Bridgend Ravens impressed in a six try win in a friendly against Ospreylian rivals Neath at the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field.
Able to rotate the side to take a look at squad depth, including starts for five teenagers, Bridgend will have been pleased with the performance, and buoyed ahead of the Fosters Challenge Cup Semi Final next week
An arm wrestle of a first half saw the two sides go back and forth ending the half with two tries apiece. A clear tactic to kick behind the Ravens defence helped Neath dominate early territory but it was Bridgend who struck first with a breakaway score from speedster Mike Powell. A pass to ground from the Welsh All Blacks handed the ball to Powell who raced clear from 50 metres. Debutant Fly Half Jacob Lloyd added the extras with fifteen minutes played.
Ten minutes later Neath struck back following a powerful maul drive. Despite the ball appearing to have been lost over the line, the referee awarded the try and Ed Howley was able to level the scores from the tee.
Bridgend added a second try just after the half hour mark. A fumble from Neath on the Ravens 22 allowed Supporters Man of the Match Connor Tantum to race clear making 60 meters before calmly waiting for support to arrive. A well timed pass took out three Neath scrambling defenders as Morgan Jones continued the breakaway, a final pass to Powell saw the wing stroll over for a second of the half. Lloyd's conversion was sent wide to leave just a five point gap as halftime neared.
The Visitors struck late in the half for their second try of the match, an offside decision following a knock on that the home crowd clearly disapproved of gave Neath good field position, a wide move allowed Ed Howley to glide through and score. The wing converted his own score for a two point Neath lead at the break.
HT Bridgend Ravens 12-14 Neath RFC
A frantic start to the second half saw both sides have great chances for further tries in the opening couple of minutes. Mike Powell looked to be in for his hat trick with just a minute played in the second half but the pass eluded him and the wing knocked on. Just moments later Aaron Grabham looked to have pushed Neath further ahead but was pulled back for a forward pass.
Connor Tantum added the Ravens third try with ten minutes played in the second half. A Bridgend penalty kicked to touch saw the forwards carry hard into the 22. A perfectly executed show and go from the livewire scrum half allowed Tantum to stroll over, illustrating the youngsters talent. Lloyd added his second conversion of the match.
Tom O’Flaherty, making his first start since the beginning of December, showed his aerial ability with a brilliant leap to claim a high ball and managed to break through the Neath defence. Quick recycling from Bridgend worked a slight gap out wide where Replacement Geraint Watkin was able to squeeze over for a fourth Ravens try. A great touchline conversion from Jacob Lloyd stretched the hosts’ lead to 12 points as the final quarter approached.
Bridgend’s fifth try arrived following some good footballing skills from Morgan Jones. The centre grubbered through and managed to get a toe to the ball ahead of the Neath defence, the ball sat up perfectly for Jones who was able to offload to Garin Lougher for the score. Lloyd again added the conversion.
Neath added a third try shortly after, despite an initial solid effort from the Ravens defence, Neath managed to sneak over out wide. Howley maintained his perfect record from the tee with his third conversion of the afternoon.
A yellow card following a no-arms tackle on Jacob Lloyd left little threat from Neath late on. Another show of great skill from Tom O’Flaherty, marking his return to Ravens colours, saw a break out wide followed by a chip and gather for the score. Jacob Lloyd added the conversion to round off his Bridgend debut with 10 points from the tee.
A great result for the young Bridgend team will have provided a boost to confidence and given the coaches lots to think about ahead of their Foster's Challenge Cup Semi Final at the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field next Saturday.