Newbridge RFC | 1st Team 13 - 7 Brecon RFC | 1st Team
Eamonn Rees
Penalty 1
Christopher Davies
Try 1
Anthony Symons
Try 1
Thomas Richards
1 Try
Dean Gunter
1 Conversion

Match Report
12 January 2020 / Team News

Newbridge 13 - Brecon 7

“To be the best you have to beat the best.” Those were the words that were ringing in the Brecon team’s ears as they made the journey to Newbridge to face the challenge of the current Division 1 League Leaders. The words from Brecon’s coaching team of Andy Powell, and Matthew J Watkins were appropriately motivational and completely true. For the second time this season Brecon travelled away to the Memorial Ground, Newbridge to face the former WRU Merit Table Club. On their previous visit honours were shared at 16 points apiece and everyone was anticipating an equally close contest. In that respect the match did not disappoint but for Brecon the journey home was tinged with disappointment as the dream of becoming the first team to successfully retain the Trophy was swamped on a damp afternoon. After a series of 11 consecutive wins in the Plate stretching back to September 2019, Brecon were finally overturned by a team that both adapted to, and were better suited to cope with the very wet and windy conditions.  

In defeat Brecon can gain some consolation from the fact that they never gave up and were in the match to the final whistle in spite of the fact that right from the start the extra power of the Newbridge tight five looked as if it would have a major influence on the outcome of the game. With the ground already very wet and with almost constant rain accompanied by a gusty wind it was clear that it was not going to be a day for flowing rugby. Instead it was a day for simple power based rugby where possession, territory and limiting mistakes were the priorities. In those aspects Newbridge had the advantage. Their much larger pack dominated the scrums right from the start. Brecon found it difficult to generate any clean ball in this phase of play. Scrum half Scott Gibson and No 8 Ewan Williams did their best to salvage something from a retreating base and on a slippery surface but it was never easy. By contrast Newbridge’s scrum half Matthew Davies had a comparatively easy ride and he made the most of his opportunity while putting in a Man of the Match performance for his work both in attack and defence.

There were a number of other areas in which Newbridge also held the upper hand. Their driving maul was powerful and well organised and it led directly to the two tries they scored. Also, with more time than their Brecon opponents their kicking game was more effective and as a result they gained territory. Once that was achieved they employed a simple pattern of hard driving play. The fact that Brecon stayed in sight of victory at all was down to their determination in defence and the competitiveness at the breakdown against much bigger opponents. The whole of the pack should take credit for the way that they hit their opponents in the tackle, turned ball over at the breakdown or won penalties.

With limited quality possession the backs found it difficult to break the home defence although when good ball was provided it was the Brecon backs that looked the more likely to create openings. However, maintaining continuity through expansive moves with a wet ball and on an increasingly muddy surface was never easy.

Once Newbridge won an early penalty and took the lead, via the boot of outside half Eamonn Rees, the stage was set. Brecon worked hard to try to create good ball that they could use to stretch the home defence but as soon as an error was made Brecon found themselves back in defence and a times having to scramble to prevent a second score. However, prevent it they did and in flashes they showed they could be dangerous as they came more into the game. On the twenty minute mark they dramatically took the lead. Dean Gunter put in an attacking kick which with the swirling wind made life difficult for the home defence. Following up Gunter was the first to latch onto the ball and he delivered a quick pass to supporting wing Lewys Cooke. Cooke fed Thomas Richards who arrived on the scene at pace and that pace took him through the defence on a twenty five metre run in to the line. Dean Gunter expertly converted and Brecon were ahead.

The lead did not last too long. Brecon’s Achilles heel re-surfaced as they were penalised at a scrum. From a kick to touch in the corner Newbridge formed a maul at the line out and in spite of some staunch defence they crossed the line with prop Chris Davies claiming the try. From there until the break both teams battle hard in their contrasting ways with the score remaining 8 to 7 in favour of the home team.

In the early stages of the second half, Newbridge pressed hard, looking to increase their slender advantage. Brecon showed great resilience and gradually they worked their way up-field. Now in attack they began to look threatening particularly when Newbridge were reduced in number as a yellow card was shown. Some promising thrusts involving Scott Gibson, Ewan Williams, Davey Herdman and Ryan Williams brought hope but maintaining the continuity was never an easy task in such poor conditions and when confronted by a resolute defence. An opportunity was created when Brecon won a penalty on the home 22. A difficult decision had to be made and Brecon went for the brave one, opting for a line out rather than going for goal. The maul was held but Brecon drove off the breakdown within sight of the line. They were repulsed and finally the ball was lost in contact and the siege lifted.

The game now entered a deliberately attritional stage. Newbridge kept the ball through numerous phases employing simple pick and drive tactics in an attempt to wear down their lighter opponents. It worked as gradually Newbridge won territory and put themselves within striking distance. A final driving maul ended with hooker Stuart Vokes claiming the try.

With ten minutes still to play, Brecon were still just one score adrift and they threw everything in to attack. The build up at times looked promising but it wasn’t to be. With the final whistle Newbridge celebrated while Brecon were left to, first lick their wounds and then re-focus on the league with an away fixture at Pontypool to face next Saturday.