Bridgend Ravens produced a stunning display to claim a bonus point victory over last season's runners up, Aberavon, at the Morganstone Brewery Field.
The visitors opened the scoring with under two minutes on the clock. Trying to play at a high tempo from the off, a quick tap penalty near halfway allowed Aberavon to break into Bridgend territory. The final pass saw Osprey Jay Baker stroll under the sticks. James Garland converted.
Bridgend bagged their first try of the match at the 10 minute mark. Against the run of play, Aaron Grabham pounced on some poor Aberavon handling to hack upfield. The flyer showed his footballing skills as he controlled two further kicks over the try line and won the race to score. Bridgend Ravens Supporters Man of The Match Ryan Evans landed the tough wide conversion to level the score.
Bridgend kept the scoreboard ticking over as the half went on, a tighter second quarter saw both sides battle for territory, but it was Bridgend that looked the more likely to get a second try. The Ravens settled for three Ryan Evans penalties to head in at the break with a 16 point to 7 lead.
HT Bridgend Ravens 16-7 Aberavon RFC
With the visitors trying to get back into the match, the Ravens struck on the counter attack for a magnificent try 10 minutes into the second half. A turnover in their own half saw Bridgend break downfield. Joseph Gatt made good ground before offloading to Mike Powell. Powell's inside pass found Kieran Martin and the second row charged into the Aberavon 22. The final pass 6 metres out found Scrum Half Harri Morgan who looked to go over for the Ravens second try. The referee consulted with assistant and a penalty try was awarded for a pull back on Morgan as he ran in support of Kieran Martin. The automatic conversion pushed Bridgend's lead beyond two scores.
It took Aberavon just three minutes to strike back with their second try of the contest. Another quick tap penalty caught the Ravens defence out and Aberavon capitalised. Garland touched down under the posts and converted to narrow the gap.
A third try in the space of seven second half minutes saw Bridgend touchdown for their third try of the match. Harri Morgan’s neat kick pinned Aberavon back in their 22. A malfunction at the lineout allowed Chris John to gather and break towards the try line and the replacement produced a fine offload to find his second row partner Kieran Martin who was able to stretch over the line to score. Ryan Evans slotted the conversion to again edge time Ravens’ lead beyond two scores.
A frantic end to the half saw four yellow cards and a red plus two late tries in a match that had it all. Iestyn Merriman was unfortunate to see yellow for a no arms tackle after the Aberavon attacker tried to jump over the Bridgend hooker making the tackle. Four minutes later Garyn Daniel was also shown a yellow card as Aberavon tried to power their way over the line at the scrum.
Bridgend defended gallantly which forced the visitors to throw the ball wide. Joseph Gatt was able to intercept a looping pass and race upfield. The centre was chased down by the scrambling Aberavon defenders but the interception formed a great clearance, taking the ball 80 metres away from the Ravens line.
Bridgend drove a powerful maul from the resulting Avon clearance, and as Aberavon pulled it down a scrap on the floor ensued. Aberavon received two yellow cards for their part but Bridgend lost Captain Zach O'Driscoll as the flanker was shown a red card.
A half of rugby that lasted almost 56 minutes was still not over as Jay Baker bagged a second try late in the half. Bridgend's Ryan Evans was shown a yellow card for an incident as Aberavon appeared to be held up over the line. Stef Williams converted.
There was time for the kick off, with Aberavon needing three points to secure a losing bonus point. It was Bridgend that would benefit from the extended game however as a magnificent turn over in the Aberavon 22 from Garyn Daniel, who had returned from his yellow card. Owen Thomas bust through the Avon defensive line to dot down for the hosts fourth try. Jamie Murphy converted and the final whistle eventually arrived.
Bridgend Ravens Supporters Man of The Match - Ryan Evans