A big crowd was treated to an exhilarating game of rugby, writes Peter Weavers.
The cliché about games of two halves was dismissed - this became a game of three thirds. Gwernyfed opened up a four-try lead by the half hour, Bettws bounced right back with five tries of their own to take the lead by a point and then the green, white and blacks wrestled the game back in the last twenty minutes to send the home faithful to the bar in high spirits.
GWERNYFED 51 - BETTWS (NEWPORT) 29
It all started off so simply. The Talgarth side took the game to the visitors from the kick off, incursions by backs and forwards punching holes in the defence. Will Eckley was outstanding all afternoon and was the one to put his name on the scoresheet first in showing strength and persistence to crash through from 15 metres, Zack Snape adding the two points.
There was no let up for the Newport men with James Brute, Lewis Bowen and skipper Sam Stephens punching holes in the defence, half backs Luke Eckley and Snape enjoying an armchair ride, releasing a speedy young back line. Notwithstanding some expansive moves, it was the maul that produced the second try, Cellan Skyrme finding Andrew Norris in the line-out and then retrieving the ball at the base of the maul to add the five points.
Norris had an excellent game as always and was heavily involved in the third try, making good yards down the middle and timing his pass to centre Will Powell to perfection, Powell needing no second invitation to touch down under the posts. Like the proverbial London bus, you wait for one try and then two come along. Snape launched a massive clearance from deep in defence into the opposition 22. Gwernyfed were quickest of thought, took a quick-line out with Powell the beneficiary.
Bettws had not looked like scoring in the first half hour. Whether Gwernyfed relaxed or whether the visitors found inspiration was not clear. In any event, while never really dominating affairs, either side of half time Bettws delivered five tries by way of a combination of bold drives down the middle and use of speed outside. The upshot was that on the hour Bettws had not only reeled Gwernyfed in but taken a one point, 29-28, lead.
Zack Snape had potted five penalties to cement a win down in Newport earlier in the season. Snape continued to be a thorn in the Bettws side, converting each of the green, white and black tries and then, when faced with losing a game that the Talgarth side looked nailed on to win, grabbed the initiative back by converting three penalty awards, re-opening an eight-point lead.
With 10 minutes to go, Gwernyfed got their second wind and, refreshed by replacements including Prys Eckley, Ashton Barrell, Kyle Davies and Sean Waldeck, battered away at the visitors’ line. The name Eckley was on everyone’s lips and scrum half Luke was not about to allow his brother the monopoly of compliments. Eckley’s decision-making and service improve impressively every game and one notable feature is his instinct for when to release and when to snipe himself, the latter producing the fifth home try and easing the tension at the Brian Jones Memorial Field.
With the clock running down the final move summed up the afternoon for Gwernyfed, Will Eckley receiving the ball 30 metres out and heading for a try under the posts before being upturned by last gasp defence. Support can often be sparse on such occasions, but Gwernyfed have a man for all seasons in skipper Sam Stephens, always on the elbow and on this occasion scooping up from Eckley to allow Snape a simple conversion by touching down under the posts.
What a game!
Next weekend sees Gwernyfed travel to Crickhowell for the return league game. The game in Talgarth was hard-fought with Gwernyfed coming out on top. Local derbies are bound to be tight and anyone with a couple of hours to spare should beat a path down the A479 for rugby played in the best of spirits shouted on by what will be a healthy crowd.