NEWENT were given their toughest home league game in more than two years but beat Hucclecote 13-6 to stay top of the Gloucester Premier Division.

A heavy pitch, greasy ball, committed opposition and a high error count combined to create an uncomfortable afternoon.

But Newent did enough to secure a hard-earned victory which keeps them at the summit ahead of Bristol Saracens by one point.

On the balance of territory, possession and scoring chances, Newent should have won more comfortably.

Hucclecote did not seriously threaten the Newent try line but will feel they deserved their losing bonus point for an outstanding defensive display.

Their back row and midfield, in particular, worked hard to deny Newent the time and space to play their dynamic off-loading game.

Newent’s backs were far from their fluent best with try-scoring machine Brett Gardner failing to receive a decent pass.

The forward exchanges were fierce throughout, particularly at the breakdown where both teams were on the wrong side of a strong referee.

Initially, Hucclecote felt the wrath of his whistle but, as the game went on, the penalty count went more against Newent.

Eventually, the referee lost patience and yellow carded George Phelps although too late in the game to affect Newent’s chances.

Newent had got off to a flying start through a fine try by Joe Goatley under the posts from Phelps’ pass after a break by scrum-half James Dean following a line-out.

Fly-half Goatley added the conversion and then kicked a 10th-minute penalty for a ruck offence.

Goatley missed two more penalties and Adam Morgan put Hucclecote on the scoresheet before half-time by landing one.

Morgan was again on target early in the second-half but Newent were soon back in the visitors’ territory. Lee Warren was held up just short of the try line before Goatley regained his kicking sights with a penalty to make it 13-6 15 minutes into the second period.

Goatley dropped another just short and the hosts lost prop Chris Steward to injury, forcing a reshuffle and leaving them under pressure at scrums.

But Newent secured victory from a physical contest.