Rugby Union: Cull kills off Llanelli

Bridgend 22 Llanelli 21
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The Crowd may have been on the edge of their seats as the lead changed hands five times in an incredible first half, but the majority had their head in their hands as mistake followed mistake in an error- strewn second 40 minutes.

The scoreline might portray a game of great excitement, and for Bridgend fans in particular it was a notable morale boost, yet the truth is that the quality was sadly lacking. Llanelli lurched from being a slick and fluent outfit a week earlier, when they had blitzed Neath 52-23, into a team that could hardly string three passes together.

Their coaching director, Gareth Jenkins, will no doubt have been tearing out his hair as the second half wore on and the Scarlets failed to find a single moment of inspiration with which to threaten to win the game.

In the end, the decisive factor was the goal-kicking of Bridgend's new full-back recruit Gareth Cull. Although he had an indifferent day with the boot, the 20-year-old Kenfig Hill product was able to keep his cool and land two out of four second-half penalties to win the day.

Coming on top of an impressive contribution to last weekend's 27-19 triumph at Newport, Cull has every right to feel pretty pleased with himself. Bridgend's new Kiwi coach, John Phillips, also raised a smile at the end of the game as he reflected on a perfect start to the season.

A nip-and-tuck first half saw five tries flow in 30 minutes as the lead changed hands at regular, five-minute, intervals. First blood went to Bridgend with an 11th-minute try from their impressive young centre Steve Winn, but Llanelli hit back moments later with a short range effort from the flanker Ceri Davies. Craig Warlow's conversion put Llanelli ahead for the first time.

Midway through the first half Bridgend's Welsh international wing, Gareth Thomas, playing at centre for his club, used his power to burst through two tackles to score and the home team were back in front.

Two tries from the Wales flanker Andrew Gibbs in the final 10 minutes of the half twice put Llanelli back in front. Both scores followed a similar pattern as Gibbs received from Rupert Moon to race 45 metres for his first try and then 25 for his second.

In between those two tries, the latter coming with the last move of the half, Cull kicked the first two of his four penalties to ensure that Bridgend never fell far behind. The game was up for grabs in the second half, but nobody seemed to want to take the initiative. It was end-to-end stuff, although the reliance was largely on the opposition making a mistake for either team to gain any significant ground.

In the end it was Llanelli who made the bigger howlers and Cull was on hand to take maximum advantage.

Bridgend: G Cull; A Durston, G Thomas (capt), S Wynn, G Wilkins; M Lewis, C Hammans; S Evans ( L Manning, 62), I Greenslade, D Francis, C Stephens, C Vogl (E Williams, 65), J Purnell, G Phillips, A Williams.

Llanelli: D Williams; W Leach, N Boobyer, A Thomas, M Wintle; C Warlow, R Moon; R Jones, R McBryde (capt), H Williams-Jones, S Ford, C Wyatt, A Gibbs, C Davies, P Morris. Replacements: E Jones, G Jones, F Botica, A Jones, J Hyatt.

Referee: P Bolland

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