Bridgend Ravens
2005/2006 Principality Premiership
Bridgend 43 v 20 Cardiff
17 December 2005 - Morganstone Brewery Field, Bridgend
Cardiff

Match Report

Bridgend 43 Cardiff 20

Cardiff left the Brewery Field pitch with the definite feeling that their glass was half-full rather than half-empty. They had given their all for 80 minutes and more and could only ruefully reflect that the final score and 23-point winning margin flattered Bridgend.

The Ravens are a good side, blessed with a streetwise pack ably led by Mike Powell and inspired by their own Father Time, number 8 Andrew Williams. The latter has been around the block a few times but remains as effective as ever. All arms, elbows and legs he still pops up in the most unlikely of places, invariably carrying the ball and unsettling the opposition. Reminiscent in fact of Cardiff's own Williams of not so long ago, Owain, that supreme servant and clubman. How Cardiff could do with him now.

But the 'half-full' approach suggests that there were many bright spots in this latest defeat for the Blue & Blacks. Unannounced in advance but welcome news on the day, Nick Macleod returned to action after three months sidelined with a neck injury. His cultured performance at fly-half lifted Blue & Black spirits, the more so when it was soon evident that Dafydd Hewitt, in his case after six months away with a serious knee injury, was also at hand with pace, guile and attacking intent.

A third boost was the presence of Dean Dewdney on the right wing, soon to be confirmed as a permanent member of the Premiership squad. Yet when your luck is down....he was forced to miss the second half with a rib injury and could now be unavailable again for the foreseeable future.

The encouraging news didn't stop there. Jamie Roberts at last came into his own as an attacking threat, regularly coming into the line at pace and skipper Owen Ruttley was still galloping around with effect in the closing stages. In the pack none did better than Bradley Davies, Nathan Trevett was as active as Ruttley in the loose and still going strong at the end while Chris Stamatakis performed wonders at number 8 at the back of a struggling scrum.

Macleod and Gareth David exchanged penalties in the opening stages and though Bridgend opened the try scoring when prop Gareth Alexander got the final touchdown from a catch-and-drive the Blue & Blacks were already stretching the game wide. Their reward came after Hewitt had made a swingeing break on the right. The ball was recycled left for Trevett and Ryan Price to provide the final passes before Roberts jogged in unopposed from 30 metres.

Macleod,  kicking excellently, slotted the conversion from near the touchline. Cardiff led 10-8 after 25 minutes. The momentum could not be maintained. Williams, inevitably, stretched out his long arm for the second Bridgend try and Adam Whitney, an outstanding flanker, looped outside his backs for his side's third.

Cardiff's heads did not go down. Macleod goaled a penalty with another pinpoint kick from a tricky angle on the right with the last kick of the first half. Early in the second a lineout on the left gave the fly-half the opportunity to provide a perfectly weighted pass for Hewitt to run onto and sprint through to the Bridgend posts.

With an hour gone, Bridgend had been pegged back to 22-20. Fatefully, Cardiff's inexperience showed as they tried to force the game. A charge down kick in the 22 allowed Williams to chase the ball and when he was shouldered off the ball a penalty try was awarded. Then the ball was lost in the tackle near the Bridgend 22 and Roger Davies ran 70 metres for another home try. Fourteen points conceded in four minutes. A familiar scenario.

What was not so familiar was Cardiff finishing strongly. Despite another try for Whitney - with David converting to finish with 13 points - Ruttley twice went close to scoring in the closing stages.

Bridgend deserved to win, if not by 23 points. But there's life in the Blue & Blacks yet