Byline: ANDY HOWELL
A PIECE of magic from Robert Howley settled a dramatic Principality Cup quarter-final against the holders at the Arms Park last night in Cardiff's favour.
His side, who had to field a young lock forward pairing in Luke Tait, who was making his first start, and Adam Jones because of injuries, trailed 14-13 when the Wales scrum-half pounced in the 75th minute.
Newport had been penalised - one of many controversial incidents - at a scrum but swarmed all over the Cardiff pack following the line-out that followed.
However, they left the door open for the British Lions star to throw a dummy and waltz away for the match-winning score.
Even Newport coach Ian MacIntosh applauded the effort, saying, "That try from Howley was a real gem."
The touchdown was just the fillip Howley needed after being given a torrid time behind a beaten Welsh pack against England at Twickenham last weekend and could bolster his confidence, if selected against Scotland next weekend.
McIntosh declined to comment on the refereeing performance of David Davies, who confused many people with some of his decisions, except to accuse the touch judges of ruling on matters outside their remit.
But the former South Africa coach knows Newport only have themselves to blame for defeat after being in control for much of an absorbing encounter watched by a sell-out crowd of 13,200.
His team must have been kicking themselves all the way back to their Rodney Parade home following the first inter-city clash between the deadly enemies after failing to capitalise on their dominance.
Goal-kicker Shane Howarth may have carried the can in the eyes of some watchers but that would have been unfair because Iestyn Harris was no better for Cardiff. Harris landed four out of eight and Howarth, who was also off-target with a drop-goal, three out of seven.
Cardiff coach Rudy Joubert claimed his side deserved to win because of the effort it put in. In fairness to them they outscored Newport 2-1 in tries - Howley and another world name, Pieter Muller, providing the two key moments to keep a remarkable home record intact - and kept dangermen Andrew Powell and Ofisa Tonu'u quiet.
It was former South Africa centre Muller's crunching tackle on No 8 Powell that allowed Cardiff to pinch the ball and sweep into a 58th minute lead.
Harris spotted Newport did not have a defensive sweeper so kicked over the top. It became a sprint and home centre Jamie Robinson, playing his first game since injuring an ankle for Wales in Ireland on February 3, easily won it.
The first-half had been a penalty battle between Wales union and rugby league international Harris and Howarth, the Newport outsidehalf shading it to give them a 9-6 advantage.
Their reply to Robinson's score, converted by …