Edinburgh Reivers 23

Bridgend 13

A hard-earned victory over Bridgend at Gala's Netherdale marked the completion of a full calendar year without suffering a home defeat at the hands of Welsh opposition.

That, then, has set the Reivers up for their attempt to gain revenge over the one side that has visited them and taken away Celtic League points this season, Glasgow Caledonian Reds.

''This sets next Wednesday up well,'' said Frank Hadden, the Reivers coach, looking ahead to their December 27 trip to Hughenden.

''The preparation is going to be difficult, but it will be as bad for the Reds, if not more so, since they have to make the journey back from Wales after playing Neath tomorrow. I just hope that it attracts a decent crowd and we put on a real performance.''

That last comment accompanied Hadden's reflections on how another disappointing crowd at a Celtic League game had affected his side's performance, only a few hundred choosing to miss out on the office parties and Christmas shopping.

''When we scored our try just after half-time, with a bit more self-belief and confidence we could have gone away and won really well,'' he said.

''Maybe that is an indication of the problems we face in Wales, where they have crowds of five, six, or seven thousand roaring them on in that situation.

''Can you imagine if we had those numbers roaring us on in that situation. That may be the difference between a narrow victory and a big win.''

What was most important, though, is that at no stage did it really look like being anything other than another home win for the Reivers.

Dennis John, the Bridgend coach, was certainly entitled to claim, as he did, that his men could have won the game, but over the piece they could not claim to have been worth it.

Even though they did claim the lead in the early stages, Reivers had been looking the stronger side when the score came and continued to do so immediately afterwards.

That said, the score was well deserved after John Devereux, the Wales rugby league and union internationalist, had cut through cleanly only to be held up over the line by the combined efforts of Chris Paterson and David Officer.

From the resultant scrum, Adrian Durston eventually made the half break as Bridgend probed and, when he was stopped, Lyndon Mustoe was in support and forced his way over.

The home side were struggling to turn long passages of good work into scoring opportunities, however two Duncan Hodge penalties brought them within range after half an hour before they claimed what, for them, is a rare half-time lead with a well- worked score.

Marcus Di Rollo set the position up with a powerful midfield run before Martin Leslie, whose presence added an abrasive edge to his pack's efforts, followed suit. When the No.8 then took contact and recycled quickly, Cammy Murray darted down the narrow side and his jinking run took him past and around a string of defenders.

The Reivers continued where they left off in the second half and scored a second excellent try.

Hodge, who tormented Gareth Cull at regular intervals, again put the Bridgend full back under pressure with a searching kick which was well pursued by Murray, Di Rollo, and Paterson.

Deep in the 22, Officer, another of his side's most impressive all-round performers, set things up in midfield, running hard and standing up well in the contact to provide quick ball, although it took a slick piece of handling from Iain Fullarton to finally release his captain Don Mackinnon in the left corner.

At that stage, the Reivers might have pressed home their advantage, but Cull dragged Bridgend back within reach with two penalties and the match was in the balance deep into the last quarter.

It was, though, the Reivers who finished the stronger and after Leslie, well supported by Craig Joiner, had again taken their side deep into the Bridgend 22, an intelligent cross kick by Officer could hardly have bounced more cruelly when it looked as if he had found Joiner in acres of space.

As he sought to capitalise, Gareth Jones knocked on and from the resultant scrum the game was made safe. Leslie picked up at the base and yet again knocked a string of would-be tacklers aside before being stopped feet short of the line.

When the ball was shifted right, Iain Fullarton was rewarded for a hard afternoon's graft, loping into the line and using his substantial reach to get over the line.

In all, it is now some 15 months since the Reivers lost to a Welsh side in Scotland. With the Reds, meanwhile, keeping pace with the leaders in the Celtic League you begin to wonder what the Scottish sides could achieve if they were really made to feel at home on a regular basis.

Edinburgh Reivers - C Paterson; C Murray, M Di Rollo, D Officer, C Joiner; D Hodge, I Fairley (G Burns, 66 min); A Jacobsen, S Scott (P Robertson, 78), B Stewart (C Smith, 66), I Fullarton, R Metcalfe (G McCallum, 78), D Mackinnon, I Sinclair, M Leslie.

Bridgend - G Cull; G Jones, J Devereux, A Durston, D Jones; C Warlow (P Williams, 80), H Harries (J Hewlett, 40); A Griffiths, C Ferris, L Mustoe (B Baker, 80), C Stephens (R Price, 72), P Clapham, M Molitika (A Joy, 68-76), J Ringer, S van Rensburg (O Lloyd, 75).

Referee: J Hogg (Hawick).

Scoring sequence (Edinburgh Reivers first): 0-7, 3-7, 6-7, 11-7 (half-time); 16-7, 16-10, 16-13, 23-13.

Scorers: Edinburgh Reivers: Tries - Murray (35), Mackinnon (42), Fullarton (75); Conversion - Hodge (75); Penalties - Hodge (22, 28). Bridgend: Tries - Mustoe (13); Conversions - Cull (13); Penalties - Cull (53, 65).