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By: Paul Hopkins
A Nathan Trowbridge hat trick helped Swansea to a bonus point victory over Newport in a thrilling encounter at St Helen’s.
In the opening minutes hooker Owen Thomas looked to pounce on a loose ball, but play was brought back for a Newport penalty, which fly half Matt O’Brien converted.
The Black and Ambers looked lively in the opening stages and winger Ryan Gardner sprinted up to half way, although he was tackled into touch. The visitors capitalised on a mistake at the lineout though and regained possession.
An infringement by the Swansea front eight gave Newport a penalty and O’Brien again opted to kick at goal from distance, but he dragged his effort wide of the posts.
O’Brien was handed another kickable penalty when the home front row stood up at the scrum and this time he made no mistake to double the visitors’ lead.
The home side responded with a powerful drive at the scrum, but centre Jack Evans missed his effort at goal.
Winger Gareth Rees was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle in the air on O’Brien, giving the Black and Ambers a chance to chip up to the twenty-two. Offside at the ruck gave Newport another penalty, which O’Brien kicked.
The All Whites finally mounted their first notable attack and forced the Newport defence offside. Evans kicked to the corner and scrum half Tom Lucas wriggled up to within a metre of the line. The Newport defence finally cracked when Lucas got quick ball out to his backs for full back Phil Jones to exploit an overlap to score in the corner. Evans missed the conversion.
The visitors were soon back on the attack, but a mistake in midfield saw centre Callum Carson collect a loose ball and race down the wing, drawing in the last tackler to send winger Trowbridge over for a try. Evans converted.
The Black and Ambers looked set to retake the lead when Gardner burst through a tackle and backed his pace, but the Whites managed to track back to make a try saving tackle.
O’Brien kicked to touch with a penalty after the Whites strayed offside in midfield. The visitors’ pack drove forward from the lineout and flanker Duane Eager was warned by the referee for foul play at the maul. O’Brien again kicked to the corner and after a patient build up by the forwards, the fly half squeezed over for a try in the corner, which he also converted.
Immediately after the restart Jones spotted a gap and raced deep into the Newport twenty-two, finding Evans in support. A desperate Newport defence initially kept the Whites at bay, but a high tackle on Owen Thomas gave Swansea a penalty. Fly half Josh Thomas kicked to the corner, but Owen Thomas failed to throw straight into the lineout.
A huge drive by the Swansea pack turned over possession though, earning a scrum five of their own. Despite being drive back in the tackle, the home side capitalised on an open period of play with Carson and Evans combining to send Trowbridge over for his second try. Josh Thomas converted.
Half-time:- Swansea 19 Newport 16
The home side signalled their intent after the interval when Evans burst through the middle, but a mistake saw the visitors turn over possession.
Newport were soon back on the attack and O’Brien handed a short pass to flanker Rhys Jenkins, before number eight Jon Fox superbly dived onto a loose ball for his side to clear the danger.
The home side struck with a fourth try when the pack won ball against the head at the scrum and a grubber kick was pounced on by Trowbridge to claim his hat trick score. Josh Thomas missed the conversion.
A one arm tap down by the home side gave Newport a penalty and O’Brien chipped to the corner. Lock Andrew Mann collected the lineout but accidental offside at the maul brought an end to the move.
Gardner sprinted past a couple of tackles as the visitors ventured over the Swansea twenty-two, but the home forwards were penalised for diving over the top of a ruck.
Replacement lock Dan Partridge collected a lineout inside the twenty-two and a powerful Newport maul set up an attack, but Rees was shown a second yellow card for deliberate offside.
The man advantage soon paid off for Newport when a superb break by centre Harri Griffiths saw the supporting Gardner crash over for a try in the corner.
The Black and Ambers retook the lead in style when replacement flanker Garin Price broke through two tackles on the wing and threw a pass to winger Elliot Frewen, who chipped ahead to score. O’Brien converted.
But the topsy turvy nature of the match continued and the All Whites were back in front a minute later when Josh Thomas raced up to the line with replacement scrum half Chris Morgans doing the rest.
The Black and Ambers rarely threatened in the closing stages and the All Whites were comfortably able to run the clock down for a well earned victory.
Full-time:- Swansea 31 Newport 28
Tries:- Phil Jones (26), Nathan Trowbridge (29, 40+7, 52), Chris Morgans (75)
Cons:- Jack Evans (30), Josh Thomas (40+8, 76)
Yellow cards:- Gareth Rees (18, 65)
Red cards:- Gareth Rees (65)
Tries:- Matt O’Brien (38), Ryan Gardner (67), Eliott Frewen (75)
Cons:- Matt O’Brien (39, 74)
Pens:- Matt O’Brien (3, 12, 20)
Venue:- St Helen’s
Weather:- Light cloud, 12C
Man of the match:- Nathan Trowbridge
15 Phil Jones
14 Nathan Trowbridge (rep: Chris Morgans 71)
13 Callum Carson
12 Jack Evans (rep: Keiran Charles 48)
11 Gareth Rees
10 Josh Thomas
9 Tom Lucas
1 Eddie Drake (rep: Tom Northy 51)
2 Owen Thomas (rep: Matthew Moore 61)
3 Greg Cunniffe (rep: Jordan Pritchard 69)
4 Shaun O’Rourke
5 Owen Morgan (rep: Ben Asprea 74)
6 Duane Eager
7 Callum Bowden
8 Jon Fox ©
16 Matthew Moore
17 Tom Northy
18 Jordan Pritchard
19 Ben Asprea
20 Harry Davies
21 Chris Morgans
22 James Davies
23 Keiran Charles
15 David Richards
14 Elliot Frewen
13 Harri Griffiths
12 Tom Pascoe (rep: Geraint O’Driscoll 41)
11 Ryan Gardner
10 Matt O’Brien
9 Josh Guy (rep: Geraint Watkin 56)
1 Lewis Smout (rep: Louis Jones 58)
2 Jamie Jeune (rep: Henry Palmer 41)
3 Garin Harris (rep: Josh Reynolds 50)
4 Joe Bartlett
5 Andrew Mann (rep: Dan Partridge 56)
6 Rhys Jenkins
7 Kyle Tayler (rep: Garin Price 72)
8 Josh Skinner
16 Henry Palmer
17 Louis Jones
18 Josh Reynolds
19 Dan Partridge
20 Garin Price
21 Geraint Watkin
22 Geraint O’Driscoll
23 Harri Lang