For the second week Brecon travelled west as their preparations for the new season gathered momentum, writes Ron Rowsell.

This time the squad was reduced from last week’s 30 to 25 as the team moves closer to a competitive start.

There were several notable absentees as a result of injury or holidays but there was also the return of a few former squad members. Facing Narberth on the home territory was never going to be an easy challenge.

Narberth have been a successful Championship team since the introduction of the Championship in 2011. They have only once finished below sixth and on three occasions claimed the Runner up spot. Last season they finished fifth behind Bargoed, Neath, Pontypool and Bedwas and so they have an impressive pedigree.

With that as the background, Brecon’s players, coaching team and supporters clearly understood that this would be a test both physically and mentally.

The match started with Brecon having the advantage of strong breeze in dry conditions and on a remarkably green and good playing surface. As well as having to deal with the effects of the two-hour journey and the breeze they also had to adapt to the famous cross field slope of the Otters Pitch. Right from the start it was also clear that the Brecon players would have to cope with a pace and intensity to which they were not accustomed.

Training has involved work under pressure and at pace but under match conditions this was undoubtedly a step up. In many ways they responded very well.

Their scrum throughout the match was solid and at times had the edge over their opponents with just the odd one where concentration slipped. They surrendered a couple of penalties at this phase but they also won an equal number and it looks to be a phase in which they can challenge most Division 1 teams.

Line out was a mixed bag. At times they won excellent clean ball but with a difficult breeze and with opposition which regularly contested the line out, they lost five of their throws. Critically they lost a line out when only five metres out, something that they just cannot afford to do. Having worked so hard to earn the attacking position they have to be clinical as they get closer to the competitive season. They also had one driving maul off a line out halted on the try line, although this was done so illegally. Unfortunately, Brecon failed to score from the resulting penalty.

With possession Brecon caused Narberth problems. A number of forwards carried well and particularly in mid-field they threatened. That threat unfortunately was not sustained as Brecon found it hard to maintain continuity and thus impose pressure on the home defence.

After relatively even opening exchanges, Narberth took the lead when they split off a line out drive and crashed over for a try. They extended that lead after 25 minutes when finally, they stretched the Brecon defence out wide and then cut back and through a few weak tackles. Brecon responded well to this set back. They hit back with an excellent try to reduce the deficit to three points. Ewan Williams initiated the move with an excellent run and Ollie Lewis finished impressively as he burst through a gap and had the pace to finish. Dion McIntosh brought Brecon back to within three points with an excellent conversion.

Disappointingly their threat to get back on terms with their hosts was short lived. They suffered as a result of a failure to secure the ball in contact, a feature which hampered their play throughout the match. The kick off was taken cleanly and Brecon made ground but lost the ball in the tackle and then gave away a penalty for being offside. From a close-range scrum, the Narberth Number 8 burst over for a try which was converted.

This was disappointing, as with the half entering its final stage, they needed to go in to the team talk while still less than one score adrift. It did, however, highlight a failing that must have been a feature of that half time talk.

Too often Brecon found the pace and pressure created by the Narberth defence difficult to deal with. The pressure exerted resulted in Brecon either losing possession in contact or losing the breakdown contest.

This was particularly emphasised early in the second half when Brecon, facing the stiff breeze, started well. They created opportunities in the home 22 but too often they either spilled the ball in contact, had it stolen on the ground or surrendered a penalty as their opponents effectively and successfully targeted the breakdown.

Narberth were thus able resist the pressure without conceding a score. Then as they asserted themselves and with the breeze at their backs there was some concern that the home side may start to run away with the game. They did score one more converted try when Brecon lost the ball when trying to run out of defence but other than that instance Brecon battled hard to make life difficult for their opponents. Although it never looked as if they could get back fully into contention, they showed character and came away from the match having put up a creditable performance against their Championship opponents.

Final score: Narberth 24 - Brecon 7.

Their efforts will now have to be repeated next Saturday when they face Bedwas, a leading Championship team.

This time they will have home advantage but their resolve will certainly be tested to the full. However, if they can show that they are working with their coaching team and learning from the experience of facing the pace and intensity of Championship opponents then it will be good preparation for the start of the league season.