Cheltenham 17 Newent 10

Newent fell to 17-10 defeat away at Cheltenham on Saturday in a game that sums up their season overall, reports SAM GOATLEY.

A season that showed some much promise at the start before derailing at the half way point.

Newent would have been confident turning round 10-0 up at the break. However they struggled to gain a foothold in the second half as Cheltenham dominated territory and possession. They will rue missed opportunities and failing to build a bigger lead in the first half when the strong wind was behind their backs. However they can have no complaints with the end result; looking at the whole 80 minutes, Cheltenham were good value for their win.

Boosted by the return from injury of talismanic number 8 Ben Vincent, Newent started strongly. Strong carries from Vincent along with back row partner Jack Devries gave Newent go forward and front foot ball, however things weren’t quite clicking when they looked to spread the ball wide.

Still Newent looked well in control, putting Cheltenham under a lot of pressure which resulted in the home side conceding a kickable penalty. On a blustery day Tom Webb was off target with a kick that usually would have been straightforward.

Newent continued to grow into the game, with their attack play becoming more fluid. Quick ball gave the forwards and back the platform to find their attacking connections. Firstly the ball found a barnstorming Jack Devries on the wing who finished well in the corner. Unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of TMO at grassroots level so with the linesman raising his flag the try was not awarded. The play was brought back for a penalty, Newent opted for a shot at goal but again it was off target.

Not to be deterred, they continued to knock on the door. Powerful carries from Vincent, Devries and Leo Oakey had the Cheltenham defence retreating. The ball was spread wide, Will Hartland looked to feed centre partner Harry Tovey for a walk in try, however Tovey was tackled early. The ref sinbinned the Cheltenham defender and awarded a penalty try.

It was all Newent. The next opportunity came when Hartland created space with some lovely movement behind a forward pod, receiving the ball, he then fed the elusive Jacob Ivell. Ivell was brought down just short. Devries picked up and went for the line however he was denied once again, the Cheltenham defence managing to get under the ball. Newent were playing with penalty advantage so play was brought back again. Cheltenham lost another player to the sin bin and this time Webb made no mistake from the Tee. The Green army looked comfortable at 10-0, Cheltenham had hardly threatened the visitors 22.

That changed late in the first half, when their electric winger broke from deep inside his own half, offloading to a support player who looked to destined to escape the reaches of the Newent covering defence. From seemingly nowhere appeared Ben Vincent, not only getting back to make a brilliant tackle but then also releasing the tackled player, jumping to his feet and turning the ball over to stop a certain try.

Rugby is a team game but Vincent consistently standouts when he plays. With his work rate and desire, the impact he has cannot be understated. Some of the Newent faithful will be forgiven for thinking that it’s no coincidence his lengthy absence through injury came in the same period Newent won only 5 out of 10 games, having previously won all 10 games he featured in.

As the half time whistle blew, Newent knew Cheltenham would have their moments in this game. With the wind now in the home sides favour, it was key that Newent kick intelligently and manage the game well. Discipline needed to be squeaky clea

What transpired was the opposite. Newent kicked poorly and allowed Cheltenham plenty of time to counter attack to great effect. Newents defence somehow managed to keep Cheltenham out but that came at a cost, with penalty after penalty awarded to Cheltenham. 

Eventually replacement Jordan Devries, on for injured brother Jack, was sinbinned for a dangerous tackle. By the time the ten minutes were up Cheltenham had scored twice and lead 12-10.

Newent then enjoyed a period of possession in the Cheltenham half, however poor game management and decision making saw them waste these rare opportunities. First an attempted drop goal rolled across the floor. Then a poor chip gave away possession cheaply. Cheltenham were able to clear their lines and once again newent had to play from deep.

More poor kicking gave Cheltenham field position, space and time. Cheltenham, not for the first time in the second half cut through the newent defence, the ball was moved to their rapid winger who scored on the corner and gave Cheltenham a 17-10 lead.

There was little time left on the clock, Newent needed to get the ball back from the kick off and create something quickly. This didn’t happen, Cheltenham controlled the closing stages and saw the game out with ease.

Newent will regret not building a bigger score in the first half but the biggest disappointment was the lack of direction in their play during the second half as well as the poor discipline that allowed Cheltenham to control possession and territory.

The positives from a Newent perspective would be, as mentioned previously the performance of Ben Vincent on his return from injury. Mason Emery also impressed again in only his 3rd game back after an extended break. His work rate and the impact he has in attack and defence must be commended, it will be great to see him kick on as he gets more minutes under his belt. Jac Devries also impressed before injury ended his afternoon. Hopefully it isn’t too serious and we will see him on the pitch before the end of the season.

With plenty of rugby left to play, Newent must now regroup before their final league game at home to Ludlow in 2 weeks. Then there is the national cup campaign and a forest cup final. As a season that promised so much enters the final weeks, the green army will hope to finish the season strongly!