All White on the Night for Newport

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), April 22, 2002 | Go to article overview

All White on the Night for Newport


Byline: Richard Clifford at St Helen's

SWANSEA 52 NEWPORT 13 A WEEK ago everything looked to be black and white for Newport as they looked down on the rest of the Welsh-Scottish League.

But after Wednesday's 'blackwash' at the hands of Neath and Saturday's 'whitewash' at Swansea, Newport's prospects are in a distinctly grey area.

A top-five finish is already guaranteed, but a campaign that began with so much optimism and so much promise, is in danger of grinding to a shuddering halt.

In fairness to Newport this was probably the worst possible time to be playing the All Whites.

Languishing in seventh place at the start of play, Swansea's star-studded team knew that anything less than a win would probably sound the death knell for their own Heineken Cup qualification hopes.

New Aussie coach John Connolly also arrived on Thursday to take his first look at the St Helen's set-up, something that surely gave the club's under-achieving players a swift kick up the rear end.

And history also suggested a home win, Newport's last success down by the seas coming 26 years ago.

However, if a Newport defeat didn't exactly register on the Richter scale, the manner of it certainly did.

The Black and Ambers were simply destroyed by a Swansea side who made a complete mockery of their previous dire displays this season.

Newport, missing injured half-backs Ofisa Tonu'u and Shane Howarth, offered next to nothing behind the scrum in terms of creativity.

More worrying was the fact that a full-strength pack - one that has held it's own against the best in Europe this season - was so comprehensively destroyed.

Swansea were tighter at the setpieces and yards quicker to the breakdown.

The platform laid up front allowed half-backs Sililo Martens and Arwel Thomas to dominate proceedings, unleashing the likes of Scott Gibbs, Mark Taylor, Kevin Morgan and Brian Lima out wide to devastating effect.

Newport didn't help their own cause by turning over possession with alarming regularity.

They also lost both flankers, Jason Forster and Peter Buxton, to the sin bin for deliberately killing the ball, a fate that also befell Lima.

At the centre of it all was the diminutive figure of Thomas.

The Welsh international fly-half finished with 32 points from a full-house and new national coach Steve Hansen cannot have failed to be impressed.

Hansen's predecessor Graham Henry, also among the crowd, was never really convinced by Thomas.

But if, as he has gone on record as saying, the slate is now wiped clean, then Hansen must consider taking Thomas to South Africa this summer.

He brings something to the party that no other fly-half in Wales is capable of bringing and the hard grounds of the Republic will certainly suit his game. …

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