A NEWENT side shorn of several regular starters due to injury and unavailability suffered their first defeat The Rec since October 2022, as Silhillians shaded a game which was in the balance throughout to overtake their opponents in the table, writes Simon Barker.

Newent’s success this season has been built on being clinical in taking their chances whilst defending their line with total commitment, qualities which the visitors from Solihull demonstrated in spades as Newent spent the closing minutes of the game pressing hard for what would have been the winning score.

Newent struck the first blow with a top drawer try on their first entry into Silhillians’ territory.

After securing their ball at a lineout near halfway, carries from Dan Fletcher then Leo Oakey made dents in the Silhillians defence before a break from Will Hartland split it wide open. 

Nathan Brooks steamed up on his outside to take the outside centre’s well-timed pass and touch down in the left-hand corner, before converting his try from the touchline.

The lead was short-lived, Silhillians’ left-wing Jack Brennan crossing wide on the left to finish a multi-phased attack which stretched the Newent defence to breaking point. Kieran Joyce’s touchline conversion was as good as his opposite number’s.

Nathan Brooks’ aim was not so true with an attempt at goal after Silhillians were penalised on their 10m line, but Newent kept up the pressure and a jackal from hooker Will Tanner gave them a prime attacking position in the opposition 22. 

Dan Fletcher and Nathan Brooks were stopped just short of the line before another penalty saw Silhillians’ hooker Tom King yellow carded. 

Newent opted for a 5m scrum but lost possession due to a knock on and a golden opportunity was lost.

Silhillians secured their scrum ball and attacked from their own line, a break from outside centre Ben Freeman taking play all the way to the Newent 22. 

Most of the remainder of the half was played in Newent territory but Silhillians didn’t add to their account until it was nearly at a close. 

Newent were penalised at a ruck and then conceded another 10m for something said out of turn, bringing the kick comfortably within the range of Kieran Joyce who obliged from the tee to give the visitors a narrow 7-10 lead at the interval.

Silhillians extended their lead early in the second half with an opportunist try.  The Newent defence was slow to deal with a well-chased kick downfield. 

Jack Brennan took advantage and found pacey full back Louis Roach in support for a finish wide on the right. 

Kieran Joyce’s conversion attempt bounced back off an upright, but the visitors were more than a score ahead at 7-15.

Newent were quick to respond – a penalty earned by their pack’s powerful scrummaging giving them a foothold in the Silhillians 22. 

Here a series of scrums ended with Newent’s full back Fin Mellis finishing well wide on the left and a yellow card for the visitors’ tight head Luke Hoey. 

Nathan Brooks’ conversion attempt was narrowly off target, leaving the score at 12-15.

Newent were soon back in the opposition 22 as Silhillians’ penalty count racked up.  They resisted intense pressure until Nathan Brooks did well to find a gap to touch down under the posts. 

His conversion put Newent ahead 19-15 and with the large crowd getting behind them it felt like the force was with the hosts as the game entered its final quarter.

Silhillians regained the initiative immediately however, with another counter attacking try showcasing their dangerous runners. 

They ran back a clearance kick from inside their own half, replacement Sam Dugger making the decisive break before releasing Ben Freeman for a run to the line. 

Kieran Joyce’s conversion attempt was wide of the mark, but he made no mistake from the tee a few minutes later when Newent were penalised for a high tackle 35m out to take the score to 19-23.

When Silhillians were caught offside around 45m out Newent opted to go for goal themselves, but Nathan Brooks’ attempt was off target. 

Silhillians continued to concede penalties and realising that only a try would do as the clock ticked down- Newent used them to set up camp in the 22. 

The visitors were reduced to 14 men when openside Conor Joyce was shown a second yellow card but the rest of the team continued to defend for their lives, resisting two diving mauls from close range lineouts and a series of 5m scrums.

Eventually Newent lost possession inches from the line, allowing Kieran Joyce to clear behind the dead ball line to spark Silhillians celebrations while Newent rued missed opportunities.

Newent: F Mellis; J Hartland, W Hartland, D Fletcher (capt.), J Cooper; N Brooks, J Preston; D Boon, W Tanner, R Townsend; M Henry, P Middlemiss; Jordan Devries, L Oakey, Jack Devries.  Replacement: A Larcombe.