Brecon’s steely defence sees off Ponty challenge
WRU National League Division 1 East
Brecon took an early lead in Saturday’s game against Pontypool United at Parc de Pugh and with another score after 10 minutes everything pointed to a comfortable bonus-point victory.
Early on Eifion Jones kicked through to set up a good attacking position and off an impressive Ioan Edwards line-out steal Brecon spread the ball left with forwards Ryan Williams and Jon James making good ground. When the ball was switched back, rightside hooker Ryan Williams cut a beautiful line against the grain and split the defence. His pass to flanker Ioan Edwards was perfectly executed and Edwards score under the posts. Dean Gunter converted.
On the 10-minute mark Brecon extended the lead to 14 points with another lovely try. Dafydd Edwards, following up a long kick up-field, put the Pontypool fullback under pressure and his attempted relieving kick gained little ground. From the line out Brecon maintained possession through a number of phases with Ryan Williams again prominent. They almost breached the line on a number of occasions but the United defence held until the ball was moved into midfield. With dummy runners drawing the attention of the defence, Eifion Jones cut back on the angle, split the defence and crashed over under the posts. Again Gunter converted.
Brecon’s tail was up and from the restart they ran out of defence, only to be halted when Ryan Price was bundled into touch on the 10-metre line. At this point the game took a sudden and dramatic change. For the remaining 28 minutes of the half the game was played exclusively in Brecon’s half. Keeping possession Pontypool drove hard at the Brecon defence. Fortunately that defence was superb with the likes of Davey Herdman and Cameron Gardner showing a great appetite for work while operating under great pressure. Once or twice Pontypool came close to the line but each time they were denied.
While the defence was superb and had to be applauded, home supporters became anxious as Brecon could not break the stranglehold Pontypool had on territory. When Brecon did effect turn overs or caused the ball to be spilled the escape strategy was hampered by errors, both handling and in the disappointing execution of relieving kicks. Pontypool battered away with a range of strategies from attempted driving mauls to movement which used the full width of the field. The fact that the score remained at 14-0 as the teams headed for the changing room at half time was purely down to a magnificent defensive effort.
The second half started as the first ended. Brecon had opportunities to put pressure on their visitors but a throw which wasn’t straight at the line out and a scrum where Brecon failed to concentrate and gave away a penalty allowed Pontypool to once again take play deep into the Brecon 22. For 20 minutes Pontypool remained on top and the pressure was only relieved when Pontypool opted to kick a penalty at goal and reduce the arrears. While the points on the board were important for Pontypool it allowed Brecon to kick off and enter their opponents’ half. Once there the balance of the game shifted. Brecon started to take control of the scrums and at last Pontypool were forced to defend. Ewan Williams, Elgan Lewis and Adam Hoskins ruthlessly stretched the defence and finally Hoskins crossed from short range for a try which Gunter converted.
Within minutes Brecon extended their lead and claimed a bonus point with a fourth try. Eifion Jones kicked through and his chase put pressure on the Pontypool wing as he tried to gather near his line. He spilled the ball and Jones pounced for a try which put the game out of Pontypool’s reach.
Now thoughts turn to the Cup Semi-final next Saturday at Ebbw Vale against Penallta. This will undoubtedly be a titanic struggle between the top two teams in the league in the first of three season-defining head to heads.