12th August 2006, 13:16
2006 Grand Final - Cardiff Demons 10 Bridgend 22
A solid Bridgend Blue Bulls side claimed their fourth successive...
A solid Bridgend Blue Bulls side claimed their fourth successive Picton Jones and Costley and Partners Welsh Rugby League championship at the Brewery Field on Saturday after beating plucky Cardiff Demons 22-10.
Bridgend were solid in both attack and defence while Cardiff continually failed to take advantage of their chances, passing where to be tackled would have been more influential and failing to see men in space. The Demons actually who had more possession during the 80 minutes but Bridgend were more successful in turning their chances into tries and just had that little bit extra, which is how champions are made.
The Demons were on the attack to start but couldn't break through the Bulls defence. They completed a couple of sets but didn't get close to the line.
Bridgend were also close in the early few minutes. Jamie Iles did well to pick up a grubber in his goalmouth while Dan Williams knocked on from Lloyd O'Connor's pass as they were near to the line.
But Nathan Strong charged in under the sticks on seven minutes to give Bridgend an early lead. Marc Bennett converted.
Gareth Jones was stopped close to the line and from the next play Ian Higgins failed to spot Adam King in space on the left and the chance was gone.
Bridgend made them pay for the error as following a fine run from Tavita Manasettava, Arron Warner ran in for their second with Bennett converting again.
Demons didn't quite have the extra strength to get through the Bridgend defence and chances continued to go astray. Gareth Jones, normally accurate with the boot, even did a "Don Fox" on 26 minutes as he missed an easy penalty right in front of the sticks after Bridgend were penalised for a high tackle on Wes Palmer.
Bridgend could have increased their lead a minute later but Williams denied himself a clear run at the line after knocking on again, this time from an excellent Nathan Strong lay-off.
Sean O'Brien's pass deflected off O'Connor giving Cardiff the scrum but once again the chance was wasted as Tom Burnell's pass was intercepted by Manasettava when they were near to the line.
But Demons continued attacking finally paid off on 34 minutes after a fine passing move culminated in Lewis Francis setting up Iles in the corner.
Neil Dixon's knock on gave Cardiff a final chance to score in the first half but Francis' kick from the final tackle was picked up.
Bridgend made a perfect start to what would be a defensive second half that lasted over 50 minutes due to many players going down with cramp and other injuries in the latter period of the game. Williams set up Bennett on 43 minutes to go in under the sticks, converting his own try.
Winner of the Trevor Foster trophy for man of the match, Carle Ellis had an excellent chance to further the Bulls' lead but during his 50-metre run, he was unsupported and lost the ball.
Michael John went over in the corner for another Bridgend try on 62 minutes but Cardiff weren't finished yet and Lee Drabble created a try out of nothing, running in under the posts eight minutes later with Gareth Jones converting to bring the difference back to 12.
Both sides had chances to score again but to no avail as Bridgend ran out 22-10 winners.
Bridgend's team manager Simon Green said: "It's been a hard season but it's been amazing. We've lost players to the Crusaders and to clubs abroad so we've been up against it. I certainly didn't think this would happen this year, this is our biggest ever achievement. I can't wait until next weekend and we're going down to Hemel to enjoy ourselves."
Cardiff's captain John Byers was disappointed but knows that there is always next season. Byers said: "We've done well this year and now have to rebuild. We let ourselves down in the first ten minutes of each half today and had we played as well in those periods as we did in the rest of the game then things could have been different. But Bridgend did well today and congratulations to them."
Bridgend will face South London Storm in next Sunday's national Totalrl.com semi-final at Hemel Hempstead after the Londoners beat Ipswich Rhinos 52-10 in the South of England Grand Final today.
1. Jamie Iles
2. Sean O'Brien
3. Gareth Holtam
4. Ian Higgins
5. Adam King
6. Gareth Jones
7. Lewis Francis
8. Marc Devine
9. Tom Burnell
10. Wes Palmer
11. John Byers
12. Mark Dando
13. Sean Gilbertson
Subs (all used)
14. Lee Drabble
15. Miles Davies
16. John Tricky
17. Lawrence Roycroft
Tries: Iles (34), Drabble (70)
Goals: Jones 1/3
1. Neil Dixon
2. Arron Warner
3. Carle Ellis
4. Michael John
5. Owen Strong
6. Lloyd O'Connor
7. Marc Bennett
8. Matthew Wareham
9. Dan Williams
10. Jon Purnell
11. Tavita Manasettava
12. Nathan Strong
13. Simon Mustoe
Subs (all used)
14. Kyle Coulter
15. Matthew Channel
16. Griff Davies
17. Tylan Mafi
Tries: Strong (7), Warner (12), Bennett (43), John (62)
Goals: Bennett 3/4
Referee: Darren Scott (Sydney, Australia)
Men of the Match: Demons - Jones, Blue Bulls - Ellis
Scoring Sequence: 0-6, 0-12, 4-12, 4-18, 4-22, 10-22
Gamestar: Carle Ellis who led with strength and precision, his Celtic Crusaders experience showing through.
Gamebreaker: Bridgend's final try through Michael John on 62 minutes opened an 18-point gap.
Weather: Warm and cloudy
Match Rating: 4/5