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Page title The Summer Switch

2004 Grand Final - Blue Bulls 26 Fighting Irish 21

07th August 2004, 16:28

Bridgend Blue Bulls extended their winning record to 27 in a row after beating Aberavon Fighting Irish in the Total Welsh Conference Grand Final at Aberavon Greenstars RFC.


Bridgend started the match with strong early pressure but failed to ground the ball on a couple of occasions. But it was Aberavon who got on the score sheet first after Roger Howard forced the ball over the line. Liam Gadd converted to give the Fighting Irish a 6-0 lead.


Bridgend with-held further Aberavon pressure but could have equalised in the sixth minute, Craig Fox¹s kick going just too far for Grant Epton to pounce on.


However the champions grounded in the 10th minute. Following a nice set of passes, Fox laid the ball off to Carle Ellis who scored in the corner.


Bridgend finally took the lead in the 13th minute. An amazing high and long kick from Fox left the Aberavon defence standing. Running 50 metres to chase his effort, Fox picked the ball up again to score in the corner.


Neither of John Williams' kicks went over so Bridgend had a slender 8-6 lead on the quarter hour mark.


Both defensive packs tightened and neither side could find a way through in the next 15 minutes. Ceri Thomas went close for the Irish in the 20th but was held up while Gareth David¹s impressive run down the wing a few minutes later also came to nothing.


But it was Bridgend who extended their lead in the 28th minute with Carle Ellis grounding under the sticks after a 30 metre run, Williams conversion making the score 14-6.


Aberavon hit back straight away as Paul Morgan intercepted as stray pass and ran 90 metres to score in the corner.


A Williams penalty for Bridgend made it 16-10 but an opportunist try from Richard Price in 38th minute put Aberavon to within two points giving Bridgend a slender half-time lead.


Williams extended Bridgend¹s lead with an early second half penalty but a try under the posts from Jason Massey in the 48th put the scores level on 18-18. Liam Gadd¹s conversion gave Aberavon the lead for only the second time in the game and a fieldgoal from the same man put the Irish three points ahead.


As Bridgend fought hard to get back into the game, Kevin Ellis put an excellent kick through which bounced invitingly on the ten-metre line but the Irish defence to covered well. Aberavon were able to run back down the field with a dangerous attack only for Morgan¹s kick to be too long for Jones.


When Bridgend re-took the lead on 62 minutes the crowd witnessed an incredible passage of play from Fox. The hooker picked the ball up on his own 20 metre line, spun around to get away from two defenders then found himself in the clear on his way to an 80 metre try scoring run evading a desperate tackle by Lewis.


Aberavon now trailing by one point attacked fiercely and Roger Howard was just unable to cross the line. But Bridgend established further control again when centre Dai Owen finished off a period of Blue Bulls' pressure by diving over in the corner to give them a 26-21 lead.


The Blue Bulls then wasted an opportunity to make the game safe when John Williams put a simple penalty wide and it looked like Bridgend might pay dearly for this mistake when Aberavon had a great chance in the dying seconds. A high kick angled to the right looked destined for the arms of Richard Lewis and although the winger caught the ball as he crossed the goal-line, the touch judge ruled he was in touch before grounding the ball.


The final hooter sounded moments later giving Bridgend the Welsh Championship. They now face West London Sharks in the national Quarter Finals next weekend.


Double try-scorer and man-of-the-match, Craig Fox said ''It was a great team effort. We really stuck at it and what a fantastic game.''


Aberavon coach, Chris O'Callaghan commented ''I was delighted with the effort by our boys. The game could have gone either way. We wish Bridgend well in the Harry Jepson Trophy.''


BLUE BULLS: Jon Williams, Grant Epton, Dai Owen, Carle Ellis, Gareth David, Allan Bateman, Kevin Ellis, Nathan Strong, Craig Fox, Jon Purnell, Karl Hocking, John Devereux, Marcus Sainsbury. Subs (all used): Matthew Wareham, Paul Morgan, Gareth Bartlett, Geraint Lewis.

Tries: C.Ellis (10), (28), Fox (13), (62), Owen (70).
Goals: Williams 3/7


FIGHTING IRISH: Richard Price, Paul Morgan, Dean Scully, Dai Hawkins, Richard Lewis, Liam Gadd, Dan Hawkins, Mark Jones, Mark Burke, Roger Howard, Darren Ryan, Ceri Thomas, Nathan Davies. Subs (all used): Jason Massey, Rhodri Morris, Richard Thomas, Andrew Suter.

Tries: Howard (6), Morgan (30), Price (38), Massey (48).
Goals: Gadd 2/4. Field goal: Gadd


GAMESTAR: Two excellent tries and a great all round effort from Craig Fox.
GAMEBREAKER: Aberavon's try being disallowed in the very last minute. Had Lewis not stepped out of play, the result could have been entirely different.


Men of the Match:
Blue Bulls: Craig Fox.
Fighting Irish: Paul Morgan


Article by Ian Golden


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