Popular lock and Fijian captain Simon Raiwalui took over the captaincy from retired Gary Teichmann in 2001-02 and ex-Springbok coach Ian McIntosh took over the coaching role from Allan Lewis on a 1yr contract. Springbok scrum half Joost van der Westhuizen, arguably the best scrum half in the game, initially agreed a 1yr contract but then decided not to join Newport. New signings included Welsh prop Chris Anthony, Welsh lock and former Newport player Mike Voyle, former NZ / Samoa scrum half Ofisa Tonu'u and Ebbw Vale outside-half Jason Strange. Popular forward Gareth Taylor joined Pontypool and other players to depart were Darren Edwards, Martyn Llewellyn, Scott Mitchell, Neil McKim, Paul Jones and long serving David Gray who retired.
There was a disappointing start as Newport lost 3 of their first 5 matches against Cardiff (A), Munster (A) and Connacht (H). Despite these defeats Newport still qualified for the newly created Celtic League Q/F's only to lose at Leinster in December. Newport then went to the Gnoll where they had not beaten Neath for 7 years. A superb debut by ex-NZ and Samoan scrum-half Tonu'u ensured a rare Newport victory by 19 v 11 in the Welsh Scottish League. A win at Bridgend, also in theWSL set Newport up for their Heineken European Cup match at Newcastle, the holders of the English Cup. Despite 7 pg's by England's Jonny Wilkinson, Newport achieved a magnificent victory by 33 v 21.
A narrow 21 v 20 win over French Champions Toulouse thanks to a last minute try and conversion by Shane Howarth meant that confidence was high for their next HC match at home to Leinster. 10,000 fans roared Newport on and at 21 v 20 seemed well in control before part of the floodlights failed. After much confusion with Leinster refusing to play on, both sides were taken off the field. The match was finally resumed after some 20 mins delay but the momentum was lost and Leinster got a second wind and ran out controversial winners 21 v 26 and so effectively ended Newport's European Cup hopes.
Newport's hopes of retaining the Welsh Cup also ended in controversial fashion at Cardiff when Newport were the victims of some appalling refereeing and went down 20 v 14. This left the Welsh Scottish League which Newport appeared to have sewn up but they then lost 3 matches in a row - Neath (H), Swansea (A) and Cardiff (H). Wins at Glasgow and home to Pontypridd and Bridgend kept their slim hopes alive. It meant that Llanelli had to win at Cardiff to take the title from Newport. This match was watched by many Newport supporters who reluctantly willed Cardiff on. The match was tied 25 v 25 as the final whistle approached but Cardiff gave away a penalty in stoppage time and Llanelli took Cardiff's ground record and the WSL Title with a 25 v 28 win leaving Newport as runners-up for the second time in three years. It was a season of what might have been. Newport certainly had their share of bad luck but they lost matches that they should have won and too many times did not take the chances that their magnificent pack which included Rod Snow, Adrian Garvey, Chris Anthony, Simon Raiwalui, Mike Voyle, Peter Buxton and Jason Forster set up.
However Newport had certainly returned to the top table of Welsh rugby and were attracting some of the biggest crowds in the UK. Simon Raiwalui 31 again led the appearances with Peter Buxton also on 31. James Richards made 30 and the leading points scorer was again Shane Howarth with 271. Wing Matt Mostyn was again leading try scorer with 16.