Penallta 47 – Brecon 18
Brecon’s winning run was suddenly halted when they faced Penallta for the third time this season. There is no doubt that when Brecon face Penallta they seem to have massive problems. It was no different on Saturday when Brecon travelled to Ystrad Mynach. Brecon had strung together a series of good performances while Penallta, in the middle of a busy period, had slipped somewhat the previous week when they lost by a single point at Brynmawr. Yet omens were not good for Brecon from the start. The team showed seven changes from the side which defeated Risca the previous week and a further change occurred when they lost their influential flanker Davey Herdman during the warm up. Four promising second team players were drafted in with three of them, Josh and Luke Millichap and Phil Saunders making their debuts for Brecon 1st XV squad. The changes certainly made a difference to a side which has been growing and improving as a team.
Another major disruptive incident certainly did not help Brecon’s cause. After 25 minutes Brecon centre Cameron Gardner went down holding his shoulder after a threatening Brecon attack. At the time the score stood at 8 points to seven in Brecon’s favour. Cameron had, as always, been an important cog in the Brecon midfield. His loss not only robbed Brecon of his contribution in attack and defence but it also meant a major disruption in the back line. With no obvious replacement, on a now depleted bench, three changes had to be made. Dan Edwards came on as scrum half, Jamie Price moved from scrum half to wing and Jake Crockett moved from wing into the centre. It wasn’t so much the change of personnel which became a major factor rather it was the mental approach which seemed to suffer most.
Previously Brecon were well in the game. In fact they took a well-deserved lead after ten minutes when they created a scored a lovely try. Cameron Garner, Jake Newman and Eifion Jones combined beautifully to create an opening out wide for prolific scorer, Jake Crockett. With limited space he outflanked the defence for the opening score. Penallta bounced back and scored a converted try of their own from a driven maul set up from a five metre line out.
Brecon were soon back in front after the whole front row of Ryan Harris, Jim Williams, and Richie Davies carried the ball impressively as they did throughout the afternoon. Jake Newman struck the penalty to restore Brecon’s lead as the 25 minute mark approached and Penallta looked uncomfortable.
The re-organised back line, following Gardner’s departure, immediately made a mistake. On half way an out of tackle off-load went loose and Penallta hacked through and scored a soft try under the posts. This score seemed to lift the Penallta team and at the same time demoralise Brecon. Suddenly Brecon’s play became frantic. They lost patience and lost control of the ball as they tried to create when they needed to go through some phases and settle the game down by kicking for touch. Penallta thrived on the opportunities offered to them. They were quick and supported one another well. They looked to counter and when they were given time and space they were deadly. Just before half time they scored a third try when their number 8 broke from an attacking scrum and put his supporting flanker in for their third converted try.
Brecon’s hopes were shortly lifted at the start of the second half when Eifion Jones made a great tackle and turned the ball over on half way. Brecon reached the home 22 and Penallta were penalised at the break-down. In front of the posts Newman had no difficulty in cutting Penallta’s lead to ten points.
For a time Brecon held the confident Penallta team but errors started to mount as Brecon failed to keep possession. A loose kick which went directly to touch allowed Penallta to establish themselves in Brecon territory and a brilliantly executed kick to the wing led to their fourth try.
In the face of a mounting deficit Brecon rushed everything and after an interception the Penallta No 8 again brushed off some weak tackles to score a try which was again converted.
To their credit Brecon did respond and showed something of their finishing prowess after twice failing to capitalise on 5 metre line outs. A great move, which pulled right Wing Lucas Jones onto the ball in mid-field, split the home defence and Jones scored for Newman to convert. Had the match ended there Brecon would not have been sorry but there was still time for Penallta to score two more tries both aided by Brecon mistakes. A loose kick gave the dangerous home full back the opportunity to counter and he waltzed through the Brecon defence for a try and then a loose pass allowed Penallta to score with the conversion bringing the match to a halt. Brecon now have two weeks to re-group and hope that they can get their wounded players back on the field to pick up any lost momentum as they enter the last four games of the season.