Howarth the hero

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The Independent Online

It appeared that the Newport bandwagon was rolling on, not in an altogether turbo- charged manner, but too powerfully for a talented but indisciplined Castres outfit.

It appeared that the Newport bandwagon was rolling on, not in an altogether turbo- charged manner, but too powerfully for a talented but indisciplined Castres outfit.

Newport led 18-10 with only four minutes of normal time to go, courtesy of six Shane Howarth penalties but Castres then shook Rodney Parade with two smart late tries, one a superb back movement, the other a powerful forward drive. Gregor Townsend missed both conversions and left the door open for Howarth to kick his seventh and match-winning penalty.

A 7,000-plus crowd turned up full of optimism following Newport's recent win against Bath, but were well aware of the threat posed by a French side stung by a devastating start to their European campaign. Newport's intent was clear from the start and Howarth soon kicked them into the lead with two early penalty goals. The home side's tackling, especially that of Jason Forster and the skipper Gary Teichmann, upset Castres, creating turnovers, and inducing the visitors to lose their composure and discipline. They also lost their physical flanker, Jose Diaz, after only seven minutes and Newport took occupation of Castres territory, although failing to add any points during his absence. That is not to say they failed to create chances as the full-back Matt Pini and winger Ben Breeze came close to touchdowns.

It was half an hour before Castres ventured into the opposition 22 and Townsend, a gifted footballer although not the most accurate goal kicker, missed with two penalty attempts. However, his floated pass sent the full-back Ugo Mola sprinting through a huge gap to present centre Kelly Rolleston with the opening try which Townsend converted.

Howarth restored Newport's lead five minutes before the interval with a 45-metre penalty and then stepped nimbly through the Castres defence before off-loading prematurely to the supporting Simon Raiwalui. A better-timed pass would have seen the Fijian scoring under the posts but this miss only highlighted the lack of killer instinct in Newport's performance.

Townsend silenced the home crowd immediately after the re-start with a well-struck penalty from 40 metres but their lead was short-lived as the whistle-happy Italian referee Mr Morandin pulled up the transgressing visitors for continually killing the ball on the ground. When some yellow cards were called for he did nothing more than offer Howarth the chance to slot three penalty goals.

Mola's incisive run gave Marc Biboulet a try and when the Castres forwards rumbled on for Thierry Labrousse to cross, it seemed that the French had pulled off a surprising late victory. But Newport's doggedness is now a factor in their revival and their never-say-die attitude allowed Howarth his last-gasp effort for glory.

Newport: M Pini; M Mostyn, M J Watkins (J Pritchard, 49), A Marinos, B Breeze; S Howarth, D Edwards; R Snow, P Young (J Richards, 59), A Garvey, S Raiwalui (G Taylor, 73), I Gough, A Popham (B Buxton, 49), G Teichmann (capt), J Forster.

Castres: U Mola; M Biboulet, K Rolleston, G Delmotte, P Garrigues (F Plisson, 75); G Townsend, A Albouy; L Toussaint, C Batut, M Reggiardo, F Laluque (T Bourdet, 66), J Davidson (capt), A Costes (G Benazet,70), G Taussac, J Diaz (T Labrousse, 59).

Referee: G Morandin (It)