the table this season, have run most teams close and they clearly are not a team who allow their heads to drop. The minutes immediately before and after half-time are always crucial, and unfortunately for Newport, they allowed the opposition to score a try with the last play of the first half, and another within five minutes of the restart, thus changing the complexion of the game completely. Mention should be given to tight-head prop, Zac Nearchou, who scored the first of these tries and whose dexterous pick-up and thirty metre gallop, led to the second. Looks can be deceiving, but a little research has informed me that this young man is a England Under 18 and Under 19 international. For me, he was one of the standout players for Broadstreet. They were now playing with confidence and the home crowd were getting behind their team and with the mid-way point in the second half approaching, they scored their fourth try, which was successfully converted. It was now a tied game at 26-26.
Newport's cause was made even more challenging, with the dispatch of Vai to the sin bin for a high tackle and this triggered the introduction of Morgan from the bench. He was immediately into the thick of the action, with some trademark carries and his ability to remain on his feet in contact as always created problems for the Broadstreet defence.
Despite being a man down, Newport had begun to rally. Dight's first involvement wearing the burgundy and white, after entering the fray in place of Hadley, was to field a probing kick and execute an accurate long pass to Toby Evans. He was deep inside his own half, but as with all of Newport's three-quarters, he has bags of confidence and with searing acceleration, he burst through Broadstreet's defensive line, and covered fully sixty five metres to score under the posts.
Broadstreet immediately fought back and after a three minute period of sustained pressure they levelled with a fifth try and a well taken conversion.
Hearts in mouth time now and as the clock ticked away a draw seemed ever more likely, but in the seventy ninth minute a dominant scrummage, with Grass now on for Nixon, allowed Morgan to charge forward from No 8. The ball was then swung to the left wing, where Sam Evans' scorching pace left Glover flat-footed and he was able to arc under the posts to re-establish an advantage.
In added time Broadstreet had two lineouts deep inside Newport territory, and a period of three or four minutes of total possession. Absolute discipline , determination and trust in the defensive structures had to be shown to repel wave after wave of attack. In the end a narrow, but satisfying 40-33 victory was the prize.
There are many positives to take away from this game –
Newport were far more competitive at the set piece
and had front-foot ball for long periods, they have
players throughout the backline with outstanding footwork and exceptional pace, who will trouble any defence given enough opportunity, and they showed fight and grit to battle back and seize victory when the game seemed to be slipping away.
There are still problems to solve, no one would dispute that, but Newport are back to winning ways and with the visit of high flying, newly promoted Bromsgrove next week, this win will be a considerable filip for the confidence of the entire squad.
Team: Nixon, Wells, Manning, Roach, Robinson, Taylor, Mahoney, Vai, Adams, Elliot, Evans S, Maule (C), Crowley, Hadley, Evans T, Grass, Morgan, Dight.