Graham Henry continually preaches the sermon of ball retention and continuity. The Pontypridd team are worthy disciples of the national coach, as their domination of possession, together with the skills of their silky fly- half Lee Jarvis, ensured a notable and rousing victory at Newport. Pontypridd may lack the big-name players and, consequently, a cutting edge on occasion, but they base their game on their hunger for the ball and skill in keeping it away from the opposition.
Rodney Parade reverberated to two mighty ear-shattering roars, and that was before kick-off. The first followed the announcement that the game would be delayed for 15 minutes because of the size of the crowd. The second was the rapturous welcome from the success-starved followers of Newport for their new-look team, bolstered this week with the arrival of Gary Teichmann, the former Springbok skipper, Franco Smith, Andy Marinos and Robbie Kempson from South Africa.
Their presence was quickly in evidence and Smith's first touch was a speculative kick that found the full-back Brett Davey wanting and Gareth Cull slotted the ensuing penalty. Following a Jarvis penalty for the visitors, Newport counter-attacked through Matthew Watkins and Andy Gibbs, who created the opening for Marinos to race 30 metres for the opening try. Teichmann, not to be outdone, featured three times in a fine 60-yard Newport attack out of defence that almost increased the home side's lead. After 20 minutes he went one better when the predatory No 8 pounced following good work by the Newport pack for a try, which Cull converted.
Pontypridd, upstaged early on amidst all the euphoria, have lost several key players during the summer - not least the Wales fly-half Neil Jenkins - but one thing they have not lost is their tremendous club spirit and fighting qualities. They countered immediately to score two fine tries through the centre Jason Lewis and Jarvis, both benefiting from some generosity in the Newport midfield defence. The metronomic Jarvis converted both tries. Cull kicked two penalties before the interval to restore Newport's lead.
The second half belonged to Pontypridd and the fly-half Jarvis in particular, as the visitors monopolised possession and forced Newport into retreat and subsequent submission. Jarvis ruled the roost, teasing his team-mates into gaps while his points-gathering ability never ceases to amaze. He dominated the second half with a virtuoso performance, adding a second converted try and a couple of drop goals for a decisive match contribution of 28 points.
Make no mistake, the South African influence will be significant at Newport, and the newly recruited players will have been greatly impressed with the contribution of the local favourites Watkins and Gareth Taylor, and also by the organisation of their opponents.
They will by now realise that their time in Wales will not be a holiday, but that the game at club level will pose some severe questions. Rugby is back, high on the agenda in Wales. The presence of players such as Jarvis, Teichmann and Watkins will ensure that it is a product worth watching.
Newport: G Cull; N McKim, M J Watkins, A Marinos, M Llewellyn (J Pritchard, h-t); F Smith, D Burn; C Jones, D Cummins, L Fortey (R Kempson, h-t), G Taylor, P Jones, A Gibbs (A Popham, 70), G Teichmann, J Forster (capt).
Pontypridd: B Davey; G Wyatt, S Parker, J Lewis (J Bryant, h-t), R Greenslade- Jones; L Jarvis, P John (capt); M Griffiths (C Loader, h-t), A Lamerton, S Cronk, W James, I Gough, M Lloyd, D McIntosh, R Field (R Parkes, 65).
Referee: N Whitehouse.