Bridgend rue opportunity lost

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The Independent Online

24 September 2000

24 September 2000

Brewery Field was packed to the rafters yesterday as the only two unbeaten teams in the Welsh-Scottish League fought out a memorable contest of fast-flowing rugby - one worthy of any match of the season award.

Bridgend turned on the heat early in the match and raced into a 30-8 lead on the half-hour. Their fast action-packed style was a joy to watch as forwards made yardage and backs created huge openings in the Cardiff defence.

Cardiff, however, are a talented side with a resilient streak. In the end, it was their organised defence, allied to Bridgend's tendency of readily yielding possession in the tackle, that decided the outcome. The first half alone produced 56 points, with the sides sharing six tries, and by the end of it Bridgend enjoyed a 10-point cushion courtesy of 18 points from the boot of the fly-half Craig Warlow.

The cynics in Wales claim that a Bridgend versus Cardiff fixture should be more appropriately marketed as Bridgend versus Bridgend Reserves. Such is the volume of Bridgend's home-grown talent who have ventured eastwards to the capital. This Cardiff team included Robert Howley, Gareth Thomas and Owain Williams, originally from the Brewery Field, and the trio, and their team-mates, were given a traditional Bridgend welcome.

Emotions were running high, heightened perhaps by a minute's silence as a mark of respect for the death of the father of the Bridgend second rower, Chris Stephens. Fittingly, Stephens, who was persuaded to play by his family, soared high at the first line-out securing useful possession and forcing Cardiff to infringe. Warlow opened the scoring with the first of four penalties.

Bridgend, dominant in the loose, created all the early plays, despite Cardiff's resurgent scrum. Neil Jenkins equalised with a 30-metre penalty before Warlow split the usually water-tight Cardiff defence with a classic fly-half break which saw the winger Gareth Jones score at the corner. Warlow converted.

Jones soon added his second try with Simon Hill also crossing for Bridgend, whilst the prop Spencer John and wing Craig Morgan twice responded for Cardiff.

Cardiff's tighter-knit unit and greater physical presence started grinding down their lighter opponents. John secured his second try from a line-out five minutes after the restart for Jenkins to reduce the gap to only three points.

Cardiff's hooker Damien Gerhaghty gave his side the advantage for the first time, crossing at the posts following another turnover of Bridgend's possession, sadly for them their Achilles heel.

Bridgend battled away tirelessly to try and secure a famous victory, but Cardiff's guard remained secure, and Bridgend will rue the closing 10 minutes of the first half when they conceded a vital 15 points, and their sloppy ball retention- but what a game.

Bridgend: A Durston; G Jones, J Taumalolo, J Funnell, S Hill; C Warlow, H Harries (capt); A Griffiths (R Price, 47), C Ferris (A Joy, 79), L Mustoe, P Clapham (T Collier, 74), C Stephens, M Moligika, J Ringer, R Bryan.

Cardiff: P Jones; N Walne, J Robinson, G Thomas, C Morgan; N Jenkins, R Howley (capt); A Lewis, D Gerhaghty, S John, S Moore (J Tait, 6), M Boyle, G Kacala, M Williams, O Williams (E Lewis, 55).

Referee: C Thomas (Swansea)