Rugby Union: Revived Newport dent Neath's championship hopes

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Newport. . . .17

Neath . . . . .0

THE LOUDEST cheer at this remarkable result may not have been in the Rodney Parade stand - though that was loud enough - but in the clubhouse at Cardiff, where they now find another member of the championship-chasing pack off their back.

Before the game, Neath had hopes of staying in sight of the leaders, but they were beaten off the park and off the title path.

And with Swansea losing on Friday night, a clear way is now starting to open up for Cardiff.

But yesterday was Newport's day. They played like angels for the first five minutes and for the last five minutes, but sometimes seemed as though they had their boots tied together for periods in between.

But what they definitely did not do was crumple. They kept their heads high, their tackling firm and their determination clear. And when the passes connected as the second half wore on, and they actually started to believe they could win, they became unstoppable.

The ground was laid in the faultless first five minutes when the long kicks rolled exactly into touch, just the right side of the corner-flag; when the centres ran hard and straight and the gaps simply opened up for them.

The move for the first try took up half the field with forwards and backs interpassing. Scrum-half Mark Roderick eventually had an overlap with the Neath defence run ragged. He chose to go over on his own. The conversion from far out neatly dissected the posts.

And then in the last five minutes, it all gelled again. By then, Neath were trying desperately - too desperately - to break free. In their over-exertion, they had a kick charged down. Newport left-wing Andrew Lewis dribbled forward and fell on the ball seconds before the final whistle.

It might have been a completely different team from the one that simply hung its head and conceded 13 tries in a single game against Llanelli at the start of the season, and Newport's heads have barely raised since then, with a string of defeats.

Neath, on yesterday's evidence, never looked like a side that ought to win the championship - it would be a pretty bleak sign for Welsh rugby if they were.

They had little to rely on but brute, forward aggression. They were dominant in the scrums, but then over-relied on rolling forward mauls in the loose. Once Newport had dealt with those, there was nothing left in the arsenal.

Newport: J Westwood, I Jeffries, R Bidgood (capt), M Yendle, A Lewis, J Williams, M Roderick, S Duggan, I Jones, A Peacock, D Waters, M Voyle, A Carter, K Withey, C Scott.

Neath: M Singer, S Bowling, D Jones, J Bird, J Reynolds, M McCarthy, R Jones, L Gerrard, A Thomas, J Davies, M Whitson, Glyn Llewellyn, S Williams (M Morris, 19 min), Gareth Llewellyn (capt), A Varney.

Referee: A Ware (WRU).

Scorers: Westwood (pen, 3 min, 3-0); Roderick/Westwood (try/conv, 4 min, 10-0); Lewis/Westwood (try/conv, 83 min, 17-0).

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