THREE tries in the last nine minutes gained Newport an unconvincing win in the Welsh Rugby Union's Challenge Trophy yesterday.
The match programme editor, Roger Panting, wrote: "The Challenge Trophy continues on its downward slide to oblivion." What he will say after this match is anyone's guess, but the bitter truth for Newport was that they made heavy work of it against a spirited Argentine side.
Rosario, runners-up to Cordoba in Argentina's championship last year, were 12-11 up in the 48th minute. They held that lead until the 73rd when the left-wing, Martyn Llewellyn, went over after a well-timed pass by the full-back, Gareth King.
Six minutes later the centre Paul Cooke snapped up a gift try after a Rosario back dropped the ball in his own 22. Then, two minutes into injury time, the flanker Jan Machacek surged over.
The outside-half Shaun Connor, who had a most erratic afternoon, converted the last two tries, after earlier landing two penalties.
A crowd of 1500 saw a game which was only marginally better than Newport's recent 13-0 win over Spain. Yet this fixture started with high promise with two tries in the first six minutes. The Rosario wing German Aristide was put clear as their No 8, Alfonso Amuchasteguy, went away from a scrum supported by the scrum-half Magin Moline.
Newport replied immediately with Cooke's first try. King, a Welsh Youth product playing his first big game for Newport, sparked the move with his fellow Youth centre Matthew Watkins feeding Connor, who gave Cooke the perfect pass.
The sad fact for Newport was that Cooke and his fellow backs could rarely put together a concerted move before that late burst of tries.
Newport, with three of their regular front-five forwards unavailable, were hard pressed by Rosario's pack. Inevitable frustration led to a punch- up between the forwards which prompted the referee, Robert Davies, to show yellow cards to the lock Gareth Taylor and the Rosario prop Facundo Lluch.
Lluch switched to hooker in place of Rosario's captain, Carlos Promanzio, who went off injured in the seventh minute. Hugo Cespedes came on and proved a capable replacement.
Newport, 8-5 up at half time, edged ahead 11-5 with Connor's second penalty. Leandro Bouza, the outside-half, pounced for Rosario's second try, being up on the ball which went loose after Aristide had kicked ahead.
Newport, who eventually gained their fourth win in six Trophy matches, looked unlikely to save their skins as errors plagued their game. King turned back into trouble on the Rosario 22 and the wing Matthew Robinson was held after doing well to take a difficult pass from Watkins.
Newport - still waiting for their first win in the Welsh Premier Division which resumes in a fortnight when they are home to the leaders Swansea - ultimately deserved their win but Rosario can take heart from this performance.
The irony is that the Trophy semi-finals can only be contested by Welsh clubs while Northern Transvaal and Cordoba have been competing in both preliminary pools.
Newport: G King; M Robinson, P Cooke, M J Watkins, M Llewellyn; S Connor, B Davies; S Duggan, I Jones (capt), S Cronk (C Johnson, 74), G Taylor (R Ostler, 65), R Goodey, J Machacek, M Workman, R Parks (D Gray, 25).
Rosario: N D'Angelo; G Aristide, A Pozzo, A Fradua, G R Acuna; L Bouza, M Moline (F del Castillo, 56); F Lluch, C Promanzio (capt; H Cespedes, 7), I Barrandeguy (A Gierbaudo, 59), M Palou, C Oviedo, M Carmona (H Dinucci, 59), A Amuchasteguy, C Boffelli.
Referee: R G Davies (Dunvant).