Black and Ambers lose out in another close encounter
NEWPORT 11 ABERAVON 12
NEWPORT failed to leapfrog fiercest rivals Cardiff and remain eighth in the Premier-ship after yet another narrow defeat in a keenly contested en-counter.
Aberavon raced out of the blocks in the opening exchanges, turning early pressure into points after eight minutes when hooker Gareth Harvey scored an unconverted try from a driving lineout.
But fly half Tom Hancock soon put Newport on the scoreboard with a straightforward penalty, and then into a one-point lead after 23 minutes with another successful attempt.
Both sides tried to play rugby in a scrappy first half, the Black and Ambers putting together a promising counter attack deep in their own half.
Newport Gwent Dragons openside Darren Waters showed great pace to cause havoc in the Wizards’ ranks only for the hosts to leave the Aberavon 22 empty handed – a feature of the night.
The visitors put some pressure on the Newport line but the half ended with the home side leading 6-5 in an evenly contested period.
The hosts started the second 40 brightly but, as earlier in the game, some poor execution in the lineout meant they were unable to capitalise on some promising territorial gains.
There were some baffling decisions by referee Simon Rees and his reluctance to dish out some yellow cards to the visiting players for what appeared to be clear sin bin offences was extremely frustrating for the Rodney Parade faithful.
Newport were lucky that Wizards hooker Harvey was also having a mixed day at the lineout as both sides lost ball on their own throws.
Aberavon took the game by the scruff of the neck in the 61st minute when wing Richard Carter crossed when his side exploited an overlap, Davies’ conversion making it 12-6.
A great chip and chase by home wing Owen Broad with 12 minutes left nearly saw them score their first try, but he knocked the ball on just before he went over the line.
Rees finally lost his patience in the 70th minute when he binned Aberavon replacement fly half Craig Evans for killing the ball in his own 22.
Newport were camped on the visitors’ line in the closing stages and looked for a penalty try as they aimed to put a squeeze on the opposition scrum.
But what the forwards couldn’t do, the backs did when they put together a fine attacking move which saw the lively Broad squeezing in at the corner in the dying seconds to bring Newport to within a point.
The tension built as Hancock lined up the conversion but he missed by the proverbial country mile.
It set up a breathless finale but Aberavon held on for the win as Hancock was off target with a drop goal with the last kick of the match.
Newport scorers: Try – Owen Broad; Penalties – Tom Hancock (2).
Aberavon scorers: Tries – Gareth Harvey, Richard Carter; Conversion – Jamie Davies.
Referee: Simon Rees (WRU)