Ebbw Vale came up with the victory that puts them in with a chance of sneaking into the quarter-finals of the PARKER PEN SHIELD for the second time.
Despite icy conditions and a rock hard pitch, the Ebbw pack dominated the
day and set up a winning platform that means Saturday's home game against
Agen will be vital.
The French side travel to Eugene Cross Park this week for the sixth and final
round. If Ebbw can overturn their 20-9 defeat at Agen in September then they
could match the current table toppers with eight points.
But that is where the fun starts. Current second placed side Montauban could also finish with eight points if they beat Rovigo in their final fixture, leaving a possible three way tie at the top.
In that case, it will be try count that will make the crucial difference,
both in the games between the clubs and overall, and Agen currently have a
3-0 lead from their earlier win over the Steelmen and an 18 try lead in all
"It was a good workmanlike performance in pretty difficult conditions. It
was touch and go whether or not the game would be played because the pitch
was so hard," said Ruddock.
"It was good to win away from home and the young players who are in their
first season at this level have really impressed me with the way they have
approached our games in france and Italy.
"That has been one of the real bonuses for me this season. Now we have got
a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals and, by my reckoning, we will have to beat Agen by 12 points or more and outsocre them by three tries.
"At least we have got a chance, although winning the game will be the first priority."
Another bonus for Ruddock and his side was the return of Welsh international
loose head prop Iestyn Thomas. He was solid as ever at the scrum and played
a big role in Ebbw's highly impressive driving line-out.
Having beaten Rovigo 28-26 at home, with three tries apiece, Mike Ruddock's
men knew they were in for a tough test at the Battaglini Stadium.
Rovigo rocked their visitors with an early strike as full back Norman Di Maura
ran in a first minute try. Di Maura had an eventful time at the start of the game because he had to be replaced after only four minutes.
"We got caught cold with that try," admitted Ruddock. "Paul Matthews cut
them to pieces down the middle with a great run and he was just bundled into
touch near the corner.
"Then they won the line-out and their full back ran the length of the field
for his try. It took a good team effort to come back from that."
The fight back began with three penalties from the familiar boot of Gareth Cull
and his hat-trick edged the Welsh side ahead and gave them a 9-5 interval lead.
After the break the tactical kicking of outside half Scott Mitchell and the
driving line-out marshalled by skipper Chay Billen ensured Ebbw remained on
Cull extended the lead with his fourth penalty in the first minute after
the restart and then wing Andrew Wagstaff ran in a try which Cull converted.
That try put slome real daylight between the scores, but a try by Italian international flanker David Dal Maso soon followed to add to the tension.
But full back Matthew James rounded off the victory with a second try seven
minutes from time and Cull's conversion took his match tally to 16 points.
Scorers: Rovigo: Tries: N Di Maura, D Dal Maso. Ebbw Vale: Tries: A
Wagstaff, M James; Cons: G Cull 2; Pens: G Cull 4.
Rovigo: N Di Maura (M Cavaglieri 4); M Boldrin (D Pisani 74), C Kruger, A
Cavecchia, U Re (C Sauan 68); E Pegoraro, F Dalla Nora; A Tellarini, F
Boraso (M Socaciu 68), E Brancalion (G Baratella 74), M David (captain, L
Marchetto 60), M Vella, D Dal Maso, F Boraso (M Barlon 60), A Pavanello.
Ebbw Vale: M James; G Cull, R Shorney, P Matthews, A Wagstaff; S Mitchell,
K Ellis, I Thomas (D Penisini 77), J Evans, M Jones (L Phillips 74), C
Billen (captain), N Edwards (G Evans 79), K Tuipolotu, T Morris (R Williams
60), W Thomas.
It was a double celebration for Wales and Ospreys scrum-half Rhys Webb when he called at the home of Welsh rugby to help commemorate the first anniversary of Principality Stadium and his return to fitness this weekend ahead of the RBS 6 Nations.
Prior to their departure to Wellington for the next leg of the World Series, Wales trained with England and Ireland. WRU TV caught up with Owen Jenkins who revealed the 'buzzword' which is driving the Wales squad on.
Wales head coach Rob Howley explains his decision to change the captaincy of the national side with Ospreys second row Alun Wyn Jones taking over from Sam Warburton for the forthcoming RBS 6 Nations. Howley is hoping his decision will allow Warburton to rediscover his 'mojo'.
How do you follow a dancing hippopotamus - the Ospreys wheelchair rugby team has just the 'oneness' to do it say the BBC! For a decade the sight of a herd of hippos synchronised swimming around their own private blue lagoon, has lit up our television screens at regular intervals between favourite BBC One shows. But now the nation's most watched channel has relinquished its famous amphibious mammals in favour of a new show-reel which includes the Ospreys wheelchair rugby team.
Head coach Rowland Phillips and key front rower Carys Phillips look ahead to games against Spain and Ireland as Wales Women ramp up their preparations for the forthcoming Six Nations. The two warm-up games are a 'massive opportunity to refine the squad' according to the Welsh camp.
Martyn Phillips has discussed details of the newly published 'Strategy for Welsh Rugby' which puts in black and white terms the plans and direction of the governing body of the national sport in Wales for the next decade.
WRU chief executive Martyn Phillips has urged Welsh rugby fans to follow in the footsteps of their soccer counterparts at last summer's Euro Championship by backing their team to the hilt in the upcoming RBS 6 Nations campaign.
Chief executive Martyn Phillips has highlighted the plans for Wales to become a breeding ground for national and elite club rugby coaches, which are contained in the WRU's 10-year 'Strategy for Welsh Rugby'.
Andrew Coombs is enjoying his new role as Nelson forwards coach. The former Dragons and Wales lock has big ambitions to become a professional coach but feels it's important to learn the ropes in grassroots rugby and where better than his home club Nelson, with friends and family close to hand.
Students at Brynllywarch Hall School, near Newtown, have transformed their own lives, and are now having a positive impact on others through rugby. The sport has had a life-changing effect on the well-being of the students who are now delivering rugby sessions to local primary schools and playing for a new mixed ability side
Wales reached their first semi-final since 2013 in the opening round of this season's HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series in Dubai. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie recaps on what proved to be an eventful tournament
Wales and Ospreys back row James King, who came through the North Wales age grade system, nominated North Wales Regional Community Rugby Manager Marc Roberts, in the WRU's 'Diolch' initiative where squad players thanked those who played a part in their rise to the top.
Beating Merthyr has boosted Carmarthen Quins hopes of reaching a top eight spot in the Principality Premiership. Quins captain Haydn Pugh is delighted with his team's progress and is determined that everyone from the Under 6s through to the senior team, enjoys the ride.
When the Wales squad were asked to nominate individuals who played a big part in their early playing days, Wales and Dragons full back and wing Hallam Amos thought of his former Monmouth School rugby coach John Bevan.