NEWPORT put their off-the-field uncertainties to one side by overcoming Principality Premiership Tier Two rivals Neath 25-9 at the Gnoll, writes Tom Coleman.
Speculation surrounding the Black and Ambers' Rodney Parade home continued to build this week, but there was little evidence of any distractions during a thoroughly accomplished performance.
A try from Elliot Frewen handed them the upper hand while the boot of Geraint O'Driscoll added another eight points before the break.
Ed Howley kept the hosts in touch by kicking nine points but touchdowns from Llywarch Ap Myrddin and Rhodri Jones sealed a well-deserved win.
The result preserves Newport’s unbeaten record since the mid-season split and closes the gap on Gwent rivals Cross Keys at the top of the table.
Meanwhile, the Welsh All Blacks are likely to be sick of the sight of Newport, with this result ending Neath’s own unbeaten record in phase two, while extending their winless record against Saturday’s opponents to four games.
Nevertheless, the hosts started an otherwise cagey opening 10 minutes the better side, with the boot of Howley handing them a deserved three-point lead.
At the other end, Rhys Jenkins nearly marked his 100th club appearance with a try, but was denied by the leg of Thomas Pascoe, while Howley kept Neath ticking over with another penalty.
Having missed an earlier kick, O’Driscoll finally got Newport off the mark with three points from the tee, and it marked the start of a revival.
Sloppy Neath defending allowed Frewen to pounce, dribbling the ball through a desperate back line before touching down.
Howley and O’Driscoll exchanged penalties, with the former missing the chance to add another three points just after the interval.
Neath’s difficulties were compounded a few minutes later, when a lovely run saw Ap Myrddin weave his way through the heart of the defence and cross the whitewash, with O’Driscoll adding the extras.
A fine afternoon’s work for the visitors was completed just over five minutes from time, with Jones on hand to bundle over following a powerful drive into the corner, handing Newport a thoroughly deserved victory.
Neath: E Howley; A Grabham, M Llewellyn, G Evans (R Mogan- Williams 26), A Jenkins (I Evans 18); D Guarneri (J Guy 51), C Morgans; B Uphill (L Tobias 75), S Crocker (I Phillips 60), G James (C Jones), R Jones, J Griffiths (L Bateman 67), C Davies, L Ward, J Collier (capt).
Scorers: Pens: E Howley (3)
Newport: L Ap Myrddin; E Frewen, T Pascoe, C Smith, J Morris; G O’Driscoll, O Davies; M Prosser (T Piper 60), H Palmer, G Harris (K Bale 60), A Brown (capt), D Partridge, R Jones, R Jenkins, K Taylor.
Scorers: Tries: E Frewen, L Ap Myrddin, R Jones; Cons: G O’Driscoll (2); Pens: G Driscoll (2)
Argus Star Man: Llwarch Ap Myrddin (Newport)
Referee: Mike English (WRU)