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Friday, 6 December, 2002, 21:14 GMT
Last-gasp Bridgend sink Bath
Bridgend's Aisea Havili beats Mike Tindall's tackle
Aisea Havili created two tires for Bridgend
Parker Pen Challenge Cup
Round 2 (1st Leg)
Bridgend 28-26 Bath

Craig Warlow snatched a dramatic last-minute victory for Bridgend with the final kick of the game at the Brewery Field.

The fly-half calmly slotted over his third penalty in a pulsating match which could have gone either way.

Bridgend outscored their opponents by three tries to two, and will now take a slender lead to next week's second leg at The Rec.

I made a few mistakes, but I was happy to get 70 minutes of competitive action

Bath's Iain Balshaw

Chris Malone scored 16 points for Bath, but missed a penalty at the death which would probably have wrapped-up an away win.

The home side had to soak up some early pressure before Gareth Thomas crossed in the right corner for a superb opening try.

Winger Aisea Havili made the initial break through the Bath midfield and then the home backs combined to create the chance for Thomas.

The captain still had plenty to do near the right touchline, but the Wales international showed all his class to round full-back Iain Balshaw on the outside.

Match details
Bridgend (14) 28
Tries: G Thomas (2), Loader
Cons: Warlow (2)
Pens: Warlow (3)
Bath (20) 26
Tries: A Williams, Balshaw
Cons: Malone (2)
Pens: Malone (4)
Att: 4,000

Warlow, who had delivered the final pass to Thomas, added the conversion.

Bath closed the deficit with a Malone penalty, but the home side needed just four minutes to hit back.

Havili was again prominent with a surging run towards the Bath posts, and prop Christian Loader was ideally placed to carry the ball the extra few yards over the try-line.

Warlow kicked the extra points.

Bath looked all at sea at this stage, with Balshaw and Malone guilty of indecisive play.

But they managed to turn the half on its head with two tries underneath the posts.

Malone started the comeback with his second penalty and then scrum-half Andy Williams, a former Wales under-21 international, crossed for Bath's first try.

The visitors then made the most of two pieces of luck to take the lead for the first time.

Bridgend captain Gareth Thomas scores his first try
Gareth Thomas gave a man-of-the-match display
Thomas charged down an attempted clearance deep in Bath's territory only to see the ball rebound perfectly to winger Alex Crockett.

He raced up the field, fed centre Kevin Maggs on the inside who threw a speculative pass on his inside as the cover defence closed in.

The scoring chance seemed to have been lost, but Balshaw timed his arrival to perfection to collect the loose ball and sprint clear.

Malone converted both tries to give Bath a 20-14 lead at the interval.

The seesaw battle continued in the second-half as both sides played some superb attacking rugby in perfect conditions.

I thought that Ian Balshaw made a big difference to the Bath backline with his pace

Bridgend rugby director Allan Lewis

A Warlow penalty was quickly followed by Thomas' second try of the night to give Bridgend a two point lead.

That advantage lasted just five minutes, though, as Malone added a further two penalties to restore Bath's lead.

Warlow brought Bridgend to back within a point with another penalty as the game entered the crucial final ten minutes.

Malone the spoiled his perfect record with a missed long-range penalty which would have given his side a crucial four point lead.

But Warlow made no mistake a few minutes later to clinch a famous victory.

A quarter-final clash against either French club Montauban or Scottish side Borders awaits the eventual winners.


Bridgend: M James; C Warlow, G Thomas (capt), S Taumalolo, A Havili; S Mannix, S Martens; C Loader, G Williams, C Horsman, D Jones, N Budgett, M Molitika, C Harris, R Bryan.
Reps: H Harries, C Warlow, B Phillips, J Thiel, P Booth, S van Rensburg, R Mustoe.

Bath: I Balshaw; S Danielli, K Maggs, M Tindall, Alex Crockett; C Malone, A Williams; D Barnes, L Mears, A Galasso, S Borthwick, D Grewcock, J Scaysbrook, A Beattie, N Thomas.
Reps: G Cooper, A Long, J Mallett, R Blake, T Voyce, G Thomas, A Vander.

Ref: Didier Mene (France).

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Bridgend's Gareth Thomas
"It's a big day for the players"
Bridgend assistant coach Richard Webster
"We should have stuffed them but we didn't"

Heineken Cup

Parker Pen Cup

EUROPEAN STATISTICS
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