Byline: STEVE JAMES
MAY 11 is a long time ago. In fact, some 168 days before last Saturday. But that was the last time that Newport had won a rugby match.
Thankfully now that date can be consigned to the history books where it belongs and Newport can press on with the rehabilitation of their season after this ultimately comfortable but far-from-convincing victory over a disappointing Borders.
Newport will be under no illusions as to the enormity of the task ahead, for this was, after all, only a dead Celtic League fixture between two distinctly belowstrength teams. But the relief was there for all to see.
``Phew, I was starting to worry that it might never come,'' exclaimed coach Leigh Jones afterwards. ``I'm just delighted for the youngsters. They wanted an opportunity. They have got it and they have put their hands up. It wasn't particularly pretty but we gutsed it out and it was all about getting the result and getting some confidence to get our show on the road.''
Indeed it was not pretty. In fact the first half bordered (if you will excuse the pun) on the downright ugly, such was the proliferation of handling errors, fluffed scoring opportunities and misdirected kicks, both out of hand and at the posts. Home flyhalf Jason Strange endured a mixed match, slotting four penalties to provide a platform for his side's secondhalf dominance but missing three.
Thankfully the introduction of Shane Howarth on the hour injected fresh zest and creativity after Newport had begun the second half with encouraging purpose given recent matches.
``The pattern of our games this season has been that we have gone in at half-time well placed only to lose the game in the 15 minutes after the break. But here that was the crucial period of the match, even though we didn't get any points,'' said Jones.
Indeed the Borders did not venture beyond the halfway line until some 12 minutes after the interval, with Newport pounding …