Widnes RUFC 14
Bridlington RUFC 8
BRIDLINGTON travelled to in-form Widnes on Saturday for a semi final place in the National Cup with a potential trip to Twickenham at stake.
With this in mind it was a surprisingly open game and both sides were prepared to let the ball do the work as they sought an early advantage in the excellent rugby playing conditions.
The game was as tight as the score suggests and despite Bridlington having most of the possession and playing the better rugby it was decided by two almost identical individual tries in three first half minutes from the flying Widnes full back Andrew Riley which Brid failed to come back from.
Widnes started the game well and were soon pushing Brid onto the back foot and forcing them into a stiff rearguard very early on.
It was Widnes who had the first chance to put points on the board after Brid were penalised for not rolling away at the breakdown, but winger Kevin Leadbetter missed with the kick into a slight breeze.
It was then Bridlington’s turn to attack from depth following a penalty, moving the ball at pace until Sizwe Zondo broke a couple of tackles to race clear.
He then fed his fellow countryman Jimmy Baloyi who continued at speed before trying to hit a final pass out wide to Regan Stirk. Luckily for the home side the referee judged the last pass to be forward and the attack was halted.
With nothing to choose between the sides, it felt like it was going to be a piece of individual magic that would break the deadlock, and, so it proved after 24 minutes when live wire Widnes winger Kevin Leadbetter collected his own chip kick to race clear only to be pulled down by a brilliant last gasp cover tackle from Regan Stirk just short of the line.
Full back Andrew Riley was on hand though to pick up and plunge over the line for a try which was converted successfully.
Widnes’ ability to turn defence into attack paid dividends just a moment or two later and it was the same pairing of Leadbetter and Riley who did it again.
Brid centre Ben Johnson was tackled hard and lost the ball in contact with the Widnes backs gathering the ball they quickly spun it out wide until winger Leadbetter was freed down the touch line.
The Widnes flyer kept his nerve to draw Brid full back Zondo and pass to supporting team mate Riley. With the easy conversion going over, the lead had suddenly doubled to 14-0.
It now seemed that Brid faced an impossible task and that the floodgates might open but to their immense credit Brid stuck to their task well and began edging themselves back into the match.
With the clock ticking down to the break, Widnes finally succumbed to the increasing Brid pressure getting on the wrong side of the referee which resulted in a player going to the sin bin for 10 minutes for not releasing the ball on the ground.
Stevie Mellonby stepped up to kick the resulting penalty to make it 14-3 at half time.
Brid were relieved to be turning around still in touch and now had the breeze behind them.
It didn’t take long to get back into the game as Brid started the half with added urgency and intensity, soon getting the opportunity for Mellonby to add a further three points from a penalty.
This time the attempt was just a little too far out and the kick dropped short but this was the signal for Brid to raise their game and begin really testing the Widnes defence.
Brid made some changes with 30 minutes left in order to chase the game, bringing on Jamie Muru for Robinson and Callum Yorke for Micky Edmond.
Widnes once again showed their lack of discipline as their big second row was sin binned for 10 minutes after repeated infringements.
With this numerical advantage Brid continued to push for the win and were finally rewarded with a try 20 minutes from time.
Muru collected a quick ball from the forwards and with great vision, spotting winger Regan Stirk in space, kicked a delightful chip through for the winger to race onto the ball and score in the corner.
Brid brought on AJ Burrows and Ben Lawry for the last 10 minutes of the match but their chase of the game was not helped by the yellow carding of Brid captain Mark Oliver for an unnecessary late tackle.
The game was now getting a little niggly and soon saw its first red of the afternoon when the Widnes hooker received his marching orders for punching a Brid player.
The last 10 minutes was real, action-packed, nail-biting stuff, as both teams went for what would probably have been a winning score.
With the last few moments seeing the clock running down, Widnes winger Kevin Leadbetter missed with a long range penalty which rounded off proceedings.
The final whistle went and Brid were left deflated and dejected although they can count themselves very proud of the performance they gave against a team that must now be favourites to lift the trophy.
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