By: Paul Hopkins
The All Whites were full of Christmas cheer as an outstanding first half at the Brewery Field saw Hugh Gustafson’s men make it three wins on the bounce.
In the opening stages, flanker Jake Baker took a lineout just shy of the Bridgend 22 with winger Harvey James drifting off his wing to burst through the middle, but he was well tackled. Play was brought back for a penalty, which fly half Rhys Jones slotted through the posts.
The Ravens embarked on their first attack straight from the restart with centre Tommy Morgan making vital yards up to the 22, before lock Ben Thomas was penalised for holding on after the tackle.
Hooker Owen Thomas was penalised for offside as a Swansea attacking move broke down, so fly half Rhys Williams found touch midway between half way and the visitors’ 22. Lock Lloyd Ashley managed to rise high to disrupt the lineout and regain possession for the Whites, and although Thomas initially charged down a kick, Swansea were able to defend.
Scrum half Gareth J Rees tried to creep around the blindside of a scrum and chipped ahead, with opposite number Connor Tantum struggling to get his hands on the ball. The visitors recycled possession and a chip through just beat the chasing full back Gareth O Rees into touch.
Rhys Jones attempted a drop goal from half way, hoping the wind would assist him, but it fell well short of the posts.
A pretty tame Rhys Jones chip into the opposite 22 was spilled into touch by Rhys Williams to gift the Whites an unexpected attacking lineout, but the ball became trapped in a ruck, so the visitors had to settle for a scrum instead.
Centre Osian Knott looked to have beaten a tackler but was stopped a few metres short of the line as the Ravens gave away a penalty, which Rhys Jones dinked into the corner.
Baker rose high at the lineout to collect the ball and a visitors’ rolling maul resulted in an opening try for Owen Thomas. Rhys Jones converted.
Winger Caine Woolerton superbly sidestepped a tackle after taking a high ball, but good work by the Whites’ forwards gained a turnover, although Rhys Jones’ chip ahead went straight into touch, undoing the good work.
The Ravens collapsed a scrum with the quick thinking Gareth J Rees taking a tap penalty to get his side inside the 22. Another penalty followed, and this time Rhys Jones kicked the three pointer.
Swansea tried to spread the ball wide but struggled to gain any momentum with James becoming isolated and penalised for holding on after the tackle.
Flanker Zac O’Driscoll took the lineout and the Ravens tried to get the ball out wide with centre Stuart Floyd-Ellis and winger Cameron Ellis combing to take play up to the 22. The Swansea defence was penalised for offside in midfield and Rhys Williams opted to find touch in the corner.
The lineout went awry though with prop Cameron B Jones able to gather and make 10 metres upfield. A superb interception saw winger Morgan Rees race down the wing and find centre Joe Thomas, who raced clear to score. S10 converted.
Offside in midfield by the Swansea defence gave the Ravens a penalty, which Rhys Williams kicked into the corner. Lock Jack Pope took the lineout, but the visitors forced a knock on and were able to clear.
The home side came again though and were awarded another penalty when the Whites were guilty of failing to release the man in the tackle. With half time fast approaching Rhys Williams chose to kick at goal, but hit the post from a relatively simple position.
Half-time:- Bridgend 0-20 Swansea
A superb take by Ellis from a Tantum high kick set Bridgend on the attack, but a poor chip ahead by Morgan spoiled the move.
Replacement winger Brandon Wood tried to run back a loose kick but was tackled, although Owen Thomas burst out of a ruck, but a poor pass by substitute scrum half Rhodri Lewis sailed into touch.
Pope failed to take the lineout and the Whites spread play out wide to Joe Thomas, who raced up to the 22. Owen Thomas then bounced off a tackle before the Ravens gave away an offside penalty. Rhys Jones turned down the kickable penalty to chip to the corner instead.
Baker rose at the front of the lineout but the Ravens’ pack repelled the rolling maul. Gareth O Rees then tried to dummy his way over, but the supporting prop Ed Thompson was penalised for holding on after the tackle a metre short of the line.
The impressive Baker gathered a loose Bridgend pass and the home side gave away a penalty on half way, which Rhys Jones chipped deep into the corner.
It was Baker who again half gathered the lineout and tapped down to Owen Thomas, before a clever offload from Cameron B Jones to lock Matt Dodd allowed Swansea to get the ball out wide, but the support was penalised for diving into the ruck offside, much to the Ravens’ relief.
Baker tried to force a pass that wasn’t on, giving Bridgend possession on half way, but a forward pass to Woolerton brought an end to any potential attack.
Joe Thomas dropped a regulation pass on his own 22 to give the home side an attacking scrum. The Ravens tried to get the ball out wide and Ellis tried to juggle with the ball, but ended up stepping into touch.
Bridgend were awarded a penalty on half way after the visitors’ crept offside in midfield. Rhys Williams kicked to the corner and a powerful rolling maul saw replacement hooker Gareth Harvey score the Ravens’ first points of the afternoon. Rhys Williams missed the conversion to leave his side still needing three scores.
A poor restart by Rhys Jones sailed into touch to gift Bridgend a scrum on half way. Great work by the pack gave Rhys Williams a platform to kick a 50/22, but Harvey’s lineout throw was deemed crooked.
A powerful scrum by the Ravens’ pack earned a penalty inside the Swansea half. Rhys Williams found touch deep inside the 22 and a much better lineout throw was taken by replacement number eight Alfie Llewellyn, with Morgan charging towards the line and O’Driscoll popping up to score a try. Rhys Williams converted.
Replacement flanker Chris Thompson took a lineout on half way as the visitors’ pack walked forward with a rolling maul, but the Ravens managed to defuse a high kick and were awarded a relieving penalty.
Joe Thomas made a break over half way but was well wrapped up before he could offload, but the Ravens dealt with a chip ahead by replacement fly half Keillen Cullen.
Ellis tried to counterattack from his own half but slipped over and was subsequently penalised for holding on after the tackle. Cullen kicked to the corner, but after a couple of phases, the visitors were penalised for an offside offence and the full time whistle blew moments later.
Next up for Bridgend is a trip to ninth place Aberavon, while Swansea host fourth place Pontypool.
Full-time:- Bridgend 12-20 Swansea
Tries:- Gareth Harvey (54), Zac O’Driscoll (69)
Cons:- Rhys Williams (70)
Tries:- Owen Thomas (17), Joe Thomas (34)
Cons:- Rhys Jones (18, 35)
Pens:- Rhys Jones (4, 25)
Venue:- Dunraven Brewery Field
Weather:- Drizzle, 10C
Referee:- Tom Spurrier
Man of the match:- Jake Baker
15 Mike Powell
14 Caine Woolerton
13 Stuart Floyd-Ellis
12 Tommy Morgan (rep: Joseph Gatt 70)
11 Cameron Ellis
10 Rhys Williams
9 Connor Tantum (rep: Chris Williams 50)
1 Harry Olding (rep: Owen Jordan 77)
2 Evan Yardley (rep: Gareth Harvey 54)
3 Math Iorwerth-Scott (rep: Curtis Hicks 77)
4 Ben Thomas (rep: Hemi Barnes 65)
5 Jack Pope
6 Reuben Tucker
7 Zac O’Driscoll ©
8 Jordan Collier (rep: Iestyn Merriman 50)
16 Gareth Harvey
17 Owen Jordan
18 Curtis Hicks
19 Hemi Barnes
20 Iestyn Merriman
21 Alfie Llewellyn
22 Chris Williams
23 Joseph Gatt
15 Gareth O Rees
14 Harvey James (rep: Brandon Wood 32)
13 Joe Thomas
12 Osian Knott
11 Morgan Rees
10 Rhys Jones (rep: Keillen Cullen 67)
9 Gareth J Rees (rep: Rhodri Lewis 25)
1 Cameron B Jones (rep: Freddie Chapman 77)
2 Owen Thomas (rep: Llew Phillips-Taylor 77)
3 Ed Thompson (rep: Kian Hire 77)
4 Lloyd Ashley (rep: Scott Jenkins 77)
5 Matt Dodd
6 Jake Baker (rep: Chris Thompson 63)
7 Callum Bowden ©
8 Cai Davies
16 Llew Phillips-Taylor
17 Freddie Chapman
18 Kian Hire
19 Chris Thompson
20 Scott Jenkins
21 Rhodri Lewis
22 Keillen Cullen
23 Brandon Wood