Supercup Pool C
Bargoed Bears 26 Penybanc Panthers 24
Penybanc Panthers made the long journey into the heart of the Rhondda Valley safe in the knowledge that a home semi-final tie awaited them regarding of the result thanks to a string of impressive Supercup performances.
However the goal of remaining unbeaten prior to the knockout stages saw the Panthers in determined mood ahead of what was likely to prove their sternest test to date – and Bargoed proved exactly that.
The Panthers kicked off and immediately showed their intent courtesy of a huge Fabiana O’Callahan hit on her opposite number.
The flanker set the tone and the Panthers dominated the first quarter with the hosts struggling to find any way out of their own 22.
However, the Panthers normal slick handling was absent and their errors would prove to ultimately cost them dear.
Bargoed managed to kick their way down field for the first time and a resulting line-out saw their prop work a maul to the whitewash for a converted score.
However, the Panthers have grown used to conceding early and calmly worked their way back in to the game with some great passages of phase play and O’Callahan powered through two tacklers for an unconverted try.
The Bears clung to their lead, thanks to the main to a number of unforced errors from the Panthers and some strange refereeing decisions.
However, what came next was bizarre.
Bargoed share their dual-use pitch with the local football team, leading to separate markings on the field for each sport, and when one of the home number burst through the Panthers defence she raced clear only to touch down on the football line, not the rugby line.
While the hosts celebrated, the Panthers turned their attention to the match official who was standing on the point of touchdown a fell metre in front of the goal-posts.
Unbelievably, he awarded the try - which the hosts happily was converted. The decision was to prove pivotal.
The Panthers picked themselves up and battled their way back in an extremely physical encounter.
When the ball was swiftly moved wide, and Leanne McBeth scampered over in the corner, Alanna Woodford converted a monster kick for the half to end 14-12 in favour of the hosts.
The hard-done-by Panthers returned after the interval determined to put things right and played with passion and desire, throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Bargoed.
Their efforts eventually paid off when the returning Eleri Jones found her way to the line in superb fashion, Rees again converted.
But Bargoed are a well-drilled and experienced team and fought back and crossed the whitewash from tight play to even the score at 19-19.
The last quarter proved a ding-dong affair with both teams giving their all.
Bargoed looked to have won the game with a converted trademark pick-and-go try to make the scores 26-19, but in the dying minutes the ball was worked through every pair of Panther hands until the gap opened up for player of the match Chloe Davies to thunder through with O’Callahan on her shoulder.
Davies was held up just short of the line, but was able to pop the ball to McBeth for her second score of the day.
With the result falling to Rees’ last-kick conversion attempt, the normally reliable scrum-half pulled her effort wide and the score ended 26-24 to the hosts.
Head coach Matthew Brayley said: “We gave it our all today and the coaching staff are very pleased with how the girls performed.
“A few things have been highlighted and we will go back and work on these ready for the semi-final.”
Hywel Thomas, Director of Girls and Women’s Rugby, expressed his delight at the team qualifying from the group.
“It is a massive achievement for such a young team to only lose one encounter,” he said.
“We will find out next weekend who we face but we hope that as the only female team in the Amman Valley we will get support of rugby fans from all the valley and create a special atmosphere for the girls for the semi-final on either May 11 or 18.”