"by Roger Panting"
"Tonight is the acid test as to how far Newport have improved in the last month. On 25th March at Stradey Park Newport could not cope with the pace and power of Llanelli's game and were comfortably defeated by the Scarlets in the W.R.U. Challenge Cup Quarter-Final tie. However, since that game Newport have probably produced their best performances of the season, crushing Bridgend in a stunning second half display and quelling the lively Edinburgh Reivers, more easily than the final score of 35-27 would suggest."
"Many of the Newport players seem rejuvenated by the sun on their backs and this, coupled with the reasonably firm pitches, have seen Newport provide an exciting brand of rugby. Jason Jones-Hughes and Andy Marines, their Southern Hemisphere centres, are now showing their true worth, scoring five tries between them in Newport's last two fixtures. The speed of their passing was best illustrated in the second half of the Edinburgh match, when brilliant transfers of the ball created a scoring opportunity for Martyn Llewellyn. The wing hared away but chipped ahead instead of feeding the supporting Jason Forster, who was a certain scorer, but the flanker was not seen by Llewellyn and the chance was lost. However, the wing more than made up for that error with a crunching head-on tackle on Kevin Utterson, the powerful Edinburgh centre, who was twice Llewellyn's size, which brought the biggest cheer of the afternoon and was worth the admission money alone."
"In the pack Simon Raiwalui, Gareth Taylor and Rod Snow all enjoyed themselves with ball in hand and the latter was rewarded for his efforts by picking up the sponsor's award for Man of the Match. Two of Newport's largely unsung heroes, Joe Powell and Dale Burn, also had lively games and contributed fully to an excellent team effort. The game itself was a thoroughly enjoyable one, with Edinburgh playing a full part in the proceedings. Their concession of an early ten points to Newport didn't aid the cause, but when they eventually got going one had to admire the industry of international flankers Martin Leslie and Cameron Mather and the speed and flair of Kenny Milligan and Derrick Lee, their two wings. The only criticism of the Newport performance was at times the somewhat casual defence, which allowed Edinburgh to pick up some easy points, and Allan Lewis, Newport's Director of Rugby, will certainly warn his players that any repetition of this will be heavily punished by Llanelli, his former side."
"Tonight's game is of monumental importance because Newport need to win to ensure that Heineken European Cup Qualification remains in their own hands. A defeat tonight and a Swansea win at Pontypridd would see Swansea leapfrog Newport in the league table and go two points ahead, whilst Newport would remain level on points with Pontypridd. However, a defeat may not ultimately be crucial as there is a vast difference between the remaining fixtures of the three sides competing for two European Qualification spots . . . Swansea have still to visit Ebbw Vale and Cardiff and entertain Edinburgh; Pontypridd travel to Bridgend and Caerphilly and entertain Llanelli, as opposed to Newport who have home games against Glasgow and Dunvant and a journey to Caerphilly next Saturday."
"Llanelli are already guaranteed European Cup football next season, and if they were to lose tonight it's just possible that they could finish out of the top five. At this moment in time they are just one point ahead of both Pontypridd and Newport, so victories for Swansea and Newport tonight would see Llanelli placed fifth - and after tonight they still have to visit Cardiff, Pontypridd and Edinburgh, with only a home game against Neath. Is it really possible that the best team in Wales this season won't finish in the top five in the domestic league? ... if that be the case, then only the top four placed sides in the league would progress to the European Cup and Newport have to ensure that they are one of them."