John Kendrick reports:
"It was about the worst game I've seen but at least we won and secured three vital league points", was the comment of Llandovery Coach Iestyn Thomas at the conclusion of this grim basement battle.
Newbridge had targeted this game against fellow strugglers Llandovery in a bid to try and ease their relegation worries. With a huge and experienced pack they threw everything at the Drovers and the battle between ex-Newport colleagues Joe Powell and Llandovery's Andy Powell was not for the faint hearted.
It was a difficult game for referee Keri Evans with the home side consistently infringing and paying scant heed to the laws of the game. A final penalty count of 23 against 7 indicated the difference in attitude between the teams. In fact with the home side killing the ball and diving in at every opportunity the count should have been greater.
Dissent on the field meant Newbridge were marched back 10m a number of times but worse was the attitude of the home crowd with chants of "cheat, cheat" being shouted at the pressurised referee. Despite the high penalty count only one yellow card was issued to lock Paul Watkins for a dangerous head high tackle.
Although the Drovers benefited from the flow of penalties, with full back Celfyn Davies kicking four, it totally stopped any flow to the game which rarely entered either 22m zone.
Playing with a bitterly cold wind in the first half Llandovery took the lead after 2 minutes with their first penalty goal, only to fall behind three minutes later when weak tackling let number 8 John Bowd force his way over for the first try of the game, converted by Ross Watts. Two more penalties restored a narrow 9-7 lead for the Drovers at half time.
Early in the second half a free kick following a line out enabled Newbridge to set up a driving maul to force prop Andrew Oliver over for the home side's second try and restore their lead at 12-9.
Newbridge continued to concede a flow of penalties but against the strong wind goal kicking was almost impossible and even kicks to touch gave little advantage and the game progressed as a rather untidy battle.
At last the Drovers found some space and with Drovers' Ifan Evans swapping passes with his full back the wing was able to cross for his side's first try. This brought about the most unpleasant action of the afternoon when a Newbridge defender, following up after the touch down, slid soccer style with a two footed tackle into the legs of Evans, the resulting bad gash to his leg causing him to be taken off.
An under pressure referee in front of the home support awarded a penalty, for dangerous play, from half way after the successful conversion by Celfyn Davies. Certainly at least a yellow card would have been a more appropriate response but after the match the official claimed that he thought the Newbridge player was going for the ball.
Eventually the fourth Celfyn Davies penalty concluded the scoring and the game played out its last minutes with a series of lines out around the Drovers' 22m line, with the outstanding Adam Jones commandingly denying Newbridge the ball but Llandovery unable to take advantage and clear their lines because of the strong wind. It was certainly a relief when the frozen band of travelling Drovers supporters heard the final whistle.