Bridgend Ravens earned a hard fought away win against Llanelli at Parc y Scarlets on Thursday evening.
The victory was only Bridgend’s second at the home of the Scarlets and extends the Ravens current run to five wins in seven games. A late Shaun O’Rourke try from a powerful forward rumble secured the win for the visitors and pushed them four points clear of their hosts in the league standings.
It was a cagey opening quarter, with both sides looking to win the tactical kicking game. It was arguably Llanelli who had the better of the opening exchanges, but after some sloppy play in the centre of the park, Stuart Floyd Ellis was able to latch onto a loose pass and score his second try in Bridgend colours. Ryan Evans popped over the conversion from in front of the sticks.
The Ravens didn’t leave it long to strike again. Almost straight from the restart, a resurgent Shaun O’Rourke made a lightning break along the touchline. The ball worked its way to the prolific Jonny Phillips who crossed out wide for his eighth try in blue and white. Evans’ conversion slipped wide this time, but Bridgend had seized the initiative having spent most of the game on the back foot.
To their credit, Llanelli fought back and Matthew Jenkins was able to bundle over out wide after a smart stab through. Scarlet Billy McBryde’s conversion flew wide of the posts.
With half time approaching, the momentum had shifted and Llanelli’s pack was firmly on top. Referee Aled Liddington signalled for a penalty advantage as the home side bundled towards the line again. The ball was quickly shifted to Jenkins who got his second score on the touchline. Again, McBryde’s conversion went horribly wide.
It looked as if it was a matter of when, and not if, Llanelli would take the lead. Awarded a succession of penalties near the Bridgend line, the home side continually turned down the easy shot at goal to have a go at Bridgend’s pack. The call backfired when the referee awarded the visitors a penalty allowing Ryan Evans to clear the ball to touch and end the first half.
HT Llanelli 10-12 Bridgend
Bridgend started the second half in fine fashion. Chris Williams saw a try chalked off for holding on in the opening exchanges, before two Ryan Evans penalties extended Bridgend’s lead.
The Ravens defence seemed in defiant mood, but a touch of class from McBryde saw Llanelli’s outside backs break and free the prolific Matthew Jenkins to score his hattrick under the posts. McBryde converted his first successful kick at goal for the evening with the conversion.
In a bid to get back their momentum, Matt Silva turned to Jamie Murphy, Adam O’Driscoll and Iestyn Merriman to freshen things up. The visitors looked comfortable, but without really threatening the Scarlets line. Known for their enterprising style, Llanelli punished Bridgend’s defence with Nathan Hart scoring. McBryde’s conversion went wide, completing a difficult evening off the tee for the Wales 7s star.
With the clock ticking rapidly towards 80, Bridgend’s attacking onslaught continued as they threw everything at the Llanelli line. After repeatedly infringing, try scorer Hart was sent to the sin bin and Bridgend took full advantage. There seemed no way through for long periods, but Supporters Man of the Match O’Rourke was on hand to smash his way past the covering defenders and over the whitewash. Replacement Murphy added the extras with the clock seconds away from full time.
Having experienced four wins in their last six games, Bridgend’s winning experience told in the closing exchanges as they kept hold of the ball from Llanelli’s restart. Chris Williams hammered the ball into the stand to the delight of the travelling Ravens faithful, confirming Bridgend’s well deserved victory.