Bridgend Ravens’ winning run continued as they ground out a fine win at Cross Keys on Tuesday evening.
Bridgend had won their previous two games, against Swansea and Llanelli, resulting in a much improved run of form of five wins in seven. Their success at Pandy Park boosted that total to six wins in eight, and pushed them ahead of Keys in the Principality Premiership standings.
The opening exchanges were error strewn; Cross Keys saw most of the ball but Bridgend’s defence, marshalled superbly by Man of the Match Dafi Davies, kept their hosts at bay. The pressure eventually told, with Keys stalwart Scott Matthews getting the first score of the match from a forward rumble. Outside half Josh Prosser struck a fine conversion to make it a seven pointer.
As the rain continued to fall, Bridgend got a foothold back in the game. Some pinpoint tactical kicking from the half back axis of Murphy and Tantum kept the Ravens playing in the right areas, and after a slick pass from Murphy, Mike Powell tore through the home side’s defence before seeing his final pass to Grabham adjudged forward.
Keys couldn’t keep Bridgend out for long though, as Murphy took control of the situation and dropped a fine goal to register his side’s first points of the evening.
With a soggy pitch playing its part, Nathan Edwards spotted a gap in the defence and prodded a well judged kick through to the 22. Keys fullback Dai Richards panicked under the pressure of the onrushing attackers and threw a wild pass forward which was gathered by Chris John. The second row, who had another fine game in blue and white, galloped 22m to dive across the whitewash to the delight of the travelling faithful. Murphy popped over the conversion to extend Bridgend’s lead.
With time ticking on the first half, Bridgend held out Keys, despite playing into a very strong wind. The Ravens scrum, on top throughout the match, earned penalties and plenty of go forward. A fine example of this was the final act of the first forty, with the Keys scrum driven back at a rate of knots, former Raven Ieuan Jones was forced to kick the ball dead with his pack taking a real beating at scrum time.
HT Cross Keys 7-10 Bridgend
A lovely restart from Prosser saw Keys recover possession from kick off, which saw them apply all of the early pressure in the second half. With no way through, the home side tried to mix it up with a cross kick from Prosser. Aaron Grabham, back in the side, was able to confidently collect the ball and call a mark, before hammering a fine clearing kick to relieve the early pressure.
The majority of the second half was played in the middle of the park, although Bridgend did spend a consistent period near the Keys line looking to extend their lead. Lloyd Ashley, back in Bridgend colours came closest as the scrum continued to put Cross Keys under immense pressure.
Bridgend’s continued commitment to youth development saw Bridgend Athletic’s Caine Woolerton make his debut from the bench, replacing Jonny Phillips with just over a quarter of the match to go. Mathew Donnelly, in from the start, a product of the Bridgend Sports club also put in an assured performance on his full debut.
The decisive blow came twenty minutes from time, as Jamie Murphy kicked a penalty to stretch Bridgend’s lead to six.
Cross Keys came to life in the final five minutes, looking for the converted score which would give them an undeserved victory. Bridgend’s defence, as it had all evening, repelled everything thrown at them as referee Wayne Davies signalled for full time.
The honours went to Bridgend Ravens, giving them their third away win of the season, one which saw them roundly cheered off by the travelling supporters who had been in fine voice all evening. Next up, Bridgend host Bargoed in their final home game of the campaign.