Brown the toast of Newport

Gareth Davies says the stunning upset of Bath may be first of many
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The Independent Online

Friday night was party night in Newport as a delirious 12,000 celebrated the Black and Ambers' long-awaited revival for hours after their triumph against the English giants Bath in the Heineken Cup.

Friday night was party night in Newport as a delirious 12,000 celebrated the Black and Ambers' long-awaited revival for hours after their triumph against the English giants Bath in the Heineken Cup.

Apologies to the players, but the widest and most deserving smile after the 28-17 victory was unmistakably that of Newport's chief executive and major investor, Tony Brown, an Englishman, who has transformed the club from bedraggled, lowly underachievers into a vibrant, family- orientated visitor attraction - with some fierce and exciting rugby to boot.

Friday's game was certainly no side-attraction. Before the match Brown, not for the first time, was questioning his sanity in investing a large chunk of his personal wealth, which is considerable and self-made, into a product that he cannot exert any control over for the important 80 minutes.

Immediately after the match, he confessed that he was beginning to understand the reason for his support. "Nights like tonight make all the worrying worth while, and it was a very emotional and fulfilling evening for the whole town. English clubs have denigrated Welsh rugby for too long, perhaps they should reconsider," he said.

The Newport players are quick to heap praise on Brown. Shane Howarth, the official man of the match, revealed that Brown had phoned him and the skipper, Gary Teichmann, that morning to thank them for their commitment to Newport, and to tell them how pleased he was to have them on board. No wonder both played major roles, helped by some cute man-management.

Teichmann was a colossus for Newport, as indeed was his counterpart, Dan Lyle, for Bath. The South African's cleaning up at line-out, kick-off and general loose play is monumental, let alone his astute workmanship and ball-handling abilities.

Alan Lewis, the coach, raves about the skipper's contribution and is delighted to have such a commanding player in charge. "He is a brilliant individual whose international career may be over, but who still lives for the big stage, and that is why God placed him on this earth," he said.

If Howarth was man of the match, and Teichmann the Newport talisman, where does that leave the second-row Ian Gough? He was unquestionably the game's shining light, soaring in line-outs and producing as many big hits in a match as I can ever remember. The earth shook whenever he struck, which partly explains the proliferation of Bath turnovers.

In fact, Bath had enough of the play to have won. Lyle and Ben Clarke gave it their best shots, while behind, Matt Perry and Gareth Cooper worked unflinchingly. Newport's defence won the day, though, with Gough their secret weapon.

Bath have arguably - and Leicester would argue - been Britain's leading force since the mid-Eighties. Their days are by no means numbered but they are vulnerable at the scrummage, which Newport exploited, and are in desperate need of a fit Mike Catt at No 10.

They played with greater pace than Newport, although the angles of running of the Newport backs, who have not always shone this season, were textbook as Matt Mostyn, Andy Marinos and Matt Pini caused havoc with the usually watertight Bath defence.

Newport scored three first- half tries, the crucial score coming seconds before half- time as Marinos crossed to add to Mostyn's and Matthew J Watkins' efforts. Cooper in the first half and Shaun Berne in the second scored for Bath, while Howarth's 15 points with the boot secured a famous victory.

Pool Four is now wide open, and all of Newport's opponents should beware. Tony Brown, has started enjoying himself and does not intend to stop yet.

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