Bridgend Ravens ensured they will finish third in Pool 1 in their debut season in the British & Irish Cup as they triumphed 14-24 over Cardiff at The Arms Park.
The sides have now played each other four times this season, with the
Blue and Blacks winning both league encounters and the Ravens taking
the spoils in the cup competition. Once again, the Bridgend pack were
impressive in the scrum and breakdown area, just as they were in the
victory back in October.
Cardiff are still yet to win a point in Pool 1 and face the unenviable task of trying to salvage something from the campaign against Bristol at the Memorial Ground next weekend. The men from the South West have won all five of their fixtures and need only a losing bonus point to see off chasing Ulster Ravens and progress to the quarter finals. The Welsh Ravens will also have a tough test as they host Ulster at the Riverside Hardware Brewery Field. The Northern Irish side won 49-19 when the teams met in Belfast and will be aware that only a bonus point victory gives them any hope of reaching the quarter finals.
Elsewhere in the competition, English sides Bedford Blues; Cornish Pirates; and Newcastle Falcons are already through with a game in hand; with Bristol looking favourites to join them in the knockout stages. Leinster A look likely to top Pool 5 but could still be caught by Pontypridd with the same being said for Moseley and Llanelli in Pool 6. Pool 7 is Munster A's to lose with Rotherham Titans hoping Plymouth Albion can upset the Irish side; and lastly, Welsh hopes are resting on Llandovery's shoulders who need only a losing bonus point away to Nottingham to win Pool 8.
Cardiff had the first opportunity to put points on the board when fullback Joe Griffin stepped up to attempt a penalty from near the halfway line. His kick missed and five minutes later it was 0-7 to the visitors. Bridgend's forwards retained possession with a fantastic sequence of driving mauls and lineouts before tempers flared and Cardiff flanker Rory Watt-Jones was sin binned. Two dominant scrums followed, resulting in penalties for the Ravens and referee Simon Harding finally lost patience, awarding a penalty try which was duly converted by Jamie Murphy.
Both sets of backs spent the next fifteen minutes kicking for territory with the home side coming out on top and winning three penalties which were all slotted over from Griffin, handing Cardiff a slender two point lead going in to the break.
Half-time: Cardiff 9 — 7 Bridgend Ravens
Ravens' lock Alun Evans took a knock early in the second half and was replaced by Matthew Llewellyn, making his first appearance of the season after recovering from injury. Bridgend soon regained the lead thanks to a Murphy penalty before the sides exchanged possession with a number of scrums on the Ravens' 22m line. Bridgend managed to clear the danger and soon afterwards, a kick from Murphy was chased excellently by winger Tom Grabham who hacked the ball on towards the line. His support soon arrived and the move was eventually finished off by Marc Thomas, who crashed over from short range.
Two more penalties were added to extend the lead to 12 points, and fresh legs were introduced by both sides with ten minutes left. Bridgend continued to kick intelligently for territory and looked likely to close out the game before ex-Raven Tom Williams gathered a loose ball and sprinted over 60 metres to touchdown, putting the hosts in contention for a bonus point and possible comeback. However, as Cardiff looked to build from their own half, a fantastic tackle from Ravens' Number 8 Tom Morgan led to yet another penalty, which Murphy sent between the sticks to secure the result, bringing his tally to 14 points for the afternoon and passing the 100 point mark for the season.