Brown Barred, But Powell Stars As Newport Fight Back
15 March 2002 21:40
EBBW VALE 22, NEWPORT 32
It was a remarkable evening at Eugene Cross Park as Newport twice came from behind to consoldiate their position at the top of the Welsh/Scottish League.
But the drama began even before kick-off on a rainsoaked pitch when Ebbw Vale director Paul Russell ordered stewards to turn away the Newport benefactor Tony Brown at the gate.
Not only was Brown made unwelcome at the game, but the Steelmen also faxed Rodney Parade to tell the Newport chief executive Keith Grainger he was not permitted to watch the game.
As it was, Grainger was unable to make the game, but Brown was forced to watch the match on a big screen in the pub next door to Eugene Cross Park along with Newport chairman David Watkins.
Russell made his stand because of the wrnaglings between the so-called 'Gang of Six' clubs in the Premier Division who Ebbw see as trying to force them out of the top flight.
The game itself turned into a classic contest on a quagmire of a pitch. With the wind at their backs in the first half Ebbw steamed into a 9-0 lead through three Gareth Cull penalties before Newport hit back with tries from No 8 Andrew Powell and full back Matt Pini.
Powell's try was a pick up an drive off the back of a strong Newport scrum five metres out, while Pini's score owed everything to Wales centre Andy Marinos' great break.
A fourth Cull penalty gave Ebbw the lead at the break. Shane Howarth finally hit the mark in the second half with a penalty and then he converted a try by Marinos from the foot of the posts.
Cull hauled Ebbw back into the contest with his fifth penalty to cut the gap to five points and the right wing then thrust his side ahead once again with a simple run in at the corner after a great run and off-load by fellow wing Andrew Wagstaff.
Faced with a touchline conversion to regain the lead, Cull hit the mark and with 15 minutes to go the league leaders were under the cosh.
Howarth missed a penalty shot to edge the black and ambers back infront and for much of the closing quarter it was the fired-up Ebbw pack who held the aces.
But a brilliant brak out of defence by Newport, spearheaded by Powell and Marinos, cleared the way for Jason Forster to give right wing Matt Mostyn a slight overlap.
The Irish international outflanked the defence to notch his 10th try of the season and Newport were back infront.
Ebbw went for the win when they were awarded a penalty close to the Newport line, but the visitors' defence held firm.
Jason Strange, a replacement for Howarth, then pushed an injury time penalty kick wide of the mark and as Ebbw tried to keep the ball alive from behind their own posts, the ball reached the predatory Powell on the home 22.
He jinked back inside the cover, turned on the pace and ran through Llyr Lane to grab his second try.
Strange converted and the league leaders moved another step towards a possible first title.
Scorers: Ebbw Vale: Try: G Cull; Con: G Cull; Pens: G Cull 5. Newport: Tries; A Powell 2, M Pini, A Marinos, M Mostyn; Cons: S Howarth, J Strange; pen: S Howarth.
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