Bridgend Ravens fell to a narrow seven point defeat to Principality Premiership champions Merthyr at a rain soaked Morganstone Brewery Field under the lights on Friday night.
Bridgend raced into a ten point lead with less than ten minutes played, bagging their first try within a minute of kick off. Mike Powell, dangerous with ball in hand throughout, made good ground before the forwards took over for multiple phases, spreading with ball wide, Caine Woolerton was able to slice through the Merthyr defence for his first Bridgend Ravens try. Jamie Murphy added a superb conversion.
A Ravens error handed Merthyr a great attacking opportunity and it took a brilliant last ditch tackle from Caine Woolerton on flyer Lewis Williams to keep Merthyr out. As the visitors continued to attack, Adam O'Driscoll pounced on a loose ball and raced away down field. Quick recycling from the Ravens drew an offside penalty, with which Murphy added three points from the tee.
Merthyr got to grips with Bridgend's flying start and notched three tries as the half went on. A huge defensive effort made sure the Ironmen had to work incredibly hard for their first score, where the driving maul managed to force its way over the line with Phil Rees scoring.
As the half hour mark arrived, a stinging two minutes from the visitors saw two tries for wing Teri Gee. Richard Powell successfully converted one of the scores to push Merthyr out to a seven point lead with ten minutes to play of the first half.
On the stroke of half time, Bridgend struck for their second try, with Captain Nathan Edwards taking advantage of some poor Merthyr handling. Edwards hacked a loose ball upfield and showed his footballing skills with a deft touch in the 22 to take the ball over the goal line. Edwards dotted down over the line for the try, Ryan Evans took over kicking duties with Murphy suffering an injury shortly before the score, and levelled the score at halftime.
HT Bridgend Ravens 17-17 Merthyr RFC
Bridgend were made to work incredibly hard in the second half, spending a lot of time defending, usually coming out on top. Merthyr wing Gee bagged his hat-trick score 11 minutes into the half which pushed the visitors out to a seven point lead.
The Ravens had limited attacking opportunities throughout the second half, and Merthyr were able to keep them at bay, but a huge effort late in the match with the visitors camped in the Ravens 22 saw Bridgend turn the ball over and secure a valuable losing bonus point against top of the table Merthyr.
There were plenty of positives to take from the game for the home side who head to Llandovery next time out and will be hoping for a repeat of the score line when the sides met earlier this campaign.