Bedwas Battle To Dramatic Victory.
Bedwas RFC 23 Ebbw Vale RFC 20 Premier Division Sat. 1st March 2008-03-02
Report by Geoff Watkins, photography by Ian Lovell
A dry, sunny day but with a cold driving wind for this St David’s Day Gwent encounter at the Bridge Field, the pitch, as usual, in excellent condition despite the overnight storms. Ebbw Vale currently third in the Premiership proved to be tough opposition as expected in this tense, absorbing match before a volatile crowd, the final stages could be summed up in two words ‘high drama’. The crucial win keeps Bedwas in 11th place but with a significant points gap over the teams below them.
Bedwas opened well with driving play to the corner for full back Stuart Thomas to convert a third minute penalty and Vale struggling against the wind. The forward exchanges were heated with injury stoppages frequent, a Bedwas kick and chase saw the ball run out of play just before the touchdown. However a midfield breakdown had centre Phil Dollman racing around the defence, his fine 13th minute try converted by Stuart Thomas. Vale responded with their best period of the match, camping in the home 22-metre area and mounting attack after attack using their all round superior height and weight to good effect. It took a massive defensive effort by Bedwas to absorb such pressure and keep their line intact. Bedwas fought back magnificently to the visitors line a driving scrum and excellent handling for centre Gareth Miles to spot the half gap and cut through for his 32nd minute try. The hard uncompromising play never let up but long passes by scrum half James Pizey and outside half/captain John Welch saw hooker Keiran Crawford smash over for a try after 37 minutes, both tries went unconverted. Stuart Thomas went through at the corner flag but adjudged, rightly, foot in touch. Vale replaced big lock Neil Edwards with Will Jones just before the interval.
Bedwas lead 20-0 going into the second half but even that lead was tenuous with Vale having the strong wind advantage. Bedwas replaced grafting number 8 Brendon Lampitt with Andrew Tibbatts at the start of the half and Vale commenced the second period with long tactical kicks to gain a drive over try two minutes after the restart by prop Ian George. Bedwas again should have scored after powerful forward play, the final pass astray, and then with the ball bouncing awkwardly it fell to Vale hands for prop Anthony Lott to steamroller over after 54 minutes. This prompted Bedwas to replace both hard working props Gareth Leonard and Jon Salter with Jon Tilley and Aled Williams (back after long term injury). Ebbw sub wing Simon Hunt slotted a penalty to reduce the arrears to 7 points, 1 score. As injury stoppages mounted Bedwas brought on Simon Jones for James Pizey for the last quarter but then had Aled Williams yellow carded on 68 minutes.
Could the Bridge Field club survive the last ten minutes, replacing hooker Keiran Crawford with Brian Edwards they kept possession well. Vale won the ball however, and kicked deep for a 5 metre line out but lock Craig Powell well supported by his pack stole the ball and Bedwas looked to hold out. Vale stormed back with an injury time try under the posts by Garth Maule, converted by Simon Hunt brought the score line to 20-20 and a nail biting further injury time period in which Bedwas stormed back put the visitors under intense pressure. Vale conceded a penalty for killing the ball in the 11th minute of injury time to leave Stuart Thomas with a final play angled kick directly into the wind and to the huge relief and delight of the Club was right on target for a very hard won but crucial victory in the knowledge that Bedwas next face a formidable programme of five matches against clubs in the top six places in the Premiership commencing with Pontypridd at Sardis Road on Friday 7th March, kick off 7-15p.m.
Bedwas coach Steve Law
‘Matches between these clubs have always been close. This was a big match for us, a must win game and we should have had more first half points with wind advantage. We lost our shape and a little discipline in approach second half as Vale gradually closed the gap, a very tense half. The team gave it everything with a hugely committed effort that deserved the win and the applause at the end’
Stuart Thomas, Jimmy Norris, Phil Dollman, Gareth Miles, Matthew Pizey, John Welch (Capt), James Pizey, Gareth Leonard, Keiran Crawford, Jon Salter, Craig Powell, Adam Brown, Phil Sargent, Robert Downes, Brendon Lampitt.
Jon Tilley (Leonard 54 mins), Brian Edwards (Crawford 60 mins), Aled Williams (Salter 54 mins), Andrew Tibbatts (half-time), Simon Jones (J. Pizey 60 mins), Fionn McLoughlin (not used)