NEWPORT fly-half Matt O’Brien clinched a thrilling victory for his side over reigning Principality Premiership champions Merthyr by kicking a last-gasp penalty deep into injury time, writes Geoff Champion.

O’Brien, who had also found the target with three earlier penalties and converted a fifth-minute try by centre Tom Pascoe, jumped for joy as he saw the ball fly between the posts from his short-range kick.

The visitors thoroughly deserved the win because they refused to be intimidated by the Ironmen’s powerful pack and launched a series of enterprising attacks that pinned their opponents deep inside their own territory in the closing stages.

Merthyr looked decidedly off colour with far too many passes being spilled and a lack of discipline at crucial times in a generally scrappy match.

The home side’s points came from a brace of tries by hooker Rhys Williams, a penalty each from full-back Matthew Jarvis and fly-half replacement Richard Powell, and a Jarvis conversion.

Newport expected the toughest of battles against Merthyr having already been beaten twice by the Ironmen in the first half of the season.

The Black and Ambers made a bright start and led after five minutes.

The visitors snapped up the loose ball from an untidy Merthyr lineout to enable O’Brien to chip the ball ahead for Pascoe to grab a try at the posts. O’Brien kicked the simple conversion.

Full-back Geraint O’Driscoll lived dangerously a few minutes later when he was trapped in possession near his own line but the Ironmen could not take advantage.

Merthyr then turned the screw with some powerful scrummage surges, while skipper and second row Craig Locke secured good ball at the lineout but the Newport defence held firm.

However, all this pressure finally told when home hooker Williams collected a try from a rolling maul and Jarvis added the conversion to level the scores.

O’Brien put the visitors back ahead with a penalty but the home side had the final say of a somewhat scrappy first half when Williams crossed for his second try after another rolling maul. Jarvis could not convert.

Jarvis and Powell both struck penalties either side of six kicked points from O’Brien after the break, before the Newport skipper ended Merthyr’s 16-match unbeaten run with that all-important injury-time penalty.

Scorers: Merthyr – Tries: R Williams (2); Pens: M Jarvis, R Powell; Con: M Jarvis

Newport – Try: T Pascoe; Pens: M O’Brien (4); Con: M O’Brien.

Merthyr: M Jarvis (R Carter 63); K Evans, T Riley, A Pinches, K Phillips; G Davies (R Powell 63), J James; N Trevett, R Williams, J Rees, B Sier (J Davies 54) (L Jones 67), C Locke (capt), N White (E Siggery 54), O Davies, P Rees

Newport: G O’Driscoll; J Morris, Haydn Palmer, T Pascoe, E Frewen; M O’Brien (capt), O Davies (R James 60); J Lavender, Henry Palmer (W Evans 60), G Harris, J Bartlett (A Mann 43), D Partridge, M Burgess, K Tayler, A Everett

Star man: Matt O’Brien