NEWPORT’S coaching team have been hailed for achieving ‘mission impossible’ with a first cup final since 2003 after a challenging year off the field for the Black and Ambers, writes Chris Kirwan.

The club will take on Merthyr in Sunday’s WRU National Cup final at Principality Stadium (kick-off 5.35pm) less than 12 months after there were grave fears about their future.

Newport shareholders faced a vote on whether to sell their historic Rodney Parade home to the Welsh Rugby Union as part of their Dragons takeover.

They gave the green light and the hard work began for the Black and Ambers’ volunteers, who have been rewarded for their toil with a big day out in the capital to cheer on Craig Warlow's team.

“To be looking at a cup final and to be towards the top of the Premiership, nobody in the room on that night of the vote would have thought that possible,” said Kev Jarvis, a founder member of the Friends of Newport Rugby Trust who became a member of the club’s board.

“We’ve managed to keep the players away from the distractions of everything that is going on off the pitch and the coaches have done a fantastic job of keeping everybody focused and bringing through some really good youngsters as well.

“Some signings have gelled quickly, then throw in the old hands that have been here a few seasons and we’ve put together a really good team.

“It’s nice to be talking about what’s happening on the pitch rather than what’s happening off it.”

Nonetheless, it has been a season of dramatic change for the Black and Ambers, who have had to develop new revenue streams after the sale of their historic home.

“The financial outlook at the start of the season was pretty bleak,” admitted Jarvis. “When we looked at the costs to play at Rodney Parade we were very concerned but David Buttress has helped us a great deal with cost-saving since he has come on board (as Dragons chairman).

“He has been very positive about the future of Newport RFC at Rodney Parade and has been instrumental in helping us lower costs.

“That’s good but we are still looking at quite a considerable deficit this year, although the management at the Dragons and WRU are helping us get to a position where hopefully it’s sustainable going forward.

“The cup run helps, because we are selling tickets, more merchandise and there is a lot of enthusiasm, plus if we win there is a prize involved.

“But we are cutting costs. The squad has had to be trimmed and we are not spending money on anything non-essential.”

The club are creating non-voting heritage shares for major shareholders that will enable them to sell share to the public.

“It’s a long, long time since shares were issued,” said Jarvis. “There are a lot of people supporting Newport now that are now shareholders and we would like them to have a vote in the club’s future.

“If they are willing to buy shares then it’s a good thing to get the current support involved in decisions about our future direction.”