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South West Counties Senior Vase title for Newent
4:00pm Thursday 6th February 2014 in Sport
NEWENT Rugby Club deservedly added the South West Counties Senior Vase to their growing list of honours.
But the Gloucester Premier Division leaders had to work hard to overcome a big, well-organised Old Plymothian and Mannamedian side 18-11 in the final.
A sticky Newent pitch, more stormy weather and two well-drilled defences meant it was never going to be a feast of running rugby.
However, a tense contest was none the less absorbing for being focused around two well-matched sets of forwards.
Newent eight’s superb technique in the scrum gave them a clear edge over their bigger opponents, which was a key factor in the victory.
With the elements in their favour in the first-half, Newent dominated territory and possession but found the Plymouth side hard to break down.
The visitors conceded several penalties for offside but their tackling was quick and strong, closing down talented fly-half Joe Goatley swiftly.
Goatley's long-distance penalty went wide but he played an important role as Newent opened their account with a well-worked try.
Pressure resulted in a close-range scrum and Brett Gardner finished off well after Lee Warren picked up and Goatley moved the ball on.
Goatley’s fine conversion from the touchline put Newent 7-0 ahead after 13 minutes and he added a 25-metre penalty on the half-hour mark.
The fly-half chipped over another penalty to make it 13-0 at the break when the visitors were caught offside.
Full-back Rich Merrett produced a superb tackle early in the second period but then Newent were punished for dissent and conceded their first points through a penalty.
Two minutes later, they were penalised for not releasing and their opponents slotted over another long-range penalty.
Newent’s influential tighthead prop Chris Steward limped off but they retained their prowess at the set-piece and Goatley pulled a three-point opportunity just wide.
However, Luke Marriott and replacement Greg Tovey drove from the base of a ruck close to the line to claim an unconverted touchdown which was credited to the veteran hooker.
Full-back Tom Finnie hit back with a try to make it 18-11 but Newent secured possession and their pack ran down the clock to win.
They are now just two matches away from a return trip to Twickenham. Next up is a visit to Gosford All Blacks or Chesham on February 22.