Brecon RFC | 1st Team 23 - 17 Newcastle Emlyn RFC | 1st Team
Scott Gibson
Try 1
Dean Gunter
Conversion 2
Penalty 3
Jake Crockett
Try 1

Match Report
08 December 2019 / Team News

Brecon 23 - Newcastle Emlyn 17

Following their great away victory against last season’s Plate final opponents, Bonymaen, thoughts turned to the fourth round draw. Amidst the line-up of possible opponents one of the fixtures that Brecon wanted to avoid was Newcastle Emlyn at their West Wales home. The reasoning behind that was that having spent four seasons in the Championship prior to relegation at the end of last season and boasting a 100% record in all competitions this season Newcastle Emlyn had the pedigree and experience to pose a significant threat to Brecon’s ambition to become the first team to record back to back victories in the Plate. Added to that Newcastle Emlyn had the experience of reaching the Plate final in 2015, the incentive of going one better this time and the potential kudos of defeating the reigning Champions. When the draw was made there was relief in the Brecon camp at being drawn at home to play only their third match of the season at Parc de Pugh. Then when Newcastle Emlyn were drawn as their opponents there was the realisation that they would be a major challenge but that if they could be overcome, as were Bonymaen, then another of the potential favourites would be eliminated from the competition.

As the teams took the field in front of a large crowd, conditions were perfect. A light breeze blew down the lush Parc de Pugh pitch from the Town end and with just light cloud and intermittent winter sunshine the stage was set for a classic Cup tie. The teams didn’t disappoint. The quality of rugby and sportsmanship, in a hard fought, close contest was a credit to the community game and to the two teams that represented their towns in Mid and West Wales.

There was never going to be much between the two sides and if Brecon were to succeed then they needed to make the most of home advantage. Winning the toss they decided to play into the slight breeze in the first half and to receive the ball from the kick off. What they needed then to do was to ensure that Newcastle Emlyn were not given the opportunity to exert early pressure and grow in confidence. That first challenge they negotiated expertly. Two influential players made an early statement with Man of the Match, Richie Davies, carrying the ball back and breaking through the gain line before blind side wing Tom Richards appeared in midfield and created space for the outside backs to attack and take the ball deep into opposition territory. From there Brecon exerted great pressure and tested the Emlyn defence, which much to its credit managed to hold out against a series of impressive Brecon attacks. Four minutes into the game Brecon posted their first points. Richie Davies again featured as an impressive ball carrier and the ever dangerous Jake Crockett almost got to the line. He was help up just short but from a penalty in front of the posts Dean Gunter kicked Brecon’s into a lead.

From the kick off Brecon again showed ambition and ran out of defence with a great flat pass from Dean Gunter creating space. Immediately Brecon were back on the offensive. Crockett and wing Owen Morgan combined on a threatening run down the left flank only for the cover to use the proximity of the touch line to good effect and thus snuff out the threat. Making good use of the territory Brecon looked certain to score. Two driving mauls came close and then centre, Eifion Jones, who had a superb game both in attack and defence, was brought down within a metre of the line. When Brecon were awarded a penalty on 5 metres in front of the posts many spectators thought they should have taken the points rather than go for a scrum. Impressive captain Ewan Williams made a bold decision and went for a scrum. The doubters seemed to be vindicated as Gunter crossed the try line only for the referee to blow for a forward pass and give a scrum to Emlyn. When Brecon were subsequently penalised there were many who were now sure the wrong decision had been made. The attempted kick to the touch line was gathered in play and Owen Morgan made ground through mid-field. Outstanding flanker Ioan Edwards was in support and the ball was moved to Crockett who was brought down just outside the visitors’ 22 and near the right touch line. A ruck formed and scrum half Scott Gibson weighed up his options. He looked to pass left but instead turned and sprinted through the narrowest of gaps and into space. His pace took him clear of the cover to score in the corner. Dean Gunter converted brilliantly from the touchline to give Brecon a 10 point lead after 14 minutes.

From the kick off and for the first time in the match Emlyn gained possession in the Brecon half. Suddenly they came to life. A half break through midfield looked dangerous and now it was Brecon’s turn to defend. As Emlyn continued to apply pressure and vary their game with a mixture of width and powerful runs from big ball carriers Brynmor Jones and Elliot Rees, so Brecon’s defence was tested to the full. Hooker Ryan Williams, centre Sam Campbell and flanker Davey Herdman made a number of critical tackles as Brecon weathered the storm through numerous phases. Finally, however, Emlyn got a chance to reduce the arrears. Ewan Williams infringed at a ruck and was sent to the sin bin while a penalty was awarded in a very kickable position. The attempted goal kick struck a post but the relief was short-lived as Emlyn re-gathered. Now, a man down, with ten minutes to go to half time and pinned in their 22, Brecon showed great character. The depleted pack was tested to the limit. In scrum after scrum, Andy Nicholl, as the cornerstone of the pack, held firm. Darren Witcomb, and Will Prosser were competitive and aggressive at the breakdown and Brecon held out until the final play before the half time whistle when centre Andrew Owens finally scored and full back Shaun Leonard reduced Brecon’s advantage to just three points with a conversion.

Brecon needed to reassert themselves as they were restored to a full 15 at the start of the second half. They did it brilliantly. Gathering the kick off, Emlyn tried to run out of defence but a great Witcomb chop tackle gave Brecon the opportunity to gain possession. Richie Davies popped up with the ball and drove impressively across the 22. The ball was quickly re-cycled and Ewan Williams, in midfield, threw a brilliant flat miss pass which Eifion Jones took and he put Jake Crockett away on the outside for an outstanding score. Gunter again brilliantly converted.

Emlyn tried to hit back but were held by a great defensive wall and with Brecon’s scrum getting the upper hand it was the home team that looked most likely to score. They came close. Scott Gibson chased down a kick ahead and looked to have scored in the corner but the decision went against him. Owen Morgan ran on to a wonderful wide kick from Dean Gunter and his inside pass to Crockett saw his team mate brought down within a metre of the line as Emlyn brilliantly scrambled back. Then replacement wing Lewys Cooke almost latched on to another brilliant Gunter cross kick only for the bounce to evade him. After two missed long range penalties Gunter was on target with the next. Emlyn hit back with a penalty of their own before Gunter replied with his third after Eifion Jones put in a crunching tackle on the visitors’ 22.

Two scores adrift and with time running out Emlyn were still up for the fight. Brecon’s cause was helped as the fresh legs of Aiden Luxton and Ryan James entered the fray but the game was not over. Emlyn set up a good position when replacement prop Lee Griffith broke through a ruck and got behind Brecon’s defence. From there Brecon were put under the severest pressure but they held out until the final play when prop, Emrys Davies, finally barged over the line and Leonard converted as the referee blew for full time.

Justifiably coaches, Andy Powell, Matthew Watkins and the team were delighted with the result. Newcastle Emlyn were worthy opponents and contributed to an outstanding game of rugby. Now the focus will fall on the mid-week draw for the quarter final to be played on 11th January but before the Christmas break Brecon have to re-focus on the League with a home match against Blaenavon on Saturday 14th .