Bridgend Ravens produced a spirited second half comeback to almost snatch a win at champions Pontypridd on Saturday.
In a game that referee Nigel Owens described as ‘a credit to the Premiership’, the Ravens came within minutes of causing what would have been an upset of utopian proportions.
A slow start from the home side allowed electric winger Glen Lewis pounce on a loose kick to come within yards of opening the scoring. Bridgend didn’t have to wait long to take the lead, as Ospreys’ Ross Jones slotted a penalty. Dai Flanagan promptly levelled after a Ravens infringement.
The first try of the game came from some good play from Flanagan, who put in centre Dafydd Lockyer to put the champions in the ascendancy. Flanagan added the conversion before rampaging winger Owen Williams raced in for the first of his scores. Again, Flanagan kicked the extras and Bridgend were chasing another game away from home.
Ross Jones gave Bridgend some hope with an excellent penalty before Owen Williams crossed for his second. Lewis Williams quickly cruised home for Ponty straight from the restart to secure the bonus point before half time. Flanagan added two superb conversions to the tries and Pontypridd were in rampant mood. Bridgend got on the board before half time with a fourth penalty from Jones, but had a mountain to climb as the second half loomed.
Half Time: Pontypridd 31-12 Bridgend.
The away side came out in the second half with an improved attitude, the forwards created a meaningful platform for the exciting backs to come into the tie.
From some great set play ball, hooker Matt Dwyer touched down to give the away side some hope. Ross Jones missed the conversion, but put over a penalty minutes later to give the Ravens supporters renewed hope of a comeback.
An exceptional break from Ross Jones then saw a vibrant backs move eventually finished off by rapid winger Glen Lewis. Jones added a wonderful touchline conversion and Bridgend were within striking distance of their opponents.
Unbelievably, the Ravens took the lead. Following some pressure from the visitors, a Pontypridd clearance was charged down by Jamie Murphy, and he pounced for Bridgend’s third score out wide. Despite missing the conversion, Ross Jones added a penalty to gift his side a four point lead with ten minutes to go.
The Valleys side now had to go after Bridgend and some sensational defence kept them at bay. It took them until the 75st minute to cross the whitewash again, as scrum half Gareth James leapt over. Ex Raven Flanagan kicked the points.
With a nervy end now expected, Pontypridd put the game beyond doubt in injury time. The backline spread the ball to Owen Williams who raced over in the corner to secure the points for Ponty. Flanagan slotted the conversion, bringing an end to a wonderful afternoon’s rugby at Sardis Road.
Jonathon Vaughan was pleased at the response his side showed in the second half at the home of the champions. ‘The second half really shows what we are capable of, but yet again we gave the opposition a big start.’
‘We are not far from that huge performance and big win. We just need to put in an eighty minute performance and someone will be put to the sword.’
‘We are extremely disappointed but there are a lot of positives from today.’
Bridgend: Tries: Matthew Dwyer, Glen Lewis & Jamie Murphy. Conversion: Ross Jones. Penalties: Ross Jones (6).