Snow ploughs over

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The Independent Online

Another sun-filled Saturday, and another exciting and enthralling Welsh/Scottish League match in Wales, with tries aplenty, and spectacular ones at that. Newport climbed to equal top with a gritty, if not always pretty, comeback against an exciting but rather careless Bridgend team.

Another sun-filled Saturday, and another exciting and enthralling Welsh/Scottish League match in Wales, with tries aplenty, and spectacular ones at that. Newport climbed to equal top with a gritty, if not always pretty, comeback against an exciting but rather careless Bridgend team.

Canadian prop Rod Snow crashed, and I mean crashed, over with two minutes left for a try, superbly converted by Sean Howarth to cap a rousing fightback. Howarth, while not always operating smoothly at fly-half, is an opportunist and talented footballer, and his 19 points proved crucial.

The crowds are flocking back to Rodney Parade in their thousands, a gesture of appreciation to the Newport club for getting off their butts and assembling a squad now capable of competing at the highest level, and for improving the fabric of the ground for members and corporates alike.

In Olympic speak, Bridgend appear to be naturally gifted 400m runners but for some reason are continually entered for the metric mile. Last week they surrendered a 30-8 advantage to Cardiff at home, and again at Rodney Parade, leading 21-6 at the end of the first quarter, their stamina and resilience were severely tested, unearthing some ugly deficiencies. All too often, first- time tackling was found wanting, with ball retention a weakness in their make-up.

A full house brought the customary 10-minute delay in kicking off, but that did not prevent either side from exploding into action. Newport claimed the first points, inevitably from the boot of Howarth, for an offside infringement.

Craig Warlow missed a simple penalty but, on six minutes, added a superb conversion from the touchline of a magical try by centre Josh Taum-alolo. Feeding off a powerful surge by his co-centre, Gareth Jones, the Tongan international brushed Andy Marinos aside to sprint over from 30 metres.

Newport's failings in midfield were twice further exposed by a flamboyant and inventive Bridgend in the first quarter. Centre Jones flashed through a shy-tackling Newport midfield and Warlow's deft grubber-kick found full-back Matt Pini perplexed, for winger Daniel Jones to pick up and run in for the third Bridgend try. Warlow converted both.

Newport's resolve was now under scrutiny, as was Bridg-end's ability to exploit their advantage. Howarth kicked a sec- ond penalty and, on the half-hour, after sustained Newport forward pressure, Howarth dummied to the line for Jason Jones-Hughes to crash over.

With the balance of power switching to the hosts, Bridgend stunned all and sundry with a spectacular length-of-the-field score. Skipper Huw Harries broke some tackles and linked with sprightly hooker Chris Ferris to send winger Jones in from 70 metres.

Bridgend's good work was tarnished on half-time following Simon Hill's sin-binning, as home flanker Jason Forster, the recipient of a tap-penalty, found a gap to cruise half the length of the field for a converted try.

Warlow left the field at the restart and, while the action was as frantic and exciting as the first half, the only scores in the middle quarter were an exchange of penalties by Taum-alolo and Howarth. This set the scene for a swash-buckling finale, with both sides replenished by a battery of replace- ments, evidence of a physical and bruising encounter. How-arth reduced the deficit with his fourth and fifth penalties and the home crowd were brought to their feet by Snow's final act.

Newport: M Pini; M Mostyn (E Lewis, 50), J Jones-Hughes, A Marinos, B Breeze; S Howarth, D Edwards (D Burn, 76); P Rogers (A Garvey, 52), P Young (J Richards, 52), R Snow, S Raiwalui (G Taylor, 61), I Gough, A Popham, G Teichmann (capt), J Forster (P Buxton, 52).

Bridgend: A Durston; D Jones, J Taumal-olo, G Jones, S Hill; C Warlow (B Baker, 42), H Harries (capt); R Price, C Ferris, L Mustoe, T Collier (S Ford, 55), P Clapham, M Moligika, R Bryant, J Ringer (D Niblo, 55).

Referee: G Symonds (Cardiff).

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