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.
Wales Head Coach Rob Howley talks to WRU TV's Sebastian Barrett about the 36-man squad he has just named for the forthcoming Under Armour series, which includes two uncapped players, Ospreys duo Sam Davies and Rory Thornton.
Head coach Rowland Phillips is deligthed he can now call BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park home for his Wales Women's side, who launch their international season next month with games against Scotland and UK Armed Forces in the heart of the capital city.
Wales Sevens star Sam Cross has put his home town club of Brynmawr on the map after winning a silver medal at the Rio Olympics with Team GB. His club have now honoured him by naming their players bar after him, as WRU TV discovered at the official launch, recently.
One of the newest members of the Principality Premiership, Bargoed admit it's proving to be a steep learning curve at the highest level, but are determined to become a force to be reckoned with. WRU TV visited the club last weekend when they took on Llanelli.
Table-topping Aberavon travel to north Wales to tackle RGC 1404 as both teams defend unbeaten starts to the season in the Principality Premiership. WRU TV's Graeme Gillespie visited the Wizards to see how their preparations were going for the game of the weekend.
The Half a Game initiative is currently sweeping across Wales and proving a major success. The scheme aims to give every young player at least half a game every weekend. WRU TV recently visited a festival in Narberth where clubs have fully embraced the initiative.
Both Bargoed and Swansea were seeking their first win of the Principality Premiership season this afternoon. It proved a fruitful day for the hosts - not only did they win, but Bargoed claimed a try bonus point.
Cardiff managed to keep their unbeaten record at home intact, but only just as Bridgend made them work extremely hard before the Blue and Blacks secured a hard fought Principality Premiership win at the BT Sport Arms Park last night.
Former Wales back row Andy Powell gives a guided tour of The Wern, home of Merthyr RFC, who are determined to prove a lot of people wrong and make their mark in their first season in the Principality Premiership.