On a cold, wet and misty evening at Aberavon RFC, Bridgend U18s District managed to grind out a hard fought win against East Carmarthenshire. In poor weather conditions both sides played some very good rugby with lots of physicality at the breakdown.
The first half saw Bridgend start the livelier of the two sides but some poor kicking and lack of dominance in the contact area led to East Carmarthenshire getting a foothold into the game. A little indiscipline in the Carmarthenshire ranks led to a kickable penalty which Matthew Francis converted for a 3 - 0 lead. As the first half continued Carmarthenshire's aggression in the contact area and pressure at set piece meant that they seemed to get the upperhand. A late tackle by Bridgend blindside Shaun Derrick saw him earn 10 minutes in the bin and toward the end of the first half the pressure told as Carmarthenshire managed to get on the scoresheet with a penalty. That score was taken into half time.
The message from Paul Watkin and Anthony Woodward at half time was to sure up the set piece, pick up the intensity at the breakdown and apply a better chase to kicks. A change at half backs saw Craig Baker and Tom Grabham take to the field and after a few minutes to adjust to the conditions they started to exert pressure onto Carmarthenshire. This led to another kickable opportunity taken by inside centre Thomas Parry, Bridgend retook the lead 6 - 3.
East Carmarthenshire, upped their game for the next 10 - 15 minutes and Bridgend had their defence tested to the maximum. It withstood and as they managed to get back into the game they started to turn the pressure back onto Carmarthenshire. The pressure led to Bridgend building up sustained phase play, and an attack down the right saw a great outside break by centre James Olds who fed right wing Lewis Harri who finished well in the corner. Through all the thick mist the ref's whistle managed to confirm to the crowd that the try was scored. It went unconverted 11 - 3.
With East Carmarthenshire now chasing the game they threw everything at Bridgend who seemed to sit back and take the foot off the gas. Throughout the game Carmarthenshire managed to trouble Bridgend with their forwards being direct and their backline showing signs of carving open the defence.
As the game hit the latter stages little more control by the Bridgend pack would have lessened the tension around the ground, but with bodies on the line, Bridgend's defence again stood tall and kept Carmarthenshire at bay by 2 scores.
As the final whistle blew, Bridgend claimed the win for the first district title in 10 years. The result is a positive one not only for Bridgend but the region as a whole, whose Regional U18s side also claimed national glory in their competition last month.
Coach Paul Watkin said "In difficult conditions a win is a win. For the majority of the game they played the conditions better than we did. But our defence was superb and we took our chance to get ahead. It's all credit to the players whose hard work throughout the season has been rewarded."
Starting team 15 - Lewis Morgan (Kenfig Hill) 14 - Lewis Harri 13 - James Olds 12 - Thomas Parry (All Bridgend Athletic) 11 - James Teale (Nantymoel) 10 - Matthew Francis (Maesteg Celtic) 9 - Stephan Jones 1 - Liam Williams 2 - David Bishop (All Tondu) 3 - Ashley Hichie (Kenfig Hill) 4 - Matthew Hall, 5 - Ashley Matthews, 6 - Shaun Derrick (All Bridgend Athletic) 7 - Sam Jones (Tondu) 8 - Luke Wotton (Porthcawl)
Subs Tom Grabham (Tondu) Craig Baker, Mike Powell, Harry Griffiths (All Bridgend Athletic) Rhys Davies (Maesteg) Rhys Pope (Pencoed)