Caley comeback not enough to pinch the points

Bridgend ... 28 Glasgow Caledonian Reds .. 25

NEW millennium - same wretched luck. These thoughts must have been bouncing around in the head of Craig Chalmers as he endured the long coach-trek home from Bridgend on Saturday night, his knee smothered in ice-bags.

The international stand-off had hoped to leave his injury worries in the last century in the wake of a spate of problems over the final few months of 1999, but it was not to be.

Yesterday, there was a question mark hanging over his prospects of being in action for the remainder of the season after being stretchered off shortly before half-time at The Brewery Field.

Caley backs coach Rob Moffat confirmed that the injury to Chalmers's right knee appeared to be a repeat of the one he sustained while making a one-off appearance for Melrose against the touring Australians of Randwick at The Greenyards in October.

If that proves to be the case, then the player could be sidelined for the residue of the Celtic League campaign. Chalmers, of course, is no spring chicken - and in light of this, one has to doubt his chances of being able to re-establish himself in the top flight at all.

Moffat said: ''Craig is intending to get in touch right away with the surgeon who has already done a lot of work on him and everyone his hoping the damage to the medial ligament is not as serious as it seems. It is another huge blow to him and the Reds - and with so many injuries of that variety, it was just a wee twist on the muddy surface that caused it.''

Head coach Richie Dixon added: ''Unfortunately, some players get seasons like this and it appears to be Craig's turn.''

Yet again, Dixon's men were made to pay dearly for a careless start on Welsh soil, and although they rallied after the break they couldn't entirely make amends.

''I don't want to take anything away from Bridgend, but the way we played in the first half we didn't deserve to win the game,'' admitted Dixon. ''Sure, we have lots of injuries but that is no excuse for giving away such soft tries.''

The writing was on the wall in the opening minutes when Bridgend were handed the lead on a plate. Home stand-off Paul Williams was short with an ambitious penalty attempt from 50 metres.

However, when Reds skipper Andy Nicol tried to run his side out of trouble instead of kicking it to safety after marking the ball, he only succeeded in passing directly to rival wing Oriel Ripol, and the Spaniard simply had to walk the ball in under the crossbar.

Mateaki Mafi then marked his home debut with a fine touchdown after a telling charge by full back Adrian Durston, before Bridgend were then let off the hook when John Devereux had a kick charged down only for second row Darren Burns to miss the chance to scoop it up for a likely Caley score.

Tommy Hayes belatedly got Glasgow off the mark with a twenty-third minute penalty, but any hopes of an instant revival were ruined when Paul Williams did the same at the other end.

Even worse was to come for the Scots as Bridgend hit them with a magnificent counterattack from the shadow of their own posts. Mafi raced half the length of the field and the supporting Williams and lock Chris Stephens were on hand to carry on the move. Ripol was next to get involved before Stephens followed up for the touchdown.

Then, at last, came the Reds riposte. Straight from the restart Burns won clean lineout ball for hooker Gordon Bulloch to be driven over for their first try. Bridgend responded with a try from full back Durston, but that was the only score they could manage in a second period which Caley dominated.

A Hayes penalty when the Bridgend backs were caught offside kept them in the hunt, then flanker Donnie Macfadyen stamped his authority with two great tries to set up a tense finale. Hayes converted the second, but it was too little too late to steal the points.

Bridgend - A Durston; O Ripol, J Devereux (G Jones, 61mins), J Funnell, M Mafi; P Williams, A Jenkins; M Filipo (T Taumopou, 75), C Ferris, A Griffiths, O Lloyd (S Ford, 66), C Stephens, M Molitika, J Ringer, D Hodges.

Glasgow Caley - B Irving; T Hayes, J Stuart, I Jardine, A Bulloch; C Chalmers (G Metcalfe, 39), A Nicol; A Watt (D Herrington, 69), G Bulloch, G McIlwham, D Burns (G Simpson, 69), S Campbell, J White, D MacFadyen, M Waite.

Scoring sequence - 7-0, 10-0, 10-3, 13-3, 18-3, 23-3 (half-time) 23-10, 28-10, 28-13, 28-18, 28-25.

Scorers: Bridgend: Tries - Ripol, Mafi, Stephens, Durston; Conversion - Williams; Penalties - Williams 2. Glasgow Caley - Tries - G Bulloch, Macfadyen. Conversions - Hayes 2; Penalties - Hayes 2.

Referee - D Bevan (Clydach)

qNEIL Jenkins returned to Sardis Road to haunt his former Pontypridd team-mates as he kicked Cardiff to a tense 22-17 victory on Saturday.

A capacity 8000 crowd watched the Welsh stand-off claim five penalties and a conversion to win the boot-duel with home full back Brett Davey.

Llanelli thumped struggling Caerphilly 72-22 at Stradey Park to boost their title hopes. Mark Jones had four fine touchdowns, while Craig Warlow and Garan Evans each bagged doubles.

Newport looked well-set to beat Ebbw Vale as they led 9-8 at Eugene Cross Park - only to suffer a major second-half fade out and Vale triumphed 29-17.

Swansea, who ran in five tries, were made to battle all the way before beating Dunvant 32-20 in the derby clash.