Rugby Union: Bridgend's big revival

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The Independent Online
Bridgend. . .18

Llanelli . . .8

TIMES are changing for the better at Bridgend. They have won four out of five games since 1 November when the international referee Clive Norling was appointed director of rugby, and on yesterday's performance you would have thought it was they and not Llanelli who had beaten the Australians last year.

On a bitterly cold afternoon when fog blanketed most of South Wales, this was the only game played in the First Division of the Heineken League. Bridgend competed wholeheartedly, Llanelli did not.

Llanelli were missing nine men for one reason or another and this inevitably cast a spotlight on Colin Stephens, one of the few remaining internationals. There have been arguments as to the merit and demerit of Stephens. Poor fellow, he had a nightmare yesterday and did nothing to enhance his chances of playing for Wales this season.

In front of Alan Davies and several other selectors he gave Bridgend two of the three tries they scored.

The first was scored by Robert Howley, who has just been called up for Wales's training in Lanzarote, replacing the injured Rupert Moon. Howley charged down a kick by Stephens and ran more than half the length of the field to score, evading three Llanelli players, including Stephens, as he did so.

Just before half-time Stephens went for a big clearance kick only to land it with pinpoint precision in the arms of Bridgend's scrum- capped full-back Chris Bradshaw. The full-back easily rounded Ian Jones and ran the try in from 40 yards.

Stephens probably wanted to go and hide but unfortunately for him it looked as though half his team wanted to join him. Llanelli were surprisingly inept again and were being shown up by the fiercely competitive home team.

They say you do not score tries from scrums but Bridgend do. They brought in the right-wing Paul Jones in a move going left. He added pace and punch and deserved his try.

It set the seal on a game that Llanelli will want to forget but one that Bridgend will come to regard as another successful step forward in their rehabilitation.

Bridgend: C Bradshaw; P Jones, J Apsee, L Evans, P Wintle; M Lewis, R Howley; D Rees, I Greenslade, R Shaw, S Jenkins, A Gwilym, J Derrick, D Bryant (capt), N Spender.

Llanelli: H Williams; I Jones, S Davies, N Davies, W Proctor; C Stephens, S Wake; R Evans, A Lamerton, D Joseph, D Evans, P Jones, M Perego, L Jones, G Jones (capt).

Scorers: Howley (try, 13 min, 5-0); Stephens (pen, 16 min, 5-3); Bradshaw (try, 34 min, 10-3); P Jones (try, 49 min, 15-3); Evans (pen, 67 min, 18-3); Lamerton (try, 76 min, 18-8).

Referee: R Yeman (WRU).

All the other Heineken League First Division matches were postponed yesterday because of the weather.