On their first visit to Newport Stadium, Steve Laws men underlined why they are many people’s favourites to retain their league title as they raced in a 31-6 lead with a five try onslaught. With the bonus-point in the bag, and revenge for last season’s record run of four defeats seemingly sorted, they then conceded 26 second half points and almost lost their grip on the game.
In the end, Newport’ stirring fightback in a firecracker of a game fell just short, but it made for great viewing as the Premiership once again delivered to the S4C viewers. Cardiff were relieved to take the five points away with them to hold onto their position at the top of the table, while Newport thoroughly deserved their two points for scoring four tries and finishing with seven of their visitors.
“I am proud of the character from the guys to get back into the game and almost sneak a win,” said Newport’s head coach, Ty Morris.
“We had a big impact from the guys that came off the bench, they brought a lot of energy and we are not a team to fall away.
“Every point matters in this league, so to come away with two after being 31-6 down was important.” After losing at home on the opening day of the new season to Gwent rivals Ebbw Vale, Morris’ men were hoping to get back on the winning trail against Cardiff. They got close but paid for a poor start.
Tries by scrum half Jamie Hill and wing James Beal set the tone for the visitors and then hooker Ethan Daniel bulldozed his way over. Flanker Gwilym Bradley then pounced for the bonus-point try after a loose Newport lineout and Cardiff were in complete control at the break, leading 24-6.
Things got even better for Steve Law’s men at the start of the second half when Hill picked up his second try, which Harrison James converted to make it 31-6. Will Reed had landed two first half penalties for the home side, but the tries eventually began to flow after the break.
Replacement prop Nathan Evans led the fightback as he drove over twice from close range before Elliot Frewen squeezed over with six minutes to go. James added a penalty for Cardiff to give them a little more breathing space on the scoreboard before Frewen joined a driving maul and came up with a second score that Reed converted.
The clock was in the red as Cardiff kicked-off and by this time they were down to 14 men with Ellis Thomas in the sin-bin. Newport attacked from the final re-start and worked their way into the Cardiff half in a do or die effort.
As brave as they were, they weren’t quite precise enough and a turn-over earned Cardiff a penalty and allowed them to kick out and take the points.