EBBW Vale clinched their first Premiership East home win of the season when their powerful pack took a firm grip in the second half but battling Bargoed still made them fight all the way and staged a grandstand finish, writes Geoff Champion.

The turning point came midway through the second half when the Steelmen were awarded a penalty try following persistent infringements by the visitors at a scrum near their line. Before that, outside half Lewis Dennett kicked a hat-trick of penalty goals while full back Dan Haymond slotted a fourth. Their star man was dynamic hooker Rhys Francis while powerful wing Toby Fricker also caught the eye.

Bargoed’s points came from a 32nd minute try by replacement hooker Geraint Clarke, a brace of first half penalties from full back Matthew Lewis and another from outside half Iain Smerdon in the final quarter.

But flanker Grant Rogers and replacement wing David Evans came desperately close to scoring last-gasp touchdowns Both clubs had made very disappointing starts to the season with each managing just two wins from their previous seven matches.

They had also suffered heavy defeats in their last outings – Vale crashing to a 54-5 defeat at Bedwas while the Bulls lost 45-18 at home to Merthyr.

Full back Lewis gave the visitors an early lead when he kicked a 28metres wide-angled penalty goal after three minutes play but he was wide with a much longer attempt in the eighth minute.

Home lock Rhys Clarke charged up to the Bargoed 22 metres line in a rousing burst and when the visitors conceded a penalty Dennett stepped up to kick the easy 15th minute goal and level the scores.

A touchline flare-up ended with Vale prop Robert Sevenoaks and the visitors’ skipper and prop Rhys Morgan being sent to the sin-bin midway through the first half. Play was scrappy but Lewis nudged Bargoed 6-3 in front with a 23rd minute penalty from 40 metres.

Bargoed were enjoying most of the territorial advantage and they increased their lead nine minutes later when replacement hooker Clarke was awarded a try after a powerful forwards surge by the Bulls. Lewis could not convert. Dennett then added his second penalty goal for Vale with the last kick of the half to make the interval score 11-6 in Bargoed’s favour.

But Vale’s powerful forwards did just enough in the second half to clinch the win.

Scorers: Ebbw Vale – Penalty try, Pens: L Dennett (3), D Haymond.

Bargoed - Tries: G Clarke Pens: M Lewis (2), I Smerdon. Ebbw Vale: D Haymond (W Talbot-Davies 66); S Thomas, D Franchi, D Langdon, T Fricker; L Dennett ( Dorian Jones 52), David Jones (C Lewis 52) ; R Jones (J Harries 52), R Francis (J Franchi 65), R Sevenoaks (J James 65), L Randall (K Parker 71), R Clarke, C Regan, R Kynes, capt., and J Jacas (O Jones 76).

Bargoed: M Lewis (C Jones 60); A Norton, J Howells, D Humphries, D Dyer (D Evans 40); I Smerdon, J Pizey( J Hallett 60); R Morgan, capt. ( K Brown 56), L Lippiett (G Clarke 23), A Gardner-Key (S Evans 63), M Thomas, J Locke (L Weyman 56), A Coupe (L Robertson 76), G Rogers and I Jones.

Referee: Mr Aled Evans (WRU) Ebbw Vale star man: Rhys Francis