Blaenavon RFC | 1st Team 8 - 22 Brecon RFC | 1st Team
Dafydd Edwards
1 Try
Dean John Gunter
4 Penalty
Ewan David Williams
1 Try

Match Report
11 September 2018 / Team News

Blaenavon v Brecon Match Report

Blaenavon v Brecon Match Report – 8th September 2018

The new campaign in Division 1 East continued for Brecon RFC as they travelled over Llangynidr Mountain, across the Heads of Valleys, to the Unesco World Heritage site of Blaenavon, this being a recognition of its gritty industrial past, and affording it a global renown. The rugby club itself has an illustrious past, having provided numerous players to the national team and higher levels of club rugby in Wales, part of the strong Gwent tradition of providing formidable forward packs. Whilst the club has enjoyed mixed fortunes in recent times, it remains an ever present in the current Division 1, and has continued a reputation for a strong presence up front that means that teams who travel to its Coed Cae home will know that any victories will always be hard-earned.

It was with this knowledge in mind that Brecon began their journey away, also understanding that the previous week’s victory against Nelson had promised much but, at the squad’s own acknowledgement, left more to come in terms of what the team is capable of. Blaenavon, being located at the upper levels of this particular Gwent Valley, has one of the higher grounds in Wales which, as a result, sees it open to the vagaries of the Welsh weather. Brecon’s latest visit provided experience of this as the surrounding hilltops were shrouded in mist and clouds, leading to a regular rainfall that was to prove influential in the proceedings.

Recent encounters with Blaenavon have seen Brecon prevail, albeit those matches being characterised by periods of having to suppress the strong forward presence of the opposition before pulling away from them. The visiting Brecon squad was therefore under no illusion of the stiff task in front of them.

Those assumptions were evident in the early exchanges as Brecon came out strongly, playing into the elements, but were having to work hard to counter the home team’s strength at the set piece. This, allied to a home fly half and full back who were able to gain significant distance on their clearing kicks, saw Blaenavon repelling the higher tempo attacking game of their opponents for the first period. The early period saw other elements come into play that were to prove significant in the development of the game, insomuch as the visiting Brecon team, in seeking to play an off loading game at speed, saw the high risk approach resulting in good yardage gains offset against a rusty execution in the final delivery. Additionally, the home team sought to thwart this approach by slowing the game down, and the conflict of approaches saw the referee’s whistle becoming increasingly influential.

There was certain evident frustration amongst the Brecon squad and group of supporters, although the team started to gain a better platform as the scrum responded to earlier setbacks, and the possession and territorial advantage was very much with them. This increasing ascendancy saw a number of penalties being awarded, three of which were converted by fly half Dean Gunter, whilst the increasing confidence with ball in hand saw a number of chances coming the visitors’ way. This was manifest in the team going through various periods of controlled phases of play, one of which, ultimately, led to consistently impressive skipper, Ewan Williams, plunging over for the first try of the game.

The first half was played out to the consistent pattern of Brecon pressing strongly, breaking the defensive line on numerous occasions, but being repelled by their own mistakes, or by the resolution of the home defence and commitment to slowing the Brecon game down. It was noticeable that the Brecon attacking options occurred both close to the various breakdowns and set pieces, but also out wide where full back Jake Crockett was a constant threat. The failure to capitalise on these would have been part of the focus of the coaching teams’ exhortations as the half time whistle arrived with Brecon enjoying a 14-3 advantage. Additionally, whilst enjoying emerging supremacy in the scrum, the Brecon line-out was yet to function to its effective level of the previous season.

The second half saw Brecon enjoy the slight advantages of the weather patterns, and they started this period in fine fettle as they continued to attack confidently and with purpose, and also started to create some space and opportunities in the wider areas of the field. It was evident however that circumstances were conspiring to hinder wider ambitions for the visiting side, whether it be their own marginal inaccuracies, or the influences of others, and the game developed a staccato pattern in terms of flourishing in to life before slowing down to a more negative structure. The widely varying tempo of the game saw Brecon impressing more with the ball in hand at times, and one particularly fine attacking move saw Crockett making some impressive yardage, before linking with the supporting Eifion Jones who drew the last line of defence before releasing winger Dafydd Edwards who was able to race in unopposed.

This score was evidence of what the team was capable of, and led to hopes that the performance, in spite of the poor weather, would develop into that which the Brecon team have become known for, and accustomed to. With the addition of a further Gunter penalty, the visitors enjoyed a 22-3 advantage, a well deserved platform that raised hope for a latter period of play that would see them extend their lead. Unfortunately, this turned into something of a forlorn hope as, to their credit, the proud home team pressed strongly for an extended period of time, and constructed a very controlled and continuous period of pay that saw them pressing deep into Brecon territory for a period of time. Whilst Brecon defended strongly, a feature of their play already this season, they inevitably fell foul of some of the refereeing interpretations and were penalised on a number of occasions. A yellow card for the visitors saw their defence stretched once too often and, with the final act of the game, Blaenavon plunged over for a try that saw the game finish at 22-8.

The coaching team of Andy Powell, Matthew J Watkins, and Matthew Lewis would have shared the players’ frustrations that they were not able to build on their obvious ascendancy, and will note the areas of improvement that they will focus on eg the line-out. Notwithstanding, it remains an away win at a proud club, and Brecon will seek to bulild on this for the visit of Caerleon in their next game. The team will take positives from the performance, with the scrum being an effective attacking option, and the front row of Richie Davies, Ryan Williams, and Tommy Witcomb featured well, the latter in his first start for the senior team. Andy Nichol and Kev Jones added impressively to this off the bench, with the scrum being an imposing attacking base. The second row of Darren Witcomb and Jarryd Davies featured well, the former featuring again with the ball in hand, whilst the latter continues to impress at his new club with his all-round contributions. The back row of skipper Williams, Davey Herdman, and Ioan Edwards were again a good blend of ball carrying, tenacious defence, and all round influence, and Chris Davies off the bench added additional firepower.

Scrum Halves Lewis Cooke and Geraint Workman both fought against a strongly pressing fringe defence to release the ball to fly half Dean Gunter who varied the play well as he sought to bring his three quarters in to the game whilst also pressing for territory. Centres Eifion Jones and Cam Gardner were, as ever, consistently impressive in their defensive and attacking duties, whilst sub Sam Campbell supplemented this with a forceful cameo. The afore mentioned Jake Crockett continues to impress in attack and he was ably supported by wingers Ryan Price and Dafydd Edwards, who both looked sharp with little ball. Whilst the weather may have impacted upon proceedings in Blaenavon the coaching and playing squad will know that they have the potential to build upon this performance, and the team looks capable of playing a very high paced all round attacking game, based upon the increasingly impressive and composed forward platform.