Ebbw Vale got the Principality premiership season off to a great start with a 20-8 win over a combative, new-look Bridgend at the Brewery Field on Saturday afternoon.
On the kind of afternoon we would have liked in August, Ebbw scored first with only the second ever 8-point penalty try in world rugby (Llanelli snaffled one in a game kicking off at 12 noon) when Bridgend infringed at three successive defensive scrums.
With both sides fielding new players and new combinations, it was always likely that mistakes would be made. Add to this some decisions that made me suspect there have been more law changes than those heavily publicised this week, and it led to a stop-start, stilted first half. With Ebbw down to 14, Bridgend full back Mark Bennett was on the end of a flowing move to pull his team back to 6-8; Ryan Evans converted with the last kick of the half to send the sides in level at 8-8.
Ebbw dominated the third quarter, clearly winning the forward battle with Luke Crocker, Harri Keddie and Mathew Williams always prominent. Two tries came, to the impressive lock duo of captain Hudd and Clarke, both crossing out wide to make it 20-8. Against a dominant scrum and efficient driving line out, Bridgend did well not to concede further, helped by the rub of the green in some decisions, but could not add to their own account.
It ended 20-8, with the Steelmen delighted to come away with the points but a little frustrated at their inability to capture the bonus.
The Ebbw 23 was:
Dan Haymond; Owen Williams, Jordan Howells, Dominic Franchi, David Williams; Iain Smerdon, Tom Edwards; Ross Jones, Mathew Williams, Gethin Robinson; Damien Hudd (capt), Rhys Clarke; Luke Crocker, Ronny Kynes, Harrison Keddie.
Replacements: Joe Franchi, Ian George, Lloyd Fairbrother, Joe Bartlett, Ed Morris, Chris Thomas, Dai Langdon, Ryan Gardner.
Ebbw scorers: Penalty try (8)
Tries – Damien Hudd (6), Rhys Clarke (6)
Try – Mark Bennett (6)
Con – Ryan Evans (2)