Welsh champions Bridgend secured a thrilling one-point victory over Pontypridd at the Brewery Field on Saturday night, courtesy of an 85th-minute Gareth Cull penalty goal.
Pontypridd looked to have stolen the win whenfly-half Neil Jenkins took his personal tally to 22 points with a sixth penalty goal in injury
time, but Cull rescued his team-mates with a shot from in front of the posts - the final action of a pulsating match.
Jenkins opened the scoring with a penalty goal after two minutes when fullback Gareth Wyatt was flattened while chasing a clever chip into the
Bridgend deadball area. The "Ginger Monster" converted a second attempt in the sixth minute, taking him past 100 Welsh League points in a season yet again, but his mistake gave Bridgend their first points.
The veteran Wales fly-half broke through the first line of defence but his pass was intercepted by Bridgend centre Anthony Carter. He fed fullback Matt James, who drew the final defender before giving promising young centre David Bishop a free run to the line. Craig Warlow's conversion gave the Welsh champions the lead for the first time in the match.
Warlow added a penalty goal, but opposite number Jenkins added two to regain the lead at 12-10 after 35 minutes. He missed a long-range attempt, but was on target for the conversion of a well-executed Pontypridd try to winger Richard Fussell.
Centre Shaun James made the initial break after some quick passing through the Valley Commandoes' backline and Wyatt drew Matt James before giving Fussell a simple run-in to the line and Pontypridd a 19-10 lead
at the break - a fair return for almost two-thirds of possession.
The 2,000 Ravens faithful at the Brewery Field were soon cheering, though, with impressive New Zealand flanker Cory Harris sneaking around the side of a maul and scoring a well-taken try in the 47th minute. Replacement goal-kicker Cull's conversion took his all-time tally for Bridgend past the 1,000-point mark and narrowed the margin to two points.
Jenkins and Cull exchanged penalty goals to leave the match poised at 22-17 to the visitors, but the unlikely figure of Pontypridd prop Duncan Bell turned the match in his side's favour.
The Bath-bound frontrower appeared on the wing to take a pass from Bryant and score in the corner, and Jenkins' conversion extended
Pontypridd's lead to nine points.
Things went from bad to worse for the champions when replacement prop Chris Horsman was sinbinned for continued infringements at the scrum, but the Ravens ignored the loss and drove back into the match through a try to Horsman's propping partner, Jon Thiel, after some impressive buildup work from impressive backrower Shawn Van Rensburg.
Incredibly, 14-man Bridgend took the lead 30-29 when hooker Ben Phillips was driven over from close range, but Jenkins looked to have stolen the win with an 83rd-minute penalty goal.
But with so many twists and turns in this match, there was no surprise when Bridgend ere awarded a last-minute penalty in front of the posts, and Cull made no mistake to give the Ravens 14 wins out of 15 League matches this season.
Bridgend: Tries - D Bishop, C Harris, J Thiel, B Phillips; Pens - C Warlow, G Cull 2; Cons - C Warlow, G Cull.
Pontypridd: Tries - R Fussell, D Bell; Pens - N Jenkins 6; Cons - N Jenkins 2. Halftime: Pontypridd 19-10.
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.