Cool Cardiff leave it late

Newport 19 Cardiff 29
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The Independent Online
This was one of the most entertaining and gripping games of the whole of the Heineken League season, as Cardiff narrowly managed to stay in pole position to win the League. Newport first snatched a 13-point lead, lost it, and then regained it with seven minutes to go.

But Cardiff refused to cave in and scored two fine tries at the death which saw them win by five tries to one, with Mike Rayer having a fine game at full-back and the Cardiff pack cracking the brave Newport eight. The man who kept Newport going was Gareth Rees: his tremendous kicking out of the hands and at goal held his team together.

David Waters, that marvellous lock, led Newport out on his700th appearance for his club and Newport rapidly threw themselves at Cardiff and were 10 points up within eight minutes. Jake Lowry scored the try after David Gray and Adam Palfrey had split the middle; Gareth Rees converted. Rees then kicked another penalty before Cardiff worked what seemed a fine try by Simon Hill - but he bounced the ball over the line.

Then midway through the half Jason Hewlett dropped a goal after strong Newport forward pressure and Cardiff had a 13-point hill to climb. They began their march back by forcing a couple of scrums on the Newport line and when the home team was penalised for collapsing, Gareth Jones scored from the tap penalty and Rayer converted. A few minutes later, with Cardiff beginning to grind down the Newport pack, Mike Rayer scored a try to make it 13-12 to Newport at half-time.

In the second half Newport continued their ploy of kicking for Cardiff's dead-ball line, keeping their opponents at bay for long periods. But the Newport forwards now began to disintegrate in the scrummages and it was the beginning of the end when Nigel Walker added a try to give Cardiff the lead for the first time and a bonus point.

Newport were far from finished and with seven minutes to go Gareth Rees kicked a mammoth penalty from nine metres inside his own half. With one point in it the tension was immense and Newport, after being awarded a penalty in front of the posts, saw it disastrously reversed when their hooker threw a punch. However with only six minutes to go, Gareth Rees had one more chance which he grasped, smashing the penalty over for what seemed a marvellous victory.

But Cardiff then showed their quality and their guts by scoring two marvellous tries by Walker and an interception by Adrian Davies with Rayer adding a conversion.

Newport: S Davies; O Thomas, J Lowry, A Palfrey, C Arnold; G Rees, J Hewlett; S Duggan, A Peacock, R Snow, N Jones, D Waters, M Workman, R Goodey (captain), D Gray.

Cardiff: M Rayer; N Walker, M Hall, G Jones, S Hill; A Davies, A Moore; A Lewis, J Humphreys, L Mustoe, D Jones, K Stewart, E Lewis, H Taylor (captain), O Williams.

Referee: Mr WD Bevan (WRU).