Bridgend Ravens cemented their place in next season's Principality Premiership with a bonus point victory at Sardis Road.
Bridgend sealed their survival with four wins in the final five league games. Victory at Sardis Road was their first in the league at the ground since 2006 and couldn't have come in more dramatic circumstances.
The Ravens knew that three league points would be enough to clinch 11th place and tries from Mike Powell, Jamie Murphy, Nathan Edwards and Gheorghe Gajion, along with a penalty and four conversions from Owen Howe had the game deadlocked at 31-31 as the clock hit 80. With the game all but over, Gareth Newman penalised Pontypridd at the breakdown and Owen Howe did the rest to secure victory and Bridgend's survival.
An incredible opening to an incredible match saw both sides score 14 points in the opening 14 minutes.
Pontypridd struck first with Alex Knott going over out wide, Ceri Sweeney converted.
The Ravens struck back immediately, Dewi Cross rose highest to claim a perfectly executed kick off. Bridgend made good ground into the Ponty 22 before a quick tap penalty from Chris Williams was just halted by the hosts. A loose pass scooped up by Nathan Edwards allowed the Bridgend Captain the space to race over. Owen Howe added the extras to level the score.
Bridgend indiscipline handed Ponty good field position and the hosts struck again, this time through Joel Raikes. Sweeney notched the conversion, but Bridgend hit back immediately for a second time.
As Pontypridd attempted to clear their lines from the kick off, Jamie Murphy got in the face of the kicker to charge down. Taking his time with the awkward bounce of the ball, Murphy dotted down for the try. Howe again levelled things up with his successful conversion with less than 15 minutes played.
The game finally settled down and though both sides had chances, it took until the 40th minute for the next score. Adam O’Driscoll came away with an immense turnover as Ponty looked certain to score after a breakaway try. Bridgend fought hard to exit and eventually made their way back into the hosts 22. With a strong scrum platform, Bridgend built towards the Ponty line with Gheorghe Gajion powering over for another Ravens try. Howe landed his third conversion to hand Bridgend a 7 point halftime lead.
HT Pontypridd RFC 14-21 Bridgend Ravens
The start of the second half was almost as exhilarating as the first, with another two tries plus a penalty in the opening 15 minutes. Loose kicking from Bridgend allowed Ponty to counter, Alex Knott bagged a second try, Sweeney again accurate from the tee to level.
With less than 10 second half minutes played, Bridgend added a bonus point try, taking themselves one point closer to survival. A big maul drive from close to halfway made good headway. Spreading the ball wide quickly saw Mike Powell afforded too much space and the speedster raced over for a fourth try in three games. Owen Howe continued his fine form with the boot to convert.
Bridgend stretched their lead beyond the one score for the first time with a well struck penalty from Owen Howe.
Ponty then set about closing the gap, helped by two yellow cards shown to Bridgend’s Ben Jones and Gareth Thomas, the home side fought back to level with 10 minutes to play. Corey Howells barged his way over for a try on the hour mark, with Sweeney again converting.
The flyhalf then levelled with a penalty with just over 10 minutes remaining, setting up a tense finale. The Ravens knew that, if secured, the three points gained if the match ended as a draw, plus the try bonus point already secured, would see them safe and set about confirming that result. An incredible display of ball retention from the visitors resulted in 8 minutes of sustained possession, totalling 42 phases and the passage of play eventually saw Pontypridd infringe as the Ravens battled into the hosts 22.
Owen Howe lined up the penalty to secure a first league win at Sardis Road since 2006, and the fullback duly delivered, seeing the vocal travelling fans erupt as the final whistle arrived. Bridgend had secured all five points seeing them leapfrog both Bedwas and Llanelli into 11th place in the Principality Premiership table, ensuring Premiership rugby remains in Bridgend next season.