NEWPORT gave champions Merthyr a real scare at Rodney Parade but the Ironmen proved too steely as they remained top of the Principality Premiership East table with a bonus point victory, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.

The Black and Ambers picked up a losing bonus point of their own and put in a gutsy performance they can be proud of.

Merthyr took the lead early after hooker Matthew Dwyer crossed for a converted try from a driving lineout.

The hosts hit back when captain and fly-half Matt O’Brien slotted a penalty after his pack made a mess of Merthyr’s scrum.

The Black and Ambers closed the gap further when the outside-half kicked another penalty, largely earned after a tricky run by dangerous full-back Elliot Frewen.

And Newport deservedly took the lead when their skipper ran home a try to catch the Ironmen napping, the outside-half converting to make it 13-7.

Merthyr came back strongly before the interval and were rewarded when full-back Matthew Jarvis put over a penalty won from all their pressure.

The first 40 minutes ended with an impressive Newport deservedly leading, their advantage three points.

Merthyr rolled up their sleeves towards the end of the third quarter and set up a number of driving mauls close to their opponents’ try-line which led to home prop Nicky Boyce being yellow carded.

The visitors capitalised immediately when they were awarded a penalty try as the Black and Ambers scrum disintegrated.

And the Ironmen hit the hosts with a sucker punch as scrum-half Justin James crossed for an unconverted try as Newport napped just after the restart.

O’Brien kept his side in the contest as he slotted his third penalty to make it 22-16 with 20 minutes to go.

But hopes of a famous home win were dented when wing Kristian Phillips got Merthyr’s bonus point try soon after, Jarvis adding the extras.

A gutsy Newport weren’t done however as number eight Lennon Greggains hit back with a try, O’Brien’s conversion closing the gap to 29-23 with just under a quarter of an hour to go.

Hope seemed to vanish after Frewen was yellow carded for a deliberate knock on to prevent a try-scoring opportunity.

Merthyr second row and captain Craig Locke crossed for an unconverted try from another driving lineout.

But still the Black and Ambers weren’t done and they hit back again when replacement wing Jon Morris went over for a converted score which made it 34-30 with eight minutes to go.

Newport were boosted when Merthyr centre Aaron Pinches was yellow carded but it was not to be.

Newport: E Frewen, H Palmer (M Prosser 54-62, C Ayling 71), C Smith, T Pascoe (J Morris 10), A Sabri, M O’Brien (capt), R Bates (T Lucas 58), N Boyce (T Piper 72), W Evans (E Whitson 64), K Dowding, R Cresswell, J Bartlett (D Partridge 59), A Everett (J Reid 72), J Cullimore, L Greggains.

Merthyr: M Jarvis, K Evans, G Dacey, A Pinches, K Phillips, B Jones, J James, J Howe, M Dwyer, S Pocskai (J Rees 43), B Murphy, C Locke (capt), N White (O Davies 51), E Siggery, P Rees.

Newport scorers: Tries: M O’Brien, L Greggains, J Morris, Conversions: M O’Brien (3), Penalties: M O’Brien (3).

Merthyr scorers: Tries: M Dwyer, Penalty try, Justin James, K Phillips, C Locke, Conversions: M Jarvis (2), Penalty: M Jarvis.

Referee: Elgan Williams (WRU) Argus star man: Matt O’Brien