The thousand or so Newport supporters were singing hymns and arias long into the night after this memorable Heineken Cup Pool Six victory, which was every bit as emphatic as it was unexpected. There was, however, no argument. Nor could there be with a 3-0 try count in the Welsh club's favour.
The Newport forwards took control early in this thunderous contest at Kingston Park last night, which was not finally decided until the sixth minute of injury time when Newport's blindside flanker Peter Buxton emerged from a ruck to end any lingering hopes that Jonny Wilkinson might rescue Newcastle.
As the clock ticked towards full-time, Wilkinson almost pulled Newcastle out of the hole Newport's forwards had dug for them. For every penalty Shane Howarth kicked after the break, Wilkinson matched him. In all, Wilkinson succeeded with seven from seven, but it wasn't enough and Howarth's 19 points were crucial to Newport's success.
Ian McIntosh, Newport's coach, was determined not to be carried away. "This is our first Heineken Cup win away from home,'' McIntosh said. "I was pleased we had the edge over the Newcastle pack, which made great difference to the way we were able to control things.''
There has been plenty of recent evidence that Newport have regained the poise and self-determination which made them such a power in Wales. The arrival of the former South Africa captain, Gary Teichmann, did much to revive Newport's fortunes. Having lead them to their first cup-final success in 24 years last spring, Teichmann retired. The subsequent failure to sign another Springbok great, Joost van der Westhuizen, seemed to have dented Newport's self-confidence and they have made a faltering start to the season, being the last of the qualifiers to make the Celtic League quarter-finals and earning the doubtful privilege of travelling to meet unbeaten Leinster.
But Newport do have Howarth. He controlled things beautifully once the Newport's forwards began to dominate. They had the good fortune to be gifted a try when Tom May's pass was intercepted by Matt Pini, who handed on to Matt Mostyn. The winger had 60 metres to gallop for the touchdown and Epeli Taione almost got to him. Howarth's conversion and second penalty gave Newport an 18-12 interval lead.
Mostyn's score came within a minute of Jon Pritchard's try on the left after the Newport forwards had barged towards the right corner and Howarth's long pass had created the overlap. This came after four Wilkinson penalties had taken Newcastle to 12-3 within the first half-hour.
With Wilkinson and Howarth engaged in a personal kicking duel, the Newport forwards kept up the pressure. Even the sin-binning of Junior Tonu'u did not deflect Simon Raiwalui's cohorts. And it was fitting that Buxton, who like Mike Voyle and Andrew Powell, had a towering game, should claim the decisive score.
Newcastle: D Walder; L Botham (M Stephenson, 71), J Noon, T May, V Tuigamala; J Wilkinson, G Armstrong (H Charlton, 55); M Ward, C Valshen, J Isaacson (I Peel, h/t), H Vyvyan (D Weir, 60), S Grimes, E Taione (J Dunbar, 76), R Devonshire (I Peel, 15-25), P Lam (capt).
Newport: M Pini; M Mostyn, A Marinos, J Pritchard, M Watkins; S Howarth, O Tonu'u; C Jones (R Snow, h/t), J Richards, C Anthony (A Garvey, h/t), S Raiwalui (capt), M Voyle, P Buxton, J Forster (J Powell, 71), A Powell.
Referee: A Lombardi (Italy).Reuse content