WHILE rugby fans were hitting bars across Cardiff city centre on Saturday night, Barry Town and Connah's Quay Nomads were left punch-drunk at Jenner Park, where no fewer than three efforts rebounded back off the crossbar; leaving the two JD Welsh Premier League championship rivals to contemplate a hard-fought 1-1 draw.

It was clash of styles and indeed philosophies between the sides in third and first place, with Barry's high-speed passing play and team fluidity a marked difference to Connah's Quay's traditionally-direct, long-ball attacking game.

The contrast made for an absorbing contest under the ground's fixed floodlights, one that deserved to be seen by a greater number of spectators, as these two title-chasing teams followed England as casualties of a Six Nations Saturday.

Still basking in the glow of his stunning 96th-minute equaliser at TNS the prior weekend, Jonathan Hood led the charge for Barry in the 7.30pm kick-off, rippling the net with an assured, low drive, after persistence from Jordan Cotterill out left and a decoy drift from Mo Touray left the forward free in rich space.

Despite starting in confident style, Barry's lead though would last a mere ten minutes, with Michael Bakare firing high into the top corner to level, after Town goalkeeper Mike Lewis had been controversially felled in the build-up.

Initially, it appeared referee Mark Petch had issued a free-kick, penalising former Stoke Cotu striker Andrew Owens for a pull on defender Luke Cooper, or for manhandling Lewis, as the players competed for an aerial set-piece ball.

Instead, Barry's Curtis Watkins was ostensibly cast as the perpetrator of Lewis' downfall, prompting catcalls from home supporters towards the official, as Paul Morgan was reprimanded for his own protests, one of eight yellow cards in all.

Saturday was an evening that Petch might keenly forget and the beleaguered whistler even took a tumble at one stage, sandwiched between two players.

By the interval, both Cooper and Callum Morris had joined Morgan in his book, but there would be no further scoring, in spice of Nomads twice threatening.

With 39 minutes played, another penetrating free-kick from Connah's Quay caused problems for the Barry Town defence, with goalkeeper John Danby's long, up-field delivery flicked onwards and headed by Adam Barton, right against the goalpost.

Then, in first-half stoppage-time, Lewis would punch the ball free from under his crossbar, before Nomads wasted the follow-up shot, much to the chagrin of the Connah's Quay manager, former Manchester City centre-back Andy Morrison.

As the game approach the hour, the bar battering really began, as Michael Wilde saw his effort come crashing back off the crossbar in the midst of a madcap scramble; one that saw Clayton Green block a seemingly-certain goal.

On 64 minutes, it was Chris Hugh's turn to try his luck and the Wales futsal cap proved himself adept with the ball off the ground as well, leaving the frame of the goal rattling with a sublime, crossbar-crunching effort from distance.

Then, as the clock lingered towards the 70th minute, veteran Nomads midfielder Danny Harrison had a long-range pop of his own and while Lewis was left rooted to the spot, Harrison could himself only clip the crossbar, as this watchable encounter remained stubbornly tied at one goal apiece.

In the final 20 minutes, the Nomads looked to their long-throw specialist Jake Phillips to initiate the breakthrough, forcing saves out of Lewis at each post.

Meanwhile, in a heart-racing moment that almost swung things in Barry's favour, Kayne McLaggon found success on the right and set up Hood, who fired just wide.

It would be the ex-Southampton forward's final contribution, as he made way for Drew Fahiya, a wise addition of fresh legs, in spite McLaggon's strong shift.

Looking to increase their delicate points advantage over Barry and champions TNS, Nomads would ramp up the offence in pursuit of a winner, with Bakare forcing a robust response out of Lewis, who did well to hold his shot.

With Troy Greening replacing Cotterill in a role reversal from the previous Saturday, Barry were under real pressure, yet the players scrapped doggedly to keep their visitors from Deeside frustrated, repelling a string of late corners.

Firing over from close range, a last-ditch header would then elude John Disney at the back post, denying him the kind of fairytale finish befitting his name.

Resorted to trying from distance once more, the sands of time finally ran out on Connah's Quay as Rob Hughes handled during a counter attack; the ex-Australian-based midfielder collecting the game's eighth and final caution for his efforts.

While missing the drama of the draw at TNS, or indeed the Welsh comeback in Cardiff hours earlier, Saturday's showdown was an entertaining ding-dong and one that keeps both in the mix, as the chase for the WPL crown continues at speed.

Free of the lure of the oval ball this coming Saturday, attention now switches to the JD Welsh Cup tournament; in particular, the multi-layered quarter-final at Jenner Park between Barry Town and Cambrian and Clydach (7.30pm kick-off).

Pitted against the only non-top flight team remaining, some might see Barry as favourites to progress to only their second Welsh Cup semi-final in a decade.

However, Cambrian, who contested the Nathaniel MG Cup final at the ground earlier this year, have already knocked Barry out of one cup this season and bring with them a Jenner Park hero, in long-time Town goalkeeper Dan Bradley.

Admission for the quarter-final tie, which must be settled on the night, is available via the Barry Road and Gladstone Road turnstiles, with high drama in store should history repeat itself and another penalty shoot-out be required.