This was the only Premiership fixture which went ahead this weekend as a result of a number of positive coronavirus cases at other clubs. But this game at the Talbot Athletic Ground more than made up for the lack of rugby in Wales this weekend. Newport were well worth this victory but they were forced to dig deep, and were fortunate to survive a late onslaught from a determined Aberavon outfit.
After a feisty opening 10 minutes Will Reed opened the scoring for the Black and Ambers from the kicking tee. But Aberavon’s pack began to gain the early ascendancy and they made the most of their territorial advantage with hooker Luke Davies powering over from short-range off the back of a well-worked driving lineout. Chris Banfield converted to give the Wizards an early 7-3 lead.
The first quarter of the game belonged to the hosts, but Newport began to gain a foothold in the game thereafter. Ty Morris’ side claimed their first try when Matt O’Brien smashed his way through the Wizards defence to touch down, with Reed adding the extras.
Newport were now full of confidence and they extended their lead when Elliot Frewen showed tremendous pace to run in unopposed from 45 metres out. Reed converted to push Newport out to a 10 point lead. But just when Newport seemed to be pulling away Aberavon hit back. Newport’s O’Brien attempted to clear his lines, but the ball was charged down allowing Ashton Evans to gather the ball and score a try which Banfield converted.
Aberavon’s pack were strong throughout but the Wizards lacked a cutting edge out wide. Newport didn’t have the same problem with Frewen intercepting a loose pass from Banfield to race clear from 50 metres for the try, with Reed kicking a further two points to give the visitors a 24-14 lead at the interval.
Newport began the second-half strongly with Reed adding a penalty to give the Black and Ambers a 13 point lead. To their credit Aberavon refused to throw in the towel with their dynamic hooker Davies, who was man of the match last week against Swansea, grabbing his second try off the back of yet another impressive driving lineout.
The momentum had now swung back the way of the Wizards who began to apply a lot of pressure deep in Newport’s half. Their forwards began to make some serious metres with their carries, forcing the visitors to concede penalties which allowed Banfield to close the gap to a mere five points from the kicking tee.
But Newport regained their composure as Reed once again made it a two score game with a successful penalty. Aberavon were like an itch Newport couldn’t scratch and Banfield’s accurate boot kept them in the game as yet again he closed the gap to five points.
With just minutes remaining in the game Aberavon lay siege to the Newport line with their pressure forcing Andrew Mann to infringe at the breakdown. Mann’s ill-discipline proved costly with the referee deciding to award him a yellow card.
The Wizards threw the kitchen sink at their visitors in the final play of the game as they tried desperately to force an unlikely win. But Newport’s defence held firm to earn them a vitally important win at Aberavon which puts them at the top of the Premiership table.
Aberavon 25 – 30 Newport
Chris Banfield; Matthew Jenkins (rep Frankie Jones 50 min), Chay Smith, Will Price (capt) (rep Joe Gage 60 min), Stef Andrews; Joe Thomas, Rhodri Cole (rep Rhodri Lewis 70 min); Jordan Walters, Luke Davies, Chris Davies (rep Nicky Thomas 63 min), Shay Smallman, Rhodri Hughes, Ashton Evans, Andrew Waite, Lee Purnell (rep Sam Pailor 53 min).
Replacements not used:
Garin Lloyd, Lewis Marsh, Brynley Toms.
Matthew Jenkins & Sam Pailor appeared from Trebanos RFC; Rhodri Lewis, Lewis Marsh & Garin Lloyd appeared from the Ospreys; Brynley Toms appeared from Cardiff RFC.
T – Luke Davies (2), Ashton Evans
C – Chris Banfield (2)
PG – Chris Banfield (2)
T – Elliot Frewen (2), Matt O’Brien
C – Will Reed (3)
PG – Will Reed (3)
Man Of The Match:
1 – Ashton Evans
2 – Luke Davies
3 – Chris Banfield
04 min: Newport – PG – Will Reed (0 – 3)
08 min: Aberavon – T – Luke Davies & C – Chris Banfield (7 – 3)
26 min: Newport – T – Matt O’Brien & C – Will Reed (7 – 10)
32 min: Newport – T – Elliot Frewen & C – Will Reed (7 – 17)
37 min: Aberavon – T – Ashton Evans & C – Chris Banfield (14 – 17)
40+2 min: Newport – T – Elliot Frewen & C – Will Reed (14 – 24)
40+3 min: Half Time
50 min: Newport – PG – Will Reed (14 – 27)
54 min: Aberavon – T – Luke Davies (19 – 27)
62 min: Aberavon – PG – Chris Banfield (22 – 27)
66 min: Newport – PG – Will Reed (22 – 30)
73 min: Aberavon – PG – Chris Banfield (25 – 30)
80 min: Newport – Yellow Card – Andrew Mann
80+4 min: Full Time