NEWPORT just fell short of toppling confident Cardiff in an exciting battle between the old foes at Rodney Parade, writes Geoff Champion.

The Black and Ambers had led 17-7 at the interval but their opponents took a grip with a clutch of tries in the third quarter which paved the way for their victory.

Newport certainly deserved their try and losing bonus points and with better finishing they could have put up an even stronger challenge.

Wing Elliott Frewen, No 8 Matthew Reed, full back David Richards, hooker Will Evans and replacement forward Morgan Burgess crossed for the home tries while skipper and outside half Matt O’Brien kicked a penalty and two conversions. Kyle Tayler was outstanding in the hard-working home pack.

Cardiff had a match-winning scrum half in Martin Roberts who, along with replacement No.8 Morgan Allen, snapped up a brace of tries each while their other touchdown came from outside half Gareth Thompson who also kicked a penalty and four conversions while replacement back Steffan Jones also added a conversion.

Newport were hoping to close the gap on the Principality Premiership leaders and avenge their narrow 29-27 away defeat against third-placed Cardiff on 15 September.

The Black and Ambers were also seeking their fourth consecutive league win following last month’s successes against Carmarthen Quins, Bargoed and Cross Keys although a much-changed line-up suffered a disappointing 35-17 National Cup home loss at the hands of RGC 1404 on 5 January. Meanwhile, Cardiff were in buoyant mood .having beaten Pontypridd 34-15 in the league on New Year’s Day and Tata Steel 73-43 in the cup.

Newport had to soak up early pressure but they took the lead in the 12th minute when Frewen was put clear on the left wing and he sprinted 30 metres for a fine try which O’Brien converted.

Both teams showed a willingness to play expansive rugby but a defensive error in the 28th minute led to Cardiff levelling the score. Newport failed to clear a high kick into their half and Thompson latched on to the loose ball to race 40 metres unopposed for a try at the posts which he also converted.

Back bounced the home side and energetic home No.8 Reed forced his way over a try but O’Brien was wide with the conversion attempt. With half time fast approaching, confident Newport delivered another telling blow when Richards, following up a kick to the Cardiff line, won the race for the touchdown. O’ Brien’s difficult conversion attempt was wide but Newport were very good value for their 17-7 interval lead. But Cardiff bounced back in he second half and Newport fell short despite their best efforts.

Newport: Tries: E Frewen, M Reed, D Richards, W Evans, M Burgess Pens: M O’Brien Cons: M O’Brien (2) Cardiff: Tries: G Thompson, M Roberts (2), M Allen (2) Pens: G Thompson Cons: G Thompson (4), S Jones Newport: D Richards (H Simons 78); H Lang, C Smith, G O’Driscoll (H Palmer 52), E Frewen; M O’Brien, capt., R James( T Lucas 73); D Preece ( LSmout 78), W Evans ( H Palmer 73), T Piper (G Harris 78), J Bartlett, D Partridge, A Mann ( C Williams 73), K Tayler and M Reed M Burgess 78).

Cardiff: E Howley; T Williams, J Roberts (S Jones 40), B Thomas, J Gatt; G Thompson, M Roberts; T Davies ( F Young 74), J Tomlinson, capt., (I Jenkins 74) P Lloyd ( K Brown 65), J Down, B Murphy, J Botham, Z O’Driscoll ( S Pailor 58) and T Daley (M Allen 47).

Referee: Mr Nigel Owens (WRU) Argus Star Man: Kyle Tayler (Newport)