NEWPORT slipped to an agonising defeat against Pontypridd on a dramatic afternoon at Rodney Parade, writes Guto Davies.

With less than 10 minutes remaining, the Black and Ambers led 35-23 before the visitors hit back with two converted tries. Matt O’Brien then missed a chance to snatch it with the last kick as Newport instead had to settle for two bonus points.

Despite the excitement to come, the first quarter of the game was a dogfight in no-man’s land with neither try line threatened. But the scoreboard was ticking over as opposing outside halves O’Brien of Newport and Diggy Bird of Pontypridd cancelled each other out with two penalties apiece.

The try deadlock was eventually broken by the visitors as livewire Blues scrum-half Jamie Hill sniped down the blindside from a line-out take, allowing winger Alex Webber to arc in near the posts, with the conversion added by Bird.

The contest then picked up in tempo resulting in a flurry of tries either side of the break.

The Black and Ambers struck back emphatically, firstly through another O’Brien penalty, then a try scored by rangy centre Harry Griffiths following a counter from deep, converted by O’Brien.

Following a frenetic period of play it was Ponty who ended the first period on a high, Jamie Hill bursting through and Bird’s conversion putting his team 20-16 up at the break.

That lead was, however, shortlived as Newport scored twice in quick succession. Hooker Brodie Coghlan charged over following a tap penalty and then winger Jon Morris rounded off a wide attack, the first try converted by O’Brien.

Ponty kept in touch through a Bird penalty, but the home side looked to dominate as captain Rhys Jenkins crossed, supporting a break by Harry Griffiths with O’Brien again converting.

There was high drama to come at the death, Newport losing winger Elliot Frewen to the sin-bin and Ponty rallying to claim a bonus point win courtesy of late tries scored by lock Sean Moore and Dragons Academy full-back Morgan Richards, both converted by Bird.

Into injury time, O’Brien aimed a penalty kick at goal from the half way line but his effort drifted wide.

Newport: David Richards, Elliot Frewen, Geraint O’Driscoll, Harry Griffiths, Jon Morris, Matt O’Brien, Luke Crane, Lewis Smout, Brodie Coghlan, Garin Harris, Andrew Mann, Joe Bartlett, Josh Skinner, Kyle Tayler, Rhys Jenkins (captain)

Reps: Louis Jones, Evan Whitson, Tom Piper, Garin Price, Josh Reid, Geraint Watkin, Llywarch ap Myrddin, Ryan Gardner

Scorers: Tries: Griffiths, Coghlan, Morris, Jenkins; Cons: O’Brien 3; Pens: O’Brien 3

Pontypridd: Morgan Richards, Alex Webber, Corey Sheppard, Dafydd Lockyer (captain), Dale Stuckey, Diggy Bird, Jamie Hill, Ben Stephens, Nathan Huish, Morgan Bosanko, Sean Moore, James Murphy, Kristian Parker, Rhys Shellard, Morgan Sieniawski

Reps: Curtis Reynolds, Ross Davies, Rhydian Jenkins, Lloyd Evans, Sion Parry, Tom Rowlands, Dafydd Carter, Rhodri Smith

Scorers: Tries: Webber, Hill, Moore, Richards; Cons: Bird 4; Pens: Bird 3