Champions Bridgend Ravens were narrowly beaten by 2012 winners Cross Keys in the last sixteen of the SWALEC Cup on Friday evening.
A fiery affair played out at the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field as Bridgend Ravens and Cross Keys clashed in the second round of the SSE Swalec Cup. The Ravens narrow loss to the Gwent side ended Bridgend's hopes of recreating last seasons heroics, culminating in the Ravens lifting the famous Welsh Cup at the Millennium Stadium last May.
With both sides fired up for the all Premiership match, tempers flared early on. The referee issued a stern warning that led to two yellow cards with little over five minutes played. Further off the ball incidents saw Adam O'Driscoll and Darren Hughes sent to the bin.
Former Raven Owen Howe, who notched 14 points in a faultless display in the Final for Bridgend last season, edged Keys into an early lead with a well struck penalty. The Fullback, lining up at Inside Centre for the visitors, slotted 10 points from the tee throughout the match to send Cross Keys through to the Quarter Finals.
Bridgend got the first try of the match with 15 minutes played. The Ravens lineout drive led to both of the hosts tries, Ashton Evans diving over for the first out wide. Joseph Scrivens was unable to add the conversion.
The visitors regained the lead shortly after as Owen Howe kicked his second penalty only for Scrivens to land one of his own two minutes later.
As half time approached, Cross Keys were handed an excellent opportunity after poor clearance from the hosts. Keys built towards the Ravens line, the forwards inching closer. James Leadbeater was able to snipe from close range. Howe added the conversion to give the visitors a five point half time lead.
HT Bridgend Ravens 8-13 Cross Keys RFC
Ten minutes into the second half Cross Keys extended their lead as Scott Andrews dotted down under the posts after what seemed to be a knock on in the build up. Howe converted to take Keys out to a 12 point lead.
The Ravens played entertaining rugby throughout the second half, Zach O'Driscoll and Marc Bennett made excellent breaks upfield but the hosts were unable to convert the pressure into points. The Ravens’ pressure forced a poor clearance from the visitors, a good chance for Bridgend to set up their powerful maul. The lineout drive again marched towards the line where Matthew John was able to add the Ravens second try. Scrivens’ conversion attempt was just wide to leave the hosts trailing by seven as the match entered the final quarter.
Bridgend attacked at every opportunity. Ryan Griffiths, Mike Powell and Marc Bennett all made great breaks but Keys’ scramble defence managed to cover back to stop Bridgend adding to the scoreboard. Cross Keys were able to slow the match down, inch forward within their own half and recycle to run the clock down and secure their place in the SSE Swalec Cup quarter final.