Late surge keeps Blue & Blacks in the hunt; Newport 14, Cardiff 17.
WITH an hour gone at Rodney Parade last night, Cardiff's season looked to be over.
Having been under the cosh for most of the match, they were trailing 14-3 and there seemed no way back.
Defeat would have effectively spelt the end of their title hopes and consigned them to a season devoid of any silverware.
But cometh the hour and cometh the men - the young men of Cardiff, that is.
During the final quarter, the Blue & Blacks turned the game on its head in the most dramatic fashion, securing an unlikely victory with converted tries from Anthony Sullivan and Jamie Robinson.
As a result, their title bid is now very much back on.
There's still plenty of work to do, with Rudy Joubert's men needing to win four games in the space of ten days to clinch the championship.
And they are testing games at that, with trips to Glasgow (next Tuesday) and Swansea (May 4) to be followed by Arms Park encounters with Bridgend (May 7) and title rivals Llanelli (May 10).
But by beating Newport, they have placed their destiny in their own hands.
If they do win all four, they win the title, regardless of what anyone else does.
It could yet come down to a winnertakes-all decider against Llanelli in 13 days time, which would be a great climax to the Welsh-Scottish league season.
Such a prospect seemed a long way off for most of last night's match.
Playing with the strong wind at their backs in the first half, Newport dominated proceedings and should have led by more than 9-0 at the break.
They had to rely on the boot of Shane Howarth for those points, with a a number of try-scoring opportunities going begging.
However it didn't look as though that was going to matter when Matt Mostyn came off his wing to round off a well-worked backs move on 48 minutes.
Cardiff were struggling to impose themselves on the game and make the most of the elements, with their play lacking in pattern and direction.
But then on 63 minutes the match took a decisive turn.
Fittingly, it was the visitors' outstanding individual, Ryan Powell, who sparked their revival.
The young scrum-half was the one player who was a thorn in Newport's side throughout, with his pace off the mark and eye for a gap, and he must surely have impressed the watching Wales coach Steve Hansen.
When his big moment arrived, the situation hardly looked promising for Cardiff, with their scrum under pressure and Jason Forster breathing down his neck.
But evading Forster's clutches, Powell spun away and broke clear.
When he was finally hauled down, the play went right, where Jamie Robinson put in a grubber kick which Ben Breeze failed to deal with under harrassment from Rhys Williams, enabling Sullivan to pounce ahead of Hal Luscombe.
It was now game on and six minutes from time Cardiff struck the killer blow.
Once again it came from a pressurised scrum, with Dan Baugh the man to start things off this time.
Picking up on the retreat at the base, he made excellent ground down the narrow side, with his legs pumping away as three Black & Ambers clung on to his back.
The ball was then spun out left, with Iestyn Harris making the crucial break before feeding replacement centre Nicky Robinson, who drew the last man and sent his brother Jamie over for a superb try.
Newport hurled themselves forward in the closing minutes, but there was no way through and they went down to their third defeat of the season against their old rivals.
That's their title dream pretty much over now, which will be a bitter pill for them to swallow.
Ultimately, it's their inability to fully capitalise on their powerful forward platform and their lack of a cutting edge that has cost them.
With Cardiff, the opposite is true.
They can win games even when they struggle up front, such is the potency behind.
They now had for Scotland on Tuesday knowing exactly what they have to do.
Whether they can do it, only time will tell.
MOVING OUT Caardiff scrumhalf Ryan Powell clears the ball from a ruck. PICTURE: Andrew Orchard UP FOR IT Cardiff's Craig Morgan challenges Shane Howarth, of Newport, in last night's game. PICTURE: Andrew Orchard
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|Publication:||South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)|
|Date:||Apr 27, 2002|
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