Hall hastens Bridgend fall

Cardiff 33 Bridgend 25
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The Independent Online
Bridgend were hauled from the top of the league in a match of incessant and often chaotic drama that was not settled until the last minute when Mike Hall powered down the blind side of the final scrum for a try that added the sweetness of a bonus point to Cardiff's victory.

The fact that the number of points scored was only marginally higher than the number of punches thrown was entirely in the context of a game that began with two gang fights in the first five minutes and thereafter was of the sort in which you didn't need possession of the ball to receive a thumping tackle.

It is a tribute to the tolerance of the referee, Huw Lewis, that only twice did his yellow card get an airing. The second time it was waved at Cardiff's David Young who had been on the field as replacement prop for only three minutes of the second half. It was Young's first excursion into union since his transfer from rugby league earlier in the year and his rapid caution proved how easy it was to get the flavour of the match. There were times when it was hard to gauge which was more ferocious, the tempo or the tempers as both sides flung themselves into the excitement.

Although there were moments of excitingly coherent attacking, most of the scoring came from one side taking advantage of the mistakes of the other and mounting blistering counter-attacks.

Perhaps the most significant of these came 27 minutes into the first half when Bridgend, who had been kicked into a 9-3 lead by Lyndon Griffiths, made a thrust for the line after Justin Burnell broke swiftly from the scrum. The attack broke down near the Cardiff 22 when Justin Thomas' tackle shook the ball loose from Wayne Morris. Cardiff's No 8, Emyr Lewis, picked up the ball to run 60 yards before laying off to Robert Howley, whose pass allowed Thomas to finish the move his tackle had begun.

That was the first of four Cardiff tries in 14 minutes. Thomas added the second of those after Jonathan Davies fed him a long pass and Cardiff pressure kept Bridgend on their heels. A chip ahead from Hall led to Steve Ford following up his own fly kick to score the third try.

Davies added the fourth before half-time with a spectacular solo effort. He kicked a loose ball from inside the Bridgend half and prodded it a further three times with his toecap before winning the sprint for the touchdown. Davies managed to convert his own try but not the other three. Nevertheless the half-time score of 25-9 promised little for Bridgend until they launched a second-half retaliation that almost preserved their winning run.

Bridgend's famed centres, Gareth Thomas and Dafydd James, came off worse with their Cardiff counterparts but Bridgend's persistence, aided by some reckless Cardiff handling allowed first Andrew Williams and then Griffiths to score tries that brought Bridgend to within three points of Cardiff. Cardiff were nearly undone by their determination to push their way to the clinching try and it took Hall's final surge to finally condemn Bridgend to defeat.

Cardiff: J Thomas; S Ford, M Hall, L Davies, S Hill; J Davies, R Howley; P Booth (G Young, 65), A Lewis, L Mustoe, J Wakeford, D Jones, M Bennett (H Taylor, 58), E Lewis, J Ringer.

Bridgend: M Back; P Jones, G Thomas, D James, G Wilkins (L Davies, 42); L Griffiths, W Morris (K Mabley, 73); D Francis, I Greenslade, R Shaw, E Williams, C Stephens, C Michaluk, J Burnell (A Williams, 40), J Forster.

Referee: H Lewis (WRU)