Even several hours of torrential driving rain could not dampen the spirits down at the Brewery field in Bridgend for the Welsh Principality league clash between Bridgend Ravens and Pontypridd RFC. I was there to support a friend of mine from work Kyle Evans who spent the afternoon packing down in the second row for Bridgend and did a marvellous job I might add. The ravens seem to be the perpetual underdogs who were given very little chance of victory against the mighty Pontypridd who have won the league for four consecutive seasons before losing out last season, against the script they came mightily close to claiming the spoils.
This was my third time to watch Bridgend up close, the first time during this regular season and for a young team they played very well especially against the very experienced Pontypridd who boasted former Welsh international fly half Ceri Sweeney and are coached by former Wales stars Robert Sidoli and Garin Jenkins. For almost the whole first half Pontypridd were on the offensive and the Ravens had to put up a desperate but solid defence that only briefly crumbled at about 35 minutes. The championship hopefuls went in at half time 10-3 up.
For some inexplicable reason Pontypridd substituted some of their most industrious forwards while Bridgend brought on two guys in the front row who turned the scrum on its head. The Pontypridd fans did not enjoy seeing their forwards pushed all over the park at all. Another try for the visitors and an excellent kick and chase try for the home side followed by a penalty from the Ravens no.10 Joe Scrivens left the score at 15-13 to Pontypridd. A truly heartbreaking moment occurred less than 10 minutes from the end when the previously mentioned Scrivens broke free of the Pontypridd defence and only had to run straight for the try line. The magic moment was ruined however when an unseen force (probably a rogue piece of torn up turf) brought the rampaging no.10 down as though felled by a sniper. The ball was soon turned over and the opportunity gone forever. The whole contingent of Bridgend fans (including myself) were fed faced and screaming at the breakaway only to be crestfallen moments later. Our spirits were left shredded at the final whistle at what could have been!
Pontypridd looked far from title contenders while the Ravens youngsters did themselves proud on a wet and windy 1st of October afternoon. The conditions threatened to play the biggest part of the whole affair but the game was not adversely affected. For an entry fee of £10 I cannot think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon, for a rugby fan of course.
Ever since the introduction of regional rugby the franchises the Cardiff blues, Ospreys, Scarlets and the Dragons have eaten up the media coverage here in Wales while the very clubs that feed those Pro-12 giants have been largely forgotten by the mass public. Pontypridd enjoy an abnormally large following and the results have reflected that statistic but the teams like Bridgend who have a fantastic set up down at the Brewery are forced to struggle on with a weekly gate of a few hundred to feed the coffers. What they are able to achieve on such a budget is remarkable, just look at Bridgends Swalec cup final victory over Pontypridd in 2015 as a testament. Giant slayings are rare but they do happen, the Ravens just fell short yesterday but only just.
The point of this entry is just to say that I have never really followed any team in particular, apart from the Treorchy Zebras in the mid nineties, but I have been a fan of all Welsh rugby general. Two visits to the Brewery field and a bit of attacking flair and I was transformed into a foaming at the mouth lunatic, yelling “Come on Bridge!” at the top of my voice, complete with bulging neck veins. I desperately wanted the Ravens to win yesterday especially given that they were massive underdogs (and we Brits are a sucker for an underdog aren’t we) and was left in despair when the final whistle blew.
Needless to say I shall be visiting the Brewery field again, maybe wearing the blue and white of Bridgend next time.
Come on Bridge!