Bridgend Ravens secured a vital victory in Saturday’s all Ospreys Principality Premiership derby at the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field.
Bridgend Ravens welcomed fellow Principality Premiership strugglers Neath to the Bridgend Ford Brewery Field with both sides looking to improve their final league positions without the threat of relegation. The Ravens secured their first win of the campaign in October's reverse fixture, whilst the Welsh All Blacks were still looking for a first victory of the season.
Neath dominated the opening 10 minutes but it was the Hosts that almost opened the scoring thanks to a breakaway effort. A Ravens scrum on their own 22 was spread wide to Michael Powell and the speedster made 60 metres, offloading inside. Captain Marc Bennett looked to have slid over in at the corner but was ruled to have been tackled into touch.
Bridgend’s first try arrived shortly after, multiple penalties kicked to the corner allowed the Ravens to build towards the try line. A strong maul effort got the hosts to within 5 metres of the line, Ashton Evans’ initial bust was just short, but quick recycling saw Iestyn Merriman barge over for the opening score. Joseph Scrivens landed the conversion for an 8 point lead that would be held until Halftime.
HT Bridgend Ravens 8-0 Neath RFC
The Ravens looked to consolidate their lead with an early shot at goal. Scrivens’ long range effort into a strengthening breeze fell just short before Neath launched their second half fightback.
Fullback Ed Howley, now playing on the wing, sliced through the Ravens defence out wide to score the visitors first points of the match. Luke Price slotted the conversion to level the scores with less than 15 minutes played in the second half.
Joseph Scrivens lined up a second penalty attempt, this time the Fly Half slotted as the Ravens regained a slender two point lead. The Penallta product’s penalty proved instrumental in the final result.
Bridgend Back Row replacement Matthew John was shown a yellow card midway through the second half, and the visitors looked to capitalise. With the Ravens short in defence, Neath build towards the hosts 22. A cross kick to the unmarked Ed Howley allowed the wing to grab his second try of the match, launching Neath into the lead for the first time in the contest. Luke Price hit the upright with his conversion.
As Bridgend tried to work their way back into the match, referee and assistant halted the Ravens attack to issue Kyle Evans with a yellow card. With the hosts down to thirteen men, it looked as though Neath would claim their first win of the season.
The Ravens continued to attack late on looking for a winning score. This time it was Neath that were on the wrong end of the referee's whistle and Jonny Griffiths was shown a yellow card. Bridgend kicked to the corner, just inside the Neath 22. The effort from the pack resulted in a further infringement from the Visitors and again the Ravens kicked to touch, this time 6 metres from the try line.
A great opportunity for Bridgend to snatch a late victory, the well executed lineout saw another powerful maul formed. The Ravens added as much weight to the driving effort as they could with half of the backline joining the forwards in the push towards the line. A metre short, Neath looked to have halted the forward progress of the Maul, but Ashton Evans broke away down the Blindside and was able to drive over the line to claim his tenth try of the season. Scrivens’ conversion caught the wind and sailed wide but the try was enough for the Ravens to claim a precious victory late on
The win was enough to see the Ravens climb above Carmarthen Quins in the Principality Premiership table, and match the five league wins that were accumulated throughout the 2014/15 campaign. With a strong end to the season, Bridgend hope to continue their late rise up the table and exceed last seasons league win total.