By: Paul Hopkins
A freak Edd Howley try ended Swansea’s hopes of reaching the Indigo Group Premiership Cup quarter-finals at a bitterly cold St Helen’s.
The Whites started the better side and secured a turnover through flanker Iestyn Merriman inside the opening minute, but prop Tom Sloane failed to gather a pass and the move broke down.
The Ravens’ pack set the tone by winning a penalty at the first scrum, although fly half Matthew Jones failed to find touch with his penalty. Prop Jordan Pritchard was penalised at the breakdown though, giving Jones a second chance.
A well worked lineout was taken by flanker Zac O’Driscoll and the visitors spread ball out to their backs. Centre Joseph Gatt made a half break out wide and Swansea looked to intercept but only succeeded in giving away an attacking lineout on their own 22.
Howley broke through a tackle to take the Ravens over the Swansea 22 but the supporting lock Matthew Davies lost possession forward.
A strong wind took fly half Liam Popham’s clearance kick out on the full, gifting Bridgend a lineout on the Swansea 22. A long pass by Jones out to Tom Morgan saw the centre chip ahead but full back Harri Houston kept his cool under pressure to clear the danger.
Popham found touch on the Bridgend 22 to give the home side their first notably territory of the match so far. Quick ball out wide found Houston and winger Llien Morgan, but the Ravens’ defence managed to track across. Play was brought back for a Swansea penalty though, which Popham kicked deep into the corner.
Flanker Aled Evans crucially managed to disrupt the lineout though and earned a turnover, with Jones clearing to touch.
The wind played havoc with a Popham clearance kick, sending it out on the full, and in fact straight into a pitch side bin!
It was the visitors who took the lead when Howley glided through a couple of weak tackles in midfield before he fired a scoring pass to winger Cameron Ellis. Jones converted.
Bridgend were penalised for pulling down a Whites maul with Popham finding touch just shy of the 22. A 20 metre maul towards the line was taken down by lock Kieran Martin, who was promptly yellow carded.
The All Whites opted for a scrum but were driven back by a seven man Ravens pack. Play was brought back for a Swansea penalty which scrum half Connor Tantum took quickly and fed Morgan for a try out wide. Popham converted.
With time running out in the first half Ellis and winger Caine Woolerton tried to show some enterprise out wide but Swansea were able to win back possession, feeding the pacey Morgan out wide, but he was tackled into touch a metre short of the line.
In the dying seconds, Popham found touch on the Bridgend 22 with a penalty. Hooker Owen Thomas tried a clever throw to the front of the lineout to number eight Charlie Davies, but it failed to reach the required five metres.
Half-time:- Swansea 7-7 Bridgend
The Ravens began the second half in dangerous fashion with Woolerton making a break, before number eight Dafi Davies powered through a tackle, only for the supporting scrum half Chris Williams to be taken out dangerously by centre Hanno Dirksen, who was yellow carded. Jones kicked his side back into the lead.
Moments later Dafi Davies was yellow carded for deliberate offside and Popham kicked the resulting penalty goal to tie the scores at 10 apiece.
Lock Matt Dodd picked up a loose ball on the floor as the Whites looked to counterattack but Morgan dropped a pass at speed. Instead it was the visitors who threatened, but Howley took the sting out of the game by chipping to touch.
Ellis chipped ahead into space as the Ravens tried to make the most of a man advantage in the three quarters, but Morgan used his pace to ground the ball dead.
The outstanding Morgan collected a long pass inside his own 22 and raced almost the length of the field, before Gatt tackled him into touch a couple of metres short of the line. Bridgend gave away a penalty at the lineout, which Tantum took quickly, but replacement centre R Rhys Williams failed to get the ball out wide to the backs.
A powerful Whites maul set up another attack for the home side and replacement lock Huw Thomas was yellow carded for a high tackle. Popham chose to kick to touch, but the Ravens’ defence remained firm.
A superb run out of defence by Morgan threatened the Whites’ defence, but the supporting replacement winger Tom Florence was well tackled and Swansea were able to clear.
The visitors gave away a penalty with 15 minutes remaining and with a drop in the wind Popham superbly kicked his side ahead for the first time.
A poor clearance kick by Popham sailed out on the full and gave Bridgend an attacking lineout inside the 22, but outstanding work by the pack secured a turnover at the maul.
A miscommunication between Houston and Morgan under a high ball gifted the Ravens a scrum inside the Swansea half. A powerful set piece earned the Ravens a penalty, but Jones pulled his effort wide of the posts.
A poor error by Popham on his 22 gave the Ravens an attacking platform. Another collapsed scrum gave the visitors a penalty and this time Jones made no mistake with his effort at goal.
In an incredible finish the Ravens grabbed a second try when Howley chipped ahead on the wing with the ball fortuitously bounce forward off his head as he collected to score and send Bridgend into the quarter-finals. Jones converted.
Swansea threw everything at the Ravens’ defence as they went in search for the converted try they needed to progress, but Popham was penalised for holding on after the tackle.
Full-time:- Swansea 13-20 Bridgend
Tries:- Llien Morgan (33)
Cons:- Liam Popham (34)
Pens:- Liam Popham (45, 65)
Yellow cards:- Hanno Dirksen (44)
Tries:- Cameron Ellis (25), Edd Howley (80)
Cons:- Matthew Jones (26, 80+1)
Pens:- Matthew Jones (44, 79)
Yellow cards:- Kieran Martin (31), Dafi Davies (45), Huw Thomas (60)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Clear, 5C
Referee:- Ian Davies
Man of the match:- Edd Howley
15 Harri Houston (Rep: Harvey James 80+1)
14 Llien Morgan
13 Hanno Dirksen
12 J Rhys Williams (rep: R Rhys Williams 11)
11 Gareth Rees
10 Liam Popham
9 Connor Tantum
1 Tom Sloane ©
2 Owen Thomas
3 Jordan Pritchard (rep: James Williams 76)
4 Matt Dodd
5 Ben Gregory
6 Leon McNally
7 Iestyn Merriman
8 Charlie Davies
16 Aneurin James
17 Tom Northy
18 James Williams
19 Jack Phillips
20 Ben Asprea
21 Brandon Jones
22 R Rhys Williams
23 Harvey Jones
15 Edd Howley
14 Cameron Ellis
13 Joseph Gatt
12 Tom Morgan
11 Caine Woolerton (rep: Tom Florence 40)
10 Matthew Jones
9 Chris Williams (rep: Harvey Nash 64)
1 Rhodri Aspee (rep: Owen Jordan 75)
2 Gareth Harvey
3 Cai Lewis
4 Matthew Davies (rep: Huw Thomas 57)
5 Kieran Martin
6 Aled Evans (rep: Rob Dudley-Jones 64)
7 Zac O’Driscoll
8 Dafi Davies
16 Lee Murphy
17 Owen Jordan
18 Stefan Jones
19 Huw Thomas
20 Rob Dudley-Jones
21 Harvey Nash
22 Jacob Lloyd
23 Tom Florence