Bridgewater 17 v 31 Cardiff
26 August 2006 - Bridgwater

Match Report

Bridgewater 17 Cardiff 31

The Blue & Blacks received great hospitality at Bridgwater and returned the favour by putting on another workmanlike show highlighted by five good tries.
Reports coming back from Scotland last week and observations at training sessions suggested that at long last there will be genuine competition for places in the first XV and on this evidence those expectations appear justified.

Unit skills among the forwards were mostly impressive and, if the midfield stuttered from time to time, at least there was the satisfaction of seeing a welcome opportunism out wide when the chances occurred.

A swirling wind on an otherwise sunny afternoon failed to deter the side's ambition. Gareth Gravell continued from where he left off last season by leading by example and the pack, much changed in the second half, responded impressively. Newcomer James Down from Llantwit Fardre, who is not 19 until next week, used his 6'7" to great advantage in the lineouts and another full debutant, ex-Lydney prop Luke Hunter, looked a useful customer. One worry for the pack late on was the ankle injury suffered by Rhys Gill but it is too early to assess the damage.

Cardiff started well and though Chris Anderson missed with a sitter of a penalty goal in the third minute they were soon on the score sheet. Working through the phases the backs moved left and then back right where Daniel Gravell easily shrugged off the last defender for a try near the posts. Anderson converted.

That score came in the 12th minute and though there were no further tries until 14 minutes later there was plenty to enthuse about as the new combinations began to show cohesion. Eventually, Elgan Jones, playing at full-back after the late withdrawal of Leon Andrews, came into the line at outside centre and took full advantage of a clear run-in for his 43rd try for the club.

Bridgwater were proving to be a lively outfit and were rewarded with a deserved try when Andy Webber raced over under the posts and Christian Wulff converted. On the brink of half-time Owen Ruttley worked a simple 8-9 move with Tom Games off a 5-metre scrum for a try near the left corner.

Cardiff started the second half with Gill and Mike Leaman in the front row in place of Gareth Gunter and Ryan Price. They soon scored again and in thrilling fashion. Anderson manufactured a clever chip kick inside his own 22 and Thomas James collected the ball and showed everyone a clean pair of heels in a 70-metre dash to the distant home goal-line. With co-centre Richard Jones also showing good form, Richard Davies already impressive in Selkirk and, next week, Shaun James itching to return to Blue & Black colours after his season in Cornwall, that competition for places is very evident in the centre.

Ruttley, encouraged by his first half try, repeated the feat in the 63rd minute, again from a 5-metre scrum but this time with a wide blind-side which he exploited to the full as he beat the defence on the outside. With Anderson converting both second-half tries the Blue & Blacks now led 31-7 with a quarter of the match still to play. Actually it was more like half-an-hour as the referee, apparently a Somerset man but giving a passable impression of those irritable Scottish arbiters of blessed memory (he blew up for 28 penalties and two free-kicks in a frenetic display), made the closing stages a stop-start affair.

Cardiff were not helped by a succession of replacements and then replacement replacements - players having left returning. Nothing summed up the makeshift arrangements better, as the interminable second period dragged on, than the use of highly-rated hooker Ross Johnston as a flanker - and then his summary dismissal with a yellow card five minutes after he had joined the fray.

Bridgwater scored two more unconverted tries in the 75th and 80th minute through Matt Hastie and Marshall Cormack. By then 14-man Cardiff had Academy recruits James Thomas and Liam Thomas in midfield and Ruttley on the wing but everyone was smiling when, in the 53rd minute of the half, Dr Davis' stop-watch finally ticked around to show 40 minutes of play.

No one was really complaining among the healthy contingent of Blue & Black supporters who had made the trip - including one-half of the Selkirk Six (see next week's match programme!). The standing of Cardiff Rugby Football Club is alive and well in the West Country and the Bridgwater & Albion club deserve a huge vote of thanks for the welcome they gave and the facilities they provided, including no less than a complimentary buffet for everyone,  in their modern  and comfortable clubhouse.