Photo by: Sophie Lewis Photography
Article by: Paul Hopkins
It was heartbreak for the All Whites’ opening fixture of the 2023/24 as they fell to a last gasp defeat thanks to the boot of former Swansea fly half Luke Price.
The Ravens enjoyed the first attack of the match when full back Edd Howley made a break through the middle, with the Whites’ defence struggling to stop number eight Reuben Tucker. In fact, it was a high seatbelt challenge that brought him down, gifting Price an easy three points in front of the posts.
Scrum half Gareth J Rees took a quick tap penalty and sprinted through the middle, with centre Osian Knott in support. A clever flip pass by hooker Jamie Cox again found Knott, but play was brought back for an earlier penalty, which fly half Rhys Jones slotted between the posts to level the score.
Flanker Jake Baker took a lineout which set up an attack for the home side, with the impressive Knott again charging through, although the supporting winger Gareth O Rees was well wrapped up. A professional foul by the visitors saw flanker Alfie Llewellyn yellow carded.
Jones chose to kick to the corner with the penalty and the Swansea pack lay siege to the Bridgend line, before another penalty was awarded, this time for offside. The Ravens were able to clear though when Swansea were penalised for obstruction at the lineout.
The home side counterattacked when full back Brandon Wood sprinted down the wing and found Knott in support, who managed to release a pass back to Wood. A high tackle by Tucker brought an end to the move and saw the back row man shown a yellow card.
The home side used their backs to good effect and Brandon Wood made a 20 metre run, forcing the Ravens’ defence offside in midfield. Jones kicked the penalty goal from in front of the sticks.
The first try of the match was an absolute stunner with centre Joe Thomas making an initial break through the middle, before he found winger Harvey James, who put on an incredible turn of pace to beat his man to score. Jones converted.
Price cut the deficit to seven points with a successful penalty goal after the All Whites were penalised for offside.
And moments later, the lead was reduced even further when the home side failed to roll away after the tackle. Price kicked the resulting penalty goal.
A Gareth J Rees chip and chase sailed out on the full to put his side under pressure on their own 22. Bridgend looked to attack, but prop Scott Jenkins ripped the ball out of the tackle to allow Jones to clear long.
A poor Jones clearance kick also went straight into touch and lock Jack Pope took the lineout, only for Tucker to lose possession close to the line.
Half-time:- Swansea 13-9 Bridgend
Tucker made a superb break through the middle with the home side initially struggling to bring him down, although they managed to clear from Price’s chip ahead. Winger Caine Woolerton came close to scoring at the next play, but determined defence by the home side kept him out.
Swansea looked to attack through the backs, but Joe Thomas was well wrapped up by centre Rhys Williams and held on after the tackle.
Bridgend retook the lead out of nowhere when centre Stuart Floyd-Ellis took a pass in midfield and sprinted through the middle to score. Price converted.
James managed to get back to defend a chip ahead and the home side were forced into a hurried clearance, giving Bridgend an attacking lineout, but although flanker Zac O’Driscoll took clean ball, it was knocked forward moments later.
Mid way through the half, the All Whites’ pack gave away a penalty at the scrum and Price’s effort at goal sailed between the posts.
And Price kicked his side over two scores with another three pointer after a Swansea chaser strayed in front of a high kick.
Joe Thomas made a half break but was tackled and a small melee followed with flanker Callum Bowden and replacement prop Harry Olding both shown a yellow card.
The home side were awarded a penalty when the Ravens failed to release the tackler. Jones opted to kick to the corner and a patient build up by the forwards saw the ball sent out to Gareth O Rees who dived over to score under the posts. Jones converted.
The home side collapsed a scrum to gift the Ravens a penalty chance, which Price duly converted to extend the lead to five points.
Jones chipped into the corner with a penalty and lock Matt Dodd rose to take the lineout, although a second penalty was awarded to the home side. Jones again kicked into the corner.
Dodd again took the lineout but the Whites pack was driven back. From the second phase, the ball was spread out wide for Joe Thomas to score. Jones kept his cool to convert from the left hand corner, taking his side into the lead as time began to run out.
Pope took a lineout as the Ravens desperately tried to grab that match winning score, but a superb defensive effort kept them at bay, with a Ravens mistake giving Swansea a scrum on their own line.
However, the home pack were pushed off the ball to gift Price with the most dramatic opportunity to clinch victory, which he took to cap off a magnificent individual performance.
Full-time:- Swansea 27-28 Bridgend
Tries:- Harvey James (31), Gareth O Rees (76), Joe Thomas (80+7)
Cons:- Rhys Jones (32, 77, 80+8)
Pens:- Rhys Jones (8, 28)
Yellow cards:- Callum Bowden (73)
Tries:- Stuart Floyd-Ellis (48)
Cons:- Luke Price (49)
Pens:- Luke Price (4, 34, 37, 60, 65, 80+1, 80+14)
Yellow cards:- Alfie Llewellyn (17), Reuben Tucker (24), Harry Olding (73)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Sunny, 22C
Man of the match:- Luke Price
15 Brandon Wood (rep: Willis Wood 54)
14 Gareth O Rees
13 Joe Thomas
12 Osian Knott (rep: Marcus Brown 70)
11 Harvey James
10 Rhys Jones
9 Matthew Aubrey (rep: Gareth J Rees 4)
1 Ed Thompson (rep: Freddie Chapman 61)
2 Jamie Cox (rep: Owen Thomas 61)
3 Scott Jenkins (rep: Kian Hire 61)
4 Lloyd Ashley
5 Matt Dodd
6 Jake Baker
7 Callum Bowden ©
8 Cai Davies (rep: Joe Greaves 22)
Replacements (all used):
16 Owen Thomas
17 Freddie Chapman
18 Kian Hire
19 Chris Thompson
20 Joe Greaves
21 Gareth J Rees
22 Marcus Brown
23 Willis Wood
15 Edd Howley
14 Caine Woolerton (rep: Tom Morgan 78)
13 Stuart Floyd-Ellis
12 Rhys Williams
11 Mike Powell
10 Chris Williams
9 Chris Williams
1 Phil Price (rep: Harry Olding 61)
2 Gareth Harvey (rep: Connah Vaughan 83)
3 Matholwch Iorwerth-Scott (rep: Liam Tobias 69)
4 Ben Thomas (rep: Dylan Burrows 52)
5 Jack Pope
6 Alfie Llewellyn (rep: Phil Price 73)
7 Zac O’Driscoll ©
8 Reuben Tucker (rep: Jordan Collier 52)
16 Connah Vaughan
17 Harry Olding
18 Liam Tobias
19 Dylan Burrows
20 Jordan Collier
21 Connor Tantum
22 Joe Gatt (rep: Mike Powell 61)
23 Tom Morgan