Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
The Torfaen Tigers created history by becoming the first Welsh team to beat the Bridgend Blue Bulls in three years in a closely fought and contentious match at Pontypool. Torfaen deserved the victory through sheer guts and determination but Bridgend were unhappy as the referee overruled a conversion kick that would have levelled the scores and a clash of colours between the players and referee caused confusion during defensive play.
Star man for Torfaen was Jason Hill who claimed a hat-trick of tries while Ed Tooley claimed two and there was one a piece for Matthew Entwhistle and Matthew Francombe.
The Bulls also crossed seven times, centre Paul Morgan claimed a hat-trick, Carle Ellis and Owen Strong both crossed twice and Kevin Ellis got one.
Torfaen took an early 12-0 lead thanks to scores from Jason Hill and Matthew Entwhistle before Carle Ellis hit back for the Bulls. Ed Tooley, who was on loan for the day from the Blue Bulls then got the Tigers fourth before Hill claimed his second to give Torfaen a 26-4 lead after 30 minutes.
But the Bulls hit back when centre Paul Morgan intercepted a loose pass and ran the length of the pitch before wing Owen Strong used a mix of skill and brute strength to score in the corner and lower the deficit to just 10 points at half time.
The Bulls seemed to be taking control when both Carle Ellis and Owen Strong claimed their second scores to draw the game level and Kevin Ellis then put the Bulls in front with a superb solo try, and when Paul Morgan claimed his second Bridgend seemed favourites.
But The Tigers went on the rampage and further tries for Ed Tooley and Jason Hill and a crucial try for Matthew Francombe gave Torfaen a 42-34 lead and although a late Bulls charge saw Morgan claim his hat-trick the Tigers held on for a memorable victory.
The Tigers played some excellent Rugby to end Bridgend?s record with Rob Taylor and Chris Williams leading from the front while Paul Morgan and Owen Strong stood out for the Bulls.
At Taff Wells the Cardiff Demon took on Newport Titans and it was the Demons who came out on top having withstood a late barrage from the Newport Titans to hold on to two precious points in a thrilling 36-32 victoryl.
Both clubs scored three tries in an entertaining first half, but it was the Demons who emerged with an 18-16 lead thanks to Gareth Jones? penalties. The Demons had touched down through Mark Devine, Paul Kirton and Andy Howard with the Titans? responding through Neil McKim, Gareth George and Dan Clements.
The sin-binning of McKim thirty seconds before the break gave the Demons superior numbers for the opening minutes of the second half, and the home side ratcheted up the pressure with another Jones penalty and two fine tries. The first came from former coach Wayne Williams, who has recently returned from the RL Student World Cup in Australia, and the second, which took the Cardiff lead to 30-16, was finished off by John Byers after a length of the field break from Gareth Jones.
Newport reduced the deficit to 8 on 52 minutes with a Martin Carawley try, but suffered a severe blow five minutes later with the sending off of Dan Clements. Worse was to come on 67 minutes when Scott Hirene was sin-binned, allowing the Demons to convert their two man advantage into a Gareth Jones try under the posts a minute later, restoring Cardiff?s 14 point lead.
But Newport battled valiantly and were rewarded on 75 minutes with a Matthew Dwyer try down the right wing. Restored to twelve men with the return of Hirene, the Titans? impetus continued as the excellent Kirk Johnson sprinted 50 metres down the left wing to score in the corner with two minutes remaining. Dwyer duly converted to give his depleted side a real chance of pulling off a remarkable escape, and the odds on Newport shortened after the kick off when the Titans attacked again and Gareth George got within two metres of the Cardiff line on the second tackle. But the Demons defence held firm for two more tackles and to their relief and delight the final whistle sounded giving the Demons their second home win of the campaign.
Meanwhile Aberavon Fighting Irish trounced the Valley Cougars 66-14 to confirm their second spot.
Torfaen Tigers 42-40 Bridgend Blue Bulls
Cardiff Demons 36-32 Newport Titans
Aberavon Fighting Irish 66-14 Valley Cougars