By: Paul Hopkins
The All Whites bagged their first win of 2023 thanks to a late Matt Dodd try and two late penalty misses by former Swansea fly half Luke Price.
It all began in a positive manner for the home side when flanker Tristan Davies took a lineout on the Bridgend 22 and play was spread out wide quickly, although the move was slowed down by a determined Ravens’ defence. It mattered little though as scrum half Gareth J Rees picked up a ball at the ruck and raced clear to score under the posts. Fly half Dan Edwards converted.
Hooker Owen Thomas and Tristan Davies made good yards from a loose restart, feeding winger Harri Houston, but he was well tackled and lost possession forward.
Swansea were penalised when lock Matt Dodd failed to roll away after a tackle with Price chipping into the 22. The visitors formed a rolling maul, but an excellent defensive play managed to prevent the release of the ball, earning a relieving scrum.
Full back Edd Howley fielded a ball inside his own half and sprinted 40 metres upfield, before he was brought down a few metres shy of the line. The All Whites’ defence was penalised for an offside offence with flanker Iestyn Merriman catching the home side asleep with a quick tap penalty, from which he scored. Price missed the conversion.
Centre Tom Florence tried to run out of defence but was caught and gave away a penalty for holding on after the tackle. Price found touch deep inside the Swansea 22 and the Ravens released their backs quickly from the lineout, creating an overlap out wide, but winger Mike Powell was unable to take a poor pass by Howley.
After a kicking dual between the two sides, Gareth J Rees spilled the ball forward to gift Bridgend an attacking scrum. Moments later the visitors were awarded a penalty after the Whites failed to roll away from the tackle and a routine lineout saw hooker Gareth Harvey crash over for a try. Price missed the conversion.
The Bridgend forwards were penalised for not rolling away from a ruck and Edwards kicked to the corner to give his side a rare spell of territorial advantage.
A clever lineout by the Whites saw Thomas came within inches of scoring, and the Bridgend defence wasn’t able to regroup so flanker Callum Bowden picked up the ball to score and restore his side’s lead. Edwards missed the conversion.
Following a mini break by number eight Scott Jenkins, Houston showed superb pace to sprint 50 metres downfield, but he was brought down just a metre short of the line and the Ravens’ defence regrouped with Florence penalised for holding on after the tackle.
An outstanding move by the Swansea backs saw winger Gareth O Rees sprint up to the 22 with centre Luke Scully providing support, before the ball was quickly switched to the opposite wing to send Houston over for a try. Edwards converted.
Swansea looked to move the ball through their backs again, but Florence tried to go alone and was tackled. Play was brought back for an earlier penalty though which Edwards kicked straight between the posts.
Half-time:- Swansea 22-10 Bridgend
Dodd was penalised for killing a Bridgend attack and a quick tap penalty by replacement scrum half Jakob Williams created a good platform for Price to chip into the corner for Powell to collect the ball to score. Price converted.
Houston cleared the ball into touch from his own goal line and replacement flanker Aled Evans drove into the Swansea 22, but offloaded straight into the grateful hands of Tristan Davies.
The All Whites’ pack gave away a penalty at the scrum and Price turned down the kickable chance at goal to instead find touch deep inside the 22. The decision paid off as Harvey claimed a try from a powerful rolling maul. Price converted.
And the Swansea men were back in front just four minutes later through a James Davies try after a superb looping run by Gareth O Rees created space out wide. Edwards missed the conversion.
A great move involving Price and Howley got the visitors back on the attack and quick ball out wide saw the latter fire a scoring pass to Powell. Price converted.
Bowden made a superb run up to the Bridgend 22 and a high tackle saw the Whites’ awarded a penalty. Edwards chipped to the corner, but lock Kieran Martin stole the lineout and Bridgend were able to clear.
Offside by Martin gave the home side a penalty with Edwards finding touch deep inside the 22. A well worked lineout saw the All Whites camp on the Bridgend line with Dodd stretching over to score in the corner. Edwards missed the conversion. Williams was also yellow carded for a seatbelt tackle in the build up.
Bridgend were awarded a penalty in the dying seconds after the Whites failed to release the man in the tackle, although Price missed from in front of the posts.
Price was handed a second chance to win the game when the home side gave away another penalty, in a slightly more tricky position than his last effort, but this also fell short of the posts as the Whites saw out a well-earned victory.
Full-time:- Swansea 32-31 Bridgend
Tries:- Gareth J Rees (4), Callum Bowden (25), Harri Houston (33), James Davies (57), Matt Dodd (77)
Cons:- Dan Edwards (5, 34, 78)
Pens:- Dan Edwards (37)
Yellow cards:- Lewis Jones (42)
Tries:- Iestyn Merriman (11), Gareth Harvey (22, 52), Mike Powell (42, 61)
Cons:- Luke Price (43, 53, 62)
Yellow cards:- Jakob Williams (77)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Weather:- Sunny, 12C
Referee:- Elgan Williams
Man of the match:- Matt Dodd
15 James Davies
14 Gareth O Rees
13 Tom Florence (rep: Kieran Charles 63)
12 Luke Scully (rep: Matthew Jenkins 41)
11 Harri Houston
10 Dan Edwards
9 Gareth J Rees (rep: Dan Roderick 73)
1 Cameron Jones
2 Owen Thomas (rep: Garan Williams 66)
3 Ben Warren
4 Lewis Jones (rep: Lewis Ellis-Jones 59)
5 Matt Dodd (rep: Ben Gregory 78)
6 Tristan Davies
7 Callum Bowden ©
8 Scott Jenkins
16 Garan Williams
17 Tom Crockett
18 Oli Rees
19 Ben Gregory
20 Lewis Ellis-Jones
21 Dan Roderick
22 Kieran Charles
23 Matthew Jenkins
15 Edd Howley
14 Cameron Ellis (rep: Ryan Edwards 63)
13 Stuart Floyd-Ellis
12 Joseph Gatt
11 Mike Powell
10 Luke Price
9 Connor Tantum (rep: Jakob Williams 29)
1 Harry Olding
2 Gareth Harvey (rep: Evan Yardley 59)
3 Chris Bruno (rep: Liam Tobias 76)
4 Ben Thomas
5 Kieran Martin
6 Iestyn Merriman (rep: Aled Evans 15)
7 Zac O’Driscoll ©
8 Jordan Collier
16 Evan Yardley
17 Rhodri Apsee
18 Liam Tobias
19 Reuben Tucker
20 Aled Evans
21 Jakob Williams
22 Nathan Edwards
23 Ryan Edwards