Foster’s Challenge Cup: Bridgend 41-31 Aberavon

I had a cracking night on Wednesday: my workmate Dan Howells started at full-back for Bridgend Ravens in a cup match against local rivals Aberavon, and I headed down to the Brewery Field to take in the action, as well as to catch up with Dan over a beer after the match.

An absolutely superb match saw Bridgend’s forward pack look very dominant in the first quarter, lock Kyle Maiden stealing a couple of lineouts during the early exchanges. The powerful No.5 even drove over for a try shortly before half time, Jamie Murphy adding the conversion on his 100th appearance at fly-half for Bridgend.

The Wizards rung the changes at half time, and made the brighter start after the break. A new front row combination saw a series of driving mauls pay dividends, with two tries handing the visitors a two point lead on the 50 minute mark.

The decisive moment came when Bridgend’s Murphy chose to tap and run a penalty from Aberavon’s 22, throwing a pass to centre Joseph Gatt, who sliced open the Avon defence to score beneath the posts. It was a peach of a try, and the home crowd duly roared their approval.

What an excellent game of rugby, lots of absolutely superb attacking play from both teams, and a brilliant advert for this tournament, as well as indeed the high standard of the Welsh Premiership. Aberavon, incidentally, currently sit at the top of the Premiership, so this was a brilliant win for Bridgend, and I have to say, thoroughly deserved.

Dan was in high spirits after the game! He assured me he actually played better in the defeat against Aberavon in the reverse fixture last week, although there was no doubting his vast contribution to the game I watched. One probing run saw him cut a great line down the left wing, only to be bundled into touch before he could pass the ball inside. Playing at this level is the next step up for Dan, having previously played for Bridgend Athletic in the league below, but he looks so comfortable playing at this standard. A high scoring game like this one really suits his style of play, too, as he looks an elusive runner with ball in hand. I hope Bridgend can go all the way in the Cup, I wish Dan all the best as part of the team.

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