Bristol. . .7
AS A measure of how low Anglo- Welsh club rugby has slipped in these days when points mean what you get in a league rather than out there on the field, yesterday's game at Rodney Parade was perfect.
The rugby played by these ancient, but on this occasion, mismatched rivals was entertaining. Adding the last two of their eight tries in injury time, Newport established records for points and margin in this 104-year-old fixture.
All of which prompted one question. So what? Bristol sent a sub-strength side to confront a Newport team close to full strength, so a home half-century was scarcely a surprise. Bristol's priorities (just like Newport's) lie elsewhere: next month's cup tie at Bath and making their league position less precarious.
In that scheme of things a visit to Newport does not register, though a defeat of this magnitude is scarcely calculated to assist morale or momentum. Last season, to take a parallel example, Swansea's Welsh League hopes began to evaporate not with anything that occurred under Heineken's auspices but when they took a visit by Bath so lightly that they conceded 70 points.
Bristol's policy of running the ball from anywhere and everywhere was commendable even if its execution was not. Amid the wreckage of a rout Derek Eves, their captain, contrived to produce a fantastic personal performance suitably climaxed by a try created by Paul Hull, another first-teamer who had consented to turn out.
Other moments of light relief were as rare as Bristol possession, however, and the procession to the other end was seldom delayed for long once Mike Voyle had broken the ice on a bitterly cold afternoon. By half-time Andrew Dibble, David Rees and David Llewellyn had followed, and in the second half James Alvis (a Bristolian in the Newport front row), Duncan Hughes, Jason Williams and Mike Puddy did so too.
Bristol's tackling tended towards the wave-them-through variety but then this is what we have come to expect from such fixtures and those who prefer the hard edge of competition left Rodney Parade last night having been entertained but not especially satisfied.
How different it used to be. This was Bristol's first Welsh fixture of the season, whereas in pre-league times the strength of their Welsh connection was the strength of the club. They used to play Swansea, Cardiff and finally Newport all in one masochistic week of September and considered that this hardened them up for what was to follow.
Why, things used to be so serious that one referee, Supt George Crawford of the Met, walked out on the 1985 Bristol-Newport game after 20 minutes of modest mayhem complaining that he was unqualified as a boxing referee. Those were the days? Maybe not.
Newport: Tries Voyle, Dibble, Rees, D Llewellyn, Avis, Hughes, Williams, Puddy; Conversions Rees 5; Penalty Rees. Bristol: Try Eves; Conversion Tainton.
Newport: D Rees (capt); M Puddy, D Hughes, M Yendle, M Llewellyn (M Evans, 60); J Williams, D Llewellyn; A Dibble, I Jones, J Alvis, C Wyatt, M Voyle (D Waters, 40), B Watkins, R Goodey, C Scott.
Bristol: P Hull; B Whitehead, R Knibbs, D Wring, A J Williams; M Tainton, B Harvey; A Ozdemir, A Lathrope, P Smith, M Fountaine, M Skuse, D A Williams, S Morgan, D Eves (capt).
Referee: A Rowlands (Treorchy).