Sunday, April 22, 2012

Ebbw Vale 16 Newbridge 19, 21/04/12

Match ball sponsors Eye For Finance must have been the bringers of bad luck to the home side, as they lost at home for the first time in over a year against a dogged Newbridge side, who deservedly completed a league double.

From the Ebbw Vale website:

Newbridge brought Ebbw's 19 match unbeaten run to an end at Eugene Cross Park on Saturday afternoon, inflicting on the Steelmen their first league defeat since October 15th - at Newbridge - and taking a ground record stretching back to March 1st, 2011. Before the match, high hopes of a victory to seal the division title were tempered by the knowledge that this was a Western Valley derby against one of the division's genuine big hitters who had, like ourselves, narrowly missed making it to the SWALEC cup final a week previously.

Ebbw took the game to Newbridge from kick off, phase after phase putting pressure on the visitors' defence and, when the inevitable transgression came, outside half Dan Haymond made it 3 - 0 to the Steelmen. Matches between these two teams have been close affairs in D1E, with organised defences tending to dominate, and so it proved this time. The first half developed into what soccer pundits might describe as "a midfield battle", with play largely taking place between the two 22m lines. Ebbw extended the lead from a ruck just short of the Newbridge line, when the defence fanned out on the openside, leaving the blindside unguarded, allowing Gareth James to stroll over. Haymond added the extras to make it 10-0.Newbridge were fortunate not to concede at least one yellow card as, under massive pressure from the Ebbw eight, with Josh Powell, Mathew Williams and Ross Jones giving their opponents a torrid time, they repeatedly infringed at scrums. It didn't happen, though, and both sides entered the half time break with 15 men apiece. There was speculation from spectators about the influence of the strong wind blowing down from Beaufort and what use Neil Burnett might make of it in the second period.

An exquisite break by Dan Haymond, from Newbridge's kick off, set Ebbw off on a great attack, again thwarted illegally. Haymond did the honours and it was 13 - 0. From then on, the visitors raised their game with Burnett aiming long for the corners and Ebbw failing to clear or counter successfully. Although still on top in the scrums and lines out, Ebbw were second to Newbridge at the break down where the physicality of Ross Coombes and Dean Gibbs was a significant factor. There was also some hesitancy, for whatever reason, at rucks, when the ball appeared to be available, allowing Newbridge to counter ruck, which they did very well. A Burnett penalty made it 13 - 3, before old Ebbw favourite Andrew Bevan popped up on the right (or wrong!) wing to score wide out. The conversion was missed but a penalty to Newbridge soon afterwards made it 13 - 11. Dorian Jones calmed the nerves a little, striking a penalty to open the gap to 5 points, but Ebbw were caught napping when a clever line out ploy resulted in a try for replacement hooker Darren Hughes to tie the game at 16-16. The penalties were now flowing in Newbridge's favour and Burnett missed two long range efforts before slotting one from 30m to make it 16-19.

Time ran out for Ebbw, Newbridge were worthy winners of a tight contest, and the champagne was put away for another week at least.

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