(Above: Andrew Clapole scores for Swansea in the first half. He left the field late in the second hand with possible concussion after a high tackle. Dragon Tales Photography.)
By: Paul Hopkins
Bargoed completed a hard-earned double over the All Whites in a titanic struggle at St Helen’s.
It took a heroic defensive effort by the visitors to prevent Swansea from clinching a match winning try at the death, although a late switch to passive scrums certainly helped their cause.
With the slate wiped clean at the start of Premiership Tier 2, it was the All Whites who started with a bang with the pack forcing their Bargoed counterparts backwards at the scrum. It created a good platform for centre Ryan Evans to make a break and he combined with fellow centre David Watts to send winger Andrew Claypole charging over for a try. Fly half Jac Wilson converted.
Flanker Adam Thresher lost the ball forward from the restart, allowing Bargoed prop Kieron Brown to charge up to within a metre of the line. Then a crossfield kick by fly half Julian Mogg, who started the season as an All White, almost resulted in a try for winger David Evans, but he lost the ball forward.
However, referee Elfyn Morris-Roberts brought play back for a Bargoed penalty after the home side were caught offside in midfield. Full back James Hallett added the three points.
The visitors’ pack began to gain the upper hand and forced the Swansea front row to stand up at a scrum. Mogg found touch on the twenty-two and Bargoed worked the ball forward with flanker Alex Herbert making a break and sending a scoring pass to centre Phil Price. Hallett missed the conversion after he was put off by the charging Claypole.
Swansea were awarded a penalty when the visitors failed to release a man in the tackle. However, Wilson missed his effort at goal.
The home side then came desperately close to scoring when replacement winger Ewan Gully charged down a clearance kick, but he failed to regather for what would have been a certain try.
Bargoed were soon back on the attack when second row James Locke collected lineout ball, sending winger Duane Dyer racing through the middle. Lock Louis Blacker then made good yards upfield, but hooker Leigh Meades lost the ball forward. Swansea lock Tudor Hughes picked up loose possession and raced over half way, but an excellent tackle by Evans forced a knock on.
The visitors were well on top mid-way through the first half and kept threatening the Swansea defence. Their latest surge upfield involved scrum half Matt Bancroft and number eight Ross Coombs, forcing Whites number eight Rory Gallagher to kill the ball. Mogg kicked to the corner from the penalty and Locke was mauled to within five metres of the line, before Brown was held up just short. However, the move came to an end when Mogg was penalised for holding on after the tackle.
Finally, the pressure told when the visitors got the ball out wide through the hands of Price, who sent Evans over for a try. Hallett missed the conversion, again under pressure from Claypole.
The All Whites cut the deficit to three points courtesy of a Wilson penalty when the visitors were guilty of a high tackle on winger Jedd Evans.
The visitors hit back immediately though when Hallett made a powerful surge through the middle, before throwing a long pass out wide to Dyer, who touched down in the corner. Hallett failed to convert.
Half-time:- Swansea 10 Bargoed 18
Seven minutes into the second half full back Josh Jones fielded a high kick and ran hard at the Bargoed defence, with the supporting Hughes brought down by a high tackle. Wilson kicked the resulting penalty goal.
Meades then raced through from a ruck into the Swansea twenty-two. The forwards rumbled on and a deliberate knock on by Wilson gifted them a penalty. Mogg kicked to the corner but despite sustained pressure by the pack, the home side were able to turnover possession and clear.
Wilson was handed a penalty opportunity following a Bargoed infringement at the lineout, but he missed his effort at goal.
Centre Lewis Prothero made a mini break in midfield, but a crunching tackle by replacement prop Tom Sloane stopped him in his tracks. Locke then charged up to the twenty-two, but was held up in the tackle.
With four minutes of normal time remaining flanker Adam Coupe was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on Claypole, which forced him off with concussion.
Brown was penalised for diving over the top of a ruck and Wilson kicked to the corner. Replacement Gavin Ronan was driven up to within a metre of the line but substitute winger Rory Garrett was wrapped up in the tackle, allowing Bargoed to secure a turnover.
The Whites continued their search for victory with Hughes charging over the twenty-two, supported by Sloane. The visitors were guilty of entering a ruck from the side and replacement scrum half Rhodri Wells took a quick penalty, but the move broke down.
Swansea looked like scoring out wide through Jones, but he was well marshalled. Morris-Roberts brought play back for a home penalty and they opted for a scrum five. After collapsing the scrum replacement prop Ian Jenkins was sent to the sin-bin, but Bargoed had no fit props available so had to move to uncontested scrums.
In the last play of the match Swansea got the ball quickly out of the scrum, but Jones lost the ball forward to the delight of the travelling support.
Next up for Swansea is a trip to Cardiff, while Bargoed travel to Llandovery in the National Cup Second Round.
Full-time:- Swansea 13 Bargoed 18
Tries:- Andrew Claypole (6)
Cons:- Jac Wilson (7)
Pens:- Jac Wilson (40+2, 47)
Tries:- Phil Price (16), David Evans (39), Duane Dyer (40+3)
Pens:- James Hallett (9)
Yellow cards:- Adam Coupe (76), Ian Jenkins (80+5)
Venue:- St Helen’s, Swansea
Referee:- Elfyn Morris-Roberts
Weather:- Cloudy, 8C
Man of the match:- Phil Price
15 Josh Jones
14 Andrew Claypole (rep: Gavin Ronan 77)
13 Ryan Evans
12 David Watts © (rep: Ewan Gully (47)
11 Jedd Evans
10 Jac Wilson
9 Rhodri Wells (rep: Martin Luckwell 70)
1 Richard Murphy (rep: Tom Sloane 55)
2 Alex Dunham (rep: Ricky Guest 55)
3 Mitchell Walsh
4 Jay Williams
5 Tudor Hughes
6 Adam Thresher (rep: Matt Dodd 62)
7 Jack Perkins
8 Rory Gallagher
16 Ricky Guest
17 Tom Sloane
18 Sam Martin
19 Gavin Ronan
20 Matt Dodd
21 Martin Luckwell
22 Rory Garrett
23 Ewan Gully
15 James Hallett
14 Duane Dyer
13 Lewis Prothero
12 Phil Price
11 David Evans
10 Julian Mogg
9 Matt Bancroft (rep: James Pizey 55)
1 Jack Williams (rep: Ian Roberts 68)
2 Leigh Meades © (rep: Lewys Lippiett 68)
3 Kieron Brown
4 James Locke
5 Louis Blacker (rep: Josh Jacas 77)
6 Adam Coupe (rep: Alex Gardner-Key 80+7)
7 Alex Herbert
8 Ross Coombs
16 James Pizey
18 Lewis Bowden
19 Ashley Norton
20 Frank Jacas
21 Alex Gardner-Key
22 Lewys Lippiett
23 Ian Jenkins
24 Lee Beach