Fixture

Brecon RFC | 1st Team 43 - 8 Builth Wells RFC | 1st Team
Owen Morgan
Try 1
Jake Newman
Conversion 5
Penalty 1
Try 1
Iwan Dowling Jones
Try 1
Ben Griffin
Try 1
Ryan Price
Try 1
William Prosser
Try 1

Match Report
14 September 2021 / Team News

Brecon RFC 1st XV v Builth Wells RFC XV

As Autumn takes hold, there are few better places to be than in the Usk Valley as the seasonal colour changes develop, and it was against this stunning back drop that Brecon Rugby Club welcomed a sizeable crowd to Parc de Pugh to watch a much-anticipated fixture against local rivals, Builth Wells.

Fixtures between these traditional Breconshire rivals have been limited in recent years as the clubs have taken different journeys through the national league structure. Whilst Brecon have enjoyed some notable success in recent seasons, it is appropriate to outline that their rivals from the north of the County have enjoyed sustained presence in the upper league levels, and this ensured that any fixture between these two historic clubs would be hard fought, particularly as local bragging rights were sought.

This competitive rivalry was further heightened by the fixture being important in the context of who would progress in the WRU National Plate competition, and also because of the result of the previous fixture between the clubs when Brecon had made the earlier trip to the banks of the River Wye at the Groe home of the Bulls. That initial fixture had proved a chastening experience for the Brecon squad as Builth took the spoils on the day and had given the team from the County Town plenty to ponder as they built up to the return clash.

The Brecon Coaching team, led by Matt Lewis, would have been aware of the need to retain a disciplined composure in the face of the strong Builth pack, and also the requirement to ensure that they played the game in the manner that they chose, seeking to operate at a high tempo with width on the ball. The victory the previous week down the Rhondda Valley in Porth had shown the evident qualities in the Brecon unit, and there was a keen intent to ensure that this wide-ranging style of play was to the fore against the Bulls.

Further focus was added by the fact that this game was to be the last appearance in Brecon colours of the colossal back rower, Davey Herdman, who has proved to be a consistent and barnstorming presence for the club over a number of seasons. It was Davey who was given the honour of leading the home side out onto the field, in front of the large crowd of some 500+ spectators.

The levels of expectation and anticipation were therefore high, and friendships put on hold, as the referee’s opening whistle signalled a start to the afternoon’s events. The home club’s desire to bring a real intensity and pace to the opening phases was somewhat blunted by a committed visiting unit, and it was Builth who enjoyed the early possessional and territorial advantage. They drove hard around the fringes of the breakdown, and also put some early width into their attacks, with their No 12 proving to be very effective in terms of the threat he posed the home defence.

Brecon held strong for this opening 10 minute period and Builth were not able to turn that early advantage into a lead on the scoreboard. With mistakes creeping into the Bulls’ game, as they sought to force that early score, penalties were conceded and this enabled the home team to get a stronger foothold in the game. Fly half Jake Newman proved to be key in this regard as his prodigious kicking from the hand turned the territorial stakes around and started to give Brecon a stronger attacking platform.

Early efforts from Brecon initially focused on the set piece, with props Richie Davies and Andy Nicholl proving to be potent in achieving a level of dominance that secured scrum possession or penalties. They were ably supported by returning hooker Jonny Bowen who was also a critical piece of the line out jigsaw, as his reliable ‘darts’ hit his targets consistently. Enjoying a period of attacking pressure in the visitors’ 22, Brecon sought to secure an early score through their driving lineout maul, with second rows, Rowan Starkey and will Prosser, both of whom put in prolific all-round performances, proving to be the focal point of these early drives. To their credit, the Bulls defended this area such that they negated any initial threat through sacking the ball carrier early, and consistently won back possession by turning over the ball – this latter element proved to be a key aspect of the whole afternoon.

As a result of this, Brecon sought to vary the point of attack, and with line out ball being thrown to take advantage of openside flanker Ioan Edwards’ dexterity at the rear, they started to put the called-for width into their attacking strategy. This variety still included strong contributions from the forward pack, with No 8 Ewan Williams enjoying his return to action, form, and fitness, by carrying powerfully into the visitors defensive set-up. With the ball starting to be recycled more quickly, the tempo of the game increased, and Brecon were able to bring their pacy back line into the game with, as it soon turned out, this proving successful in terms of scoring, as the outside backs, in particular, proved to be very threatening in their running.

Classy scrum half, Scott Gibson, was able to spread the ball more effectively as the Brecon attacking game developed, and fly half Newman, and inside centre Ollie Lewis (who enjoyed another afternoon as a key home defensive and attacking lynchpin), were able to bring outside centre Jake Crockett, wingers Ryan Price and Ben Griffin, and full back Owen Morgan into more influential roles in the game. It was the latter who opened the scoring for the home team as, after initial thrusts from the forwards, the ball was quickly spun wide for Owen to use his pace to outstrip the last defender as he plunged over out wide. Notwithstanding the fact that the try was scored in the corner, Jake Newman proved equally adept off the kicking tee as out of hand, and his conversion soared through the uprights to kick start what would turn out to be Brecon’s best period in the game.

The home team were to maintain this high intensity to the game for the remainder of the first half, and they were to prove very adept at attacking from all areas of the field. Fullback Morgan was influential in this period with his dangerous broken field running, whilst the forwards also enjoyed some effective ball in hand time. The visiting team were put under severe pressure at this time, and whilst they continued to defend in a committed fashion, the pace of the home team was starting to stretch the defence and, following some more multi phased attacking play, Brecon worked sufficient space to put Ben Griffin free on the outside, and he worked hard to run around to score another great team try.

Builth sought to come back and didn’t lose the appetite to commit to attack. Given the circumstances of the game, some of this was played under pressure, and mistakes were still prevalent. One such mistake as the visitors made progress in the Brecon half, saw a chip kick being charged down by Jake Newman, who was able to regather and run in unopposed from his own half to score a try under the posts that he duly converted.

Builth’s woes continued as they looked to build back into the game, and influential hooker, Ben Pugh, was soon adjudged by the referee to have raised his arm into a tackle such that he saw fit to brandish a red card. The advantage enjoyed by the Brecon team in terms of numbers, further encouraged some ambitious attacking play, and they soon scored a marvellous try as Owen Morgan broke from deep in his half. Ignoring the supporting players outside him, he passed back inside to the scrum half Gibson who had run an intelligent line to get in support. He made some ground before being tackled but had the presence of mind to offload the ball to Ryan Price, who had come in off his wing and, despite committed attempts to tackle him, Vinny plunged over at the post for another seven pointer, joining his back-three colleagues on the scoresheet.

This proved to be the final score of an eventful first half and, given the way the home side had performed for large periods of the latter part of the half, there would have been a clear aspiration and expectation that Brecon seek to take advantage of the extra man and enjoy an equally prolific second period.

Initial thoughts, soon after the restart, were that there would be more of the same as Brecon gained the early initiative and pressed strongly deep into the Bulls territory. Whilst they defended resolutely, it was inevitable that the pressure would reap some form of reward. The Builth cause was not helped by the loss of an additional player, as a yellow card for a technical offence reflected the pressure they were dealing with.

It became a question of who would score next for Brecon as they pressed strongly, and it was livewire replacement prop, Iwan Dowling-Jones who notched the first score of the second half as he plunged over the line near to the posts. Jake Newman was not going to miss one of the easier conversions he faced, and he duly stretched out the Brecon lead as the team moved above thirty points.

The next ten minute period saw a rather inevitable phase where Brecon again pushed for further scores. It also coincided with a tendency to attack at close quarters, rather than continue to attack through their outside backs and take advantage of increased space. Ironically, the next score did come out wide, as second row Will Prosser was lurking on the wing, and he gained reward for a busy afternoon by plunging over out wide for a score that, again, Jake Newman converted superbly.

If the vocal home support were hoping for some further entertainment in the form of further scores, this disappointingly did not turn out to be the case. Notwithstanding the efforts of the home team bench, where Sammy Hellard and Dafydd Edwards were busy and sharp, Tommy Witcomb was very committed and Mitch Collacott very combative, the home team seemed to move down a gear with the game now, realistically, being beyond Builth’s reach. To the credit of the visitors, they showed commendable spirit and endeavour as they fought their way back into the game and pressed for a score that would justify their whole hearted efforts. Additionally, they were able to slow down the ball at the breakdown, thereby taking some of the intensity out of the home team efforts

That score duly came after a couple of home team indiscretions saw the Bulls press strongly through their forwards for a try. The turnaround in terms of pressure and ground saw Brecon reduced to 14 men as hooker Jonny Bowen was deemed to be the culprit of one such penalty offence, notwithstanding that others may have faced a similar sanction.

The remainder of the game saw Builth competing well, and Brecon not being able to take advantage of a number of attacking opportunities, although the entertainment provided by both teams was much appreciated by the crowd on this cool afternoon. The final whistle eventually rang out with Brecon deserved victors by 43-8, and they now wait to see what awaits them as the Plate competition evolves.

Such a resounding win over respected local opponents is to be celebrated, and the club house was a welcome environment for both teams and sets of supporters as they discussed the events of the day. Whilst noting that, Brecon will also look to build on this performance as they move into the delayed league programme that will start in November. Notwithstanding the part that Builth played in stymieing certain efforts, Brecon will look to develop their line out as an attacking weapon, and also seek to realise the benefits of their expansive attacking abilities. There is a strength in depth within the squad to go on and seek to enjoy a constructive season back in the league set-up, and the encouraging win by the 2nd XV over the visiting Penallta on the adjoining pitch at Parc de Pugh, indicates that others will be pressing strongly for game time during the season.

The final word though needs to reflect the contribution that Davey Herdman has made to the club, both on and off the field. He has been a stalwart regular in the 1st XV and has always played the game with a dynamism that saw his team mates benefit from on numerous occasions. Never one to take a backward step, his commitment to the cause will be missed. All at the club thank him, and wish him well as he moves forward.

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