Derby travelled to Forton Road, to take on 3rd place Newport, with a number of players missing for one reason or another ! The subsequent selection saw McGrath Van Wyk as scrum half, rather than his usual position of winger.
As Newport took the field, their size and power were immediately apparent and they used this to good effect, allied to pace and no little skill, throughout the game.
Derby kicked off, playing down the slope, with the pitch in excellent condition.
After 2 minutes, Newport lost the ball and Jake Barker kicked through, but Newport scrambled back to snuff out the threat.
An excellent pass, after 10 minutes, put Jack Dawson away and he drew the defence before finding Ben Marlow on his shoulder, who touched down for his 12th try of the season. George Castledine converted and Derby were 7 up !
The lead did not last long, about a minute in fact and was the first of 5 Newport tries in the half. With 4 conversions, the game was done and dusted at the break, with Newport 33 – 7 ahead.
The half ended with a nasty injury to Derby full back, Alex Taylorson ; a deep cut which necessitated a hospital visit. Charlie Barker was also unable to continue for the 2nd half, which meant Derby had two props playing in the 2nd row; Adam Parkins and Simon Moon.
The travelling faithful feared the worst for the scoreline, particularly when Newport scored 2 converted tries in the first 15 minutes, but Derby dug deep and performed superbly, showing a never say die attitude, which brought them 2 tries.
The first arrived after another Jack Dawson break, after 59 minutes; when the ball went down the line, George Campbell touched down.
Newport then scored their 8th and final try and followed up with a 7th successful conversion.
7 minutes from time, Derby scored again. A spell of pressure led to McGrath Van Wyk forcing his way over from close range, also for his 12th try of the season. George Castledine converted to complete the scoring.
Derby pressed for their 4th, bonus point try and it is a measure of their belief that the final whistle was met with disappointment that they could not snatch a point.
Newport thoroughly deserved their victory, with Henry Vaka, in the centre, particularly impressive.
Derby have 2 games left, so 2 opportunities for the point they require to better last season’s total of 59 league points.
Nuneaton at home on Saturday is the first of them.
Come on Derby !
Match Report by Richard Bambra