Brecon Youth 17 Gwernyfed Youth 15
AT the end of a long dry spell Brecon faced near neighbours and close rivals, Gwernyfed in the final of the Breconshire Youth Cup.
The evening started calm and dry but ended in heavy rain which made handling decidedly difficult. This season the two sides have faced one another on one previous occasion when Brecon visited Trefecca Road for a Heart of Wales Youth Cup quarter final. Brecon narrowly won that encounter by 18 points to 13.
The return for this final at Parc de Pugh was, therefore, eagerly anticipated by both sides and the large crowd of around 400 spectators, none of whom went home disappointed.
Both sides played with ambition and the general tempo of the game was impressive with both teams willing to use the ball in hand. There was something of a contrast in styles as Brecon, the smaller of the two teams, sought to get the ball as wide as possible while Gwernyfed made more use of their more powerful pack and its particularly potent attacking driving maul.
Brecon on the back of a recent win against Mountain Ash started with confidence and took the lead inside 10 minutes, right wing Ben Griffin running in with pace for an unconverted try.
With the early momentum in their favour Brecon exerted considerable pressure on Gwernyfed but even then there were signs in both scrummage and line out that Dan Draper and the Gwernyfed pack would cause problems later on.
However, at the end of the first quarter Brecon extended their lead after a wonderful counter attacking run by full back Thomas Richards. Although the move was halted with some great Gwernyfed scrambling defence, Brecon exerted pressure. With Josh Pritchard driving hard at the at the visitors defence and following a half break by outside half Gareth Price, Geraint Workman was finally driven over the line to extend Brecon’s lead to 10 points.
At this early stage it seemed that Brecon were beginning to take control but that feeling was quickly dispelled as Gwernyfed began to take the game to their opponents. Prompted by a lovely flat pass from Levi Phillips, classy centre Jacob Winfield made a great run through the first line of defence. Although he was brought down near the posts, Gwernyfed won a penalty and bravely took a quick tap. Their enterprise was rewarded when Louis Rodell-Grenow was driven over for a try which Andrew Barrell converted.
As the second quarter drew towards its close it was obvious that the game would continue as a close affair. Both sides made ground. Ryan Price and Sam Maggs threatened for Brecon while Cellan Davies and Draper made powerful surges for the visitors. As half time approached Gwernyfed were awarded a penalty and kicked to touch deep into the home 22. They went for a line out drive but Brecon’s rose to the challenge and they escaped unscathed with a three point advantage as the half time whistle blew.
Brecon started the second half well but failed to make the most of their opportunities. Twice they were awarded penalties which they kicked to give themselves an attacking line out and twice they lost the ball on their own throw. Gwernyfed were far more accurate in their execution. When they won a penalty Andrew Barrell stepped up and beautifully bisected the posts to draw his team level.
Barrell followed this with a great penalty kick to the corner and again Gwernyfed set up a driving maul. Once again Brecon’s response was formidable as they repulsed the attack as the rain stared to create difficult playing conditions. With the ground hard and the ball greasy handling became difficult and mistakes were bound to occur. For Gwernyfed one slip proved to be very costly. They failed to hold a pass on half way and Brecon capitalised. They pounced on the loose ball hacked through towards the line and as the ball crossed the line a Brecon chaser was impeded and the referee awarded a penalty try. Huw Thomas easily converted and suddenly Brecon had a seven point lead.
Gwernyfed hit back with everything they had. They pinned Brecon down in their right hand corner and won a series of penalties all of which they kicked to the corner and drove. Each time they were repulsed by some magnificent defence in which replacement flanker Jonathan Davies was outstanding. Eventually, however, they were forced to concede a try when finally the Gwernyfed maul was driven over. The conversion from wide out failed and Brecon now held a slender two point advantage with just minutes remaining.
With the last play Gwernyfed won a penalty wide out on the Brecon 10 metre line. They had little option but to go for a winning score but with the ground now slippery it was not going to be easy. There was a deathly hush as Barrell struck the ball well and in the direction of the posts but it fell short and Brecon hammered the ball out of play to the sound of the final whistle. It was a win for the home team by the narrowest of margins giving them a hat trick of successes with two Cup wins and a league title while for the impressive Gwernyfed team they were left to ponder on a game in which they just failed to notch up a notable victory.