Ynysowen RFC 7 Brecon RFC 24
Brecon Youth’s busy end to a season, in which they are in with an opportunity of achieving success in three competitions, saw them travel south over the Beacons to the Willows complex in Troedyrhiw, where they were facing Ynysowen in the semi final of the Heart of Wales cup competition.
This is a venue that was unfamiliar to the visitors, with the hosts currently plying their trade in a different division within the Blues league structure, and also due to the fact that it is only in recent seasons that Ynysowen have relocated to what is an impressive complex. Having reached the final of this competition in previous seasons, Brecon were keen to gain another opportunity to challenge for this prestigious cup, but knew that the home team would present a real physical threat to that aspiration.
Whilst the sun was breaking through over Merthyr vale, the heavy rain of the previous days had left the playing surface very heavy and challenging, and in watching the large home team pack of forwards warm up, the strong visiting contingent of supporters would have been concerned that it was going to be a long hard slog for their team. Allied to what was a relatively narrow pitch, the main thought for the Brecon coaching squad and their charges would have been how best to utilise their normal high tempo game based on using the full width of the paddock.
This is something that clearly galvanized the visitors as, from the first whistle, they went through a period of play for some 20 minutes that represented one of the finest passages of play that this talented group of players has put together. It was a period where Brecon dominated possession and territory, and went through numerous, and continual, phases of controlled attacking play, deep in the Ynysowen half. It was a period based on flexible yet informed decision making, and also real energy allied to controlled passion where all players were very precise in their contributions. They were able to move the larger home team around the pitch and, notwithstanding the dimensions of the playing area, the high tempo off loading of the visitors enabled them to engineer mismatches in defence where the bigger home team pack were faced by their pacey opponents. Under this scenario, and with no disrespect to a competitive home unit, there was a certain inevitability that a score would come and, after some well executed phases of play, an opportunity was generated for the prolific centre Tudor Roderick to beat the defence and stretch over for the first score, adding to his impressive tally for the season. A simple conversion by full back Dafydd Edwards enabled the visitors to approach the kick off with a high level of confidence that they would continue in this rich vein.
The home defence were valiant in their efforts but were very much on the back foot at this time and, in addition to putting in numerous tackles, the few occasions they had the ball in hand, the were forced to kick from deep. One of the positives of the Brecon squad over the season has been the strength in depth of their back three, and the counter attacking threat they pose. Following a home team clearance kick, winger Tom Griffin gathered the ball within his own half and, having beaten the first two kick chasers with en electric side step, he proceeded to counter attack at pace and swerve past the covering defence for a great individual try. Edwards’ conversion from the touchline provided a cushion from which the Brecon squad hoped to press home their advantage.
In addition to their controlled phase play, the game was also characterised by some notable individual contributions in terms of breaking down the defensive line, and there were some impressive breaks from flanker Henry Morgan Gervis, who turned in an electric all action man of the match performance, and flying outside half Gareth Price who, following a sharp incursion deep into the home half, fed the supporting full back, Dafydd Edwards, who was able to plunge over to extend the lead.
This impressive period of play raised hopes that the visitors would go on to seal the game by adding further scores, although it was inevitable that there would be some decline in the pace and tempo, and the home team were also a proud unit who raised their own game to enable them to enjoy some possession in the Brecon half. They pressed strongly for a period of time, and through a number of set pieces, and were eventually awarded with an impressive team try of their own, which was converted to take the game to the half time whistle with the score at 7-19.
The half time break would have seen the visiting coaches ask for more of the same from the Brecon team, based as it was on a great deal of control, with the visiting pack of forwards dominant at the scrum, the front row of Tom Witcomb, Rhys Evans, and Llywellyn Stephens all contributing strongly. The line out was also in the visitors’ favour, with the continued return to form, following injury, of Rowan Starkey, being central to this. He was ably supported by second row partner, Harry Preece, who was prominent in the loose, along with the aforementioned Morgan Gervis, and his back row colleagues, Wil Prosser and Jonny Davies. The half backs, Geraint Workman and Gareth Price, mixed up their options intelligently, and outside Price, namesake centre Oli was a powerful influence alongside Roderick. Winger Lucas Kakowlewski also contributed strongly and was a strong running threat out wide.
The second half started strongly, with Brecon again pressing, although the play of both teams became slightly more frantic, and the Brecon strengths of the first half, the precise off loading and intelligent options, were suddenly less apparent. Notwithstanding this, the visitors remained in control of the game, and were rewarded with a further score when skipper, Wil Prosser, added the final attacking flourish from thirty metres, after his colleagues had again managed to piece together some fluent phases.
Following this, the second half fizzled out to a certain extent as the game became increasingly stop start, and the tiring home defence started to pick up some injuries. It did afford Brecon the opportunity to introduce players from the bench and, as has been the case all season, these players added impressively to the collective effort. There were notable contributions from Josh Pritchard, Ben Griffin, Fraser Thomas, Finn Starkey, Tom Richards, Nick Hughes, and Daf Havard and this remains a hugely pleasing aspect of this group’s development as, in addition to the success they have enjoyed on the pitch, they have used close to 40 players during the season, with no reduction in effectiveness. This is an impressive testament to the development work of the club across its junior sections.
The game finished rather tamely as both teams looked to challenges ahead, and Brecon’s victory sees them progress to the final where they will face last years opponents, Mountain Ash. It will be a real test for the Brecon team, as their opponents are a strong unit from a higher division, although the squad from Parc de Pugh will take confidence from knowing that, if they play to the best of their ability, they will be very competitive.
Brecon are now looking at playing in two finals in the coming weeks, as well as remaining in pole position in their league. It has been, thus far, an impressive effort from a hard working and respectful group and, if they continue to get the numbers to training and work hard, they will give themselves every opportunity to enjoy a successful, and richly deserved, denouement to the season.