Gowerton RFC | 1st Team 24 - 45 Brecon RFC | 1st Team
Ben Griffin
1 Try
Jake Crockett
1 Try
Ewan Williams
1 Try
Dewi Edwards
1 Try
Jake Newman
4 Conversion
1 Penalty

Match Report
13 March 2022 / Team News

Gowerton RFC 22 Brecon RFC 45

Match Report Gowerton v Brecon – WRU Plate Quarter Final 12th March 2022

As has been previously reported, the ravages of the weather, and the continued impacts of the Global Pandemic, has seen the curtailment of a significant proportion of the community rugby game in Wales. The most notable effects have been seen in the numerous league structures across the regions, with teams playing a varying and disproportionate amount of games, and the lack of promotion and relegation also being a factor in the ability to fulfill fixtures. Whilst it is absolutely correct that teams have been allowed this period to reflect and rebuild after the struggles of the last two years, it has had an undoubted impact on the abilities of clubs to fulfill all fixtures.

In acknowledging these effects, it is also a truism to outline that the WRU knockout competitions have provided a significant focus for teams as they move through this campaign, and those still fortunate to remain in the respective versions of these competitions, have continued to pursue the goal of being able to run out at the Principality Stadium on Finals Day.

One of the many curious impacts of the Covid period is the fact that Brecon remain the last team to have won the WRU Plate competition, and whilst much has changed since the club enjoyed a great day out in Cardiff in 2019, the opportunity to revisit or replicate that occasion remains a significant motivational factor for all involved. The Plate is a difficult competition to win and, since Brecon’s success, a number of teams have featured prominently in their respective leagues to indicate that, should Brecon wish to prevail this year, it will very much be ‘done the hard way’ given the quality of teams remaining.

One of those teams were a club located at the gateway to the Gower, and in travelling down to the wider Swansea area and, specifically, the town of Gowerton, the Brecon squad and supporters were making another trip to a new venue, one of the great benefits of the knockout competitions. The hosts are a team who ply their trade in Division 1 and, whilst the visiting group of supporters will have sought to do their homework by scanning this league and seeing how Gowerton have done, any thoughts about their place in the bottom half of the league providing any sort of indication of the task ahead, would have been tempered by the fact that The Starch had disposed of West 1 League leaders in the previous round of the Plate.

The club’s nickname, according to one of the home teams supporters, comes from the town’s history as home to the owners and white collar employees of the steel works that once thrived in the wider area, and, true to the basis of the name, the visiting travellers arrived at a pitch looking in pristine shape after the challenges of the recent weather, with the adjoining clubhouse providing a welcome backdrop to the game that was to unfold.

As both squads warmed up, all became aware of the wind blowing laterally (and bitingly for the supporters) from the east, thus dictating that the game would inevitably be played primarily along the one touchline. The touch line in question was host to Brecon’s new touch judge, and whilst the sight of Tom Jones athletically pacing the whitewash would have meant a reduction in the decibel level of the visiting supporters, his performance on the day has put some real pressure on the long term incumbent, Tony Price.

This competition for places is, more importantly, reflected in the continuing development of the Brecon playing squad, and whilst a few injuries had been picked up in the victory in the previous round, the rearrangement of the starting XV, and the populating of the bench with increased numbers and added experience, meant that coaches Matt Lewis, and Wayne Morris, had a strong squad at their disposal for this quarter final match.

The early exchanges were somewhat indicative of how the game would evolve, with Brecon proving very powerful in the carry, and also using the wind to great effect in their kicking game. It is no disrespect to The Starch to say that Brecon were the dominant team in these opening phases, with their set piece work putting their hosts under extreme pressures, and their physicality at the breakdown providing the desired quick ball to develop a phased attacking approach. A strong and disciplined part of the game was the driving maul from the lineout, and from one such episode, livewire hooker, Dewi Edwards, was able to break free and plunge over for an early score that Jake Newman converted to give Brecon the start they had hoped for.

From the restart, another important and recurring element of the game saw Ewan Williams gather, and set off on a powerful run, beating defenders, and gaining significant yardage. The home team may have considered the wisdom on this as he was to gather a significant proportion of these drop kicks and, without fail, Ewan was able to return the ball with interest every time, as he put in yet another performance of the highest level.

The pressure that Brecon exerted saw a number of penalties conceded and this saw territory being gained on a regular basis. From one such phase, a further home team indiscretion gave Jake Newman the opportunity to add a further three points to extend the lead. His kicking from hand, and from the tee, was of the highest quality, and proved a key contributor to the events that were to follow.

This quality of kicking was also matched by the home team fly half and, after taking the initial lead, some sloppiness in terms of Brecon’s execution, allied to the resilience of the host side, saw them start to gain ground themselves, and from one phase of carefully controlled play, the Gowerton inside centre cut back on an incisive angle to break some tackles and score near the posts. The conversion was not going to be missed by the home 10 and they hauled themselves back into contention on the scoreboard.

The following period of the game saw Brecon regain some ascendancy in possession and territory, and the lively Scott Gibson joined his halfback partner in dictating the pattern of play, particularly as Brecon sough to adjust their accuracy to reflect the size of the playing surface. This involved the back line seeking to become more direct in their approach, and centre Ollie Lewis had a powerful carrying game in this regard. Outside him, skipper Jake Crockett was lively and also powerful with ball in hand, and the visitors probed continually for a further score.

That fully deserved score came from an element of the game that Brecon enjoyed significant success in, insomuch as their scrum was able to drive their opponents backwards on a number of occasions. During one break in play, the referee was seen to speak to the home team front row about this element and, when the next scrum also retreated at a rate of knots, the referee had no hesitation in running under the posts to award the visitors a penalty try. The front row of the aforementioned Dewi, Iwan Dowling-Jones, and the tight head Andy Nicholls were dominant at this time, and the latter in particular was a key element in the success they enjoyed.

It was, therefore, to be a curiosity as the game continued, that this obvious dominance was not similarly rewarded as the first half progressed towards the break.

The Starch again proved their durability in terms of a period of territorial gains, and the visiting defence was resolute as it held out against a number of attacking options that Gowerton unveiled. This included putting the home team lineout under pressure in a period where a kick to touch cleared the surrounding fence to strike a passing car, adding to the tensions felt at this time.

Brecon managed to resist these attacking threats, albeit Gowerton had converted a penalty, and then started to reaffirm their pre-eminence in terms of possession. They attacked continually, albeit with some handling errors letting them down, and the back three of the elusive Sami Hellard, the lively and threatening Ben Griffin, combined with the sinuous running of Owen Morgan, were also very proactive in getting involved, particularly in terms of kick returns.

Adjusting to the geography of the pitch, the attacking intent of Brecon was shown in the direct running of both forwards and back alike, and the centres were supported in this regard by the efforts of Will Prosser, Josh Millichap, Iwan Dowling-Jones and, of course, number 8 Williams, who was able to get on the end of one great passage of play to plunge over under the posts for a third try of the game. The conversion by Jake N, allied to an earlier penalty, saw the half time whistle go with Brecon leading 24-10.

As the teams grouped for the half time orange, it was clear that both the Brecon playing squad, and accompanying supporters, were unsure as to why the scrum dominance had not been rewarded with additional sanctions, although both teams were, rightly, highly complementary of the efforts of the man in the middle on the day.

As the second half kicked off, and progressed, an early feature of this was the continued powerful performance of the Brecon scrum and, to misquote the Starch motto of ‘Myn y Gwir ei Le’ this perpetual dominance was ultimately rewarded as a further powerful eight man drive saw the referee acknowledge these efforts with a further seven-pointer under the posts.

What followed was a period of play where Brecon started to add further pace  and urgency to the game, and their precision with the ball in hand was much improved. From one particular passage of play, Brecon combined magnificently, to send skipper Jake C running around under the posts for a further score that put much needed scoreboard space between the teams. Again, Ewan Williams was prominent in this period, and Josh Millichap showed up excellently with a busy performance with the ball in hand.

Teams have often subsided in such circumstances, but it is to the credit of The Starch that they continued to probe themselves, albeit against a visiting defence that was tight and effective in parts. Open side flanker Ioan Edwards was proving to be a nuisance at the breakdown, and the defensive commitment of the team was highlighted by the work rate of second row Rowan Starkey, who put in a huge defensive shift, chopping down attackers with his long frame, including one period of three tackles in succession. Allied to his performance, with second row colleague Wil Prosser, in a strong lineout, the second row combination are developing as an important unit within the team.

Gowerton did add two further scores to their tally, with these bookending what was the try of the game by Brecon, when they attacked from their own try line and managed to set Jake C free. He stepped infield on a powerful run and, with the defence being drawn to the support runners on his insider shoulder, he opted to chip back out wide where winger Ben Griffin did well to resist being jostled by a defender, and grabbed the bouncing ball to plunge over for a great score, which was supported by another conversion of equal quality from Jake N.

Brecon were also able to use their strong bench at this time, and hooker Ben Kenchington was prominent in a number of areas, young prop Tommy Witcomb ensured that the scrum was not impacted by the loss of Andy Nicholl, whilst the more experienced Howie Morgan provided his normal effective cameo. The returning Chris Davies looked hungry for work, and was decisive in the collision area, whilst Iwan Davies was lively and put pressure on the home team 10. Behind the pack, James Hellard was good with ball in hand as he probed looking for offloads to colleagues, and his centre partner Eifion Jones had a good run-out showing his usual strength and quality. The experienced Gari Davies also enjoyed an input into what was ultimately a convincing win, and he played a role in guiding the team in the latter stages.

The final whistle arrived after a further score from the very committed and proud Gowerton team, and they showed great passion in performing for the full 80 minutes against the strong Brecon squad. It is the latter who enjoyed the spoils however, and they now progress into the semi-final stages of this quality tournament, with that being highlighted by the strength of the teams that Brecon will now have to wait and see who they face. The names of Newcastle Emlyn, Treorci, and Penallta, are synonymous with success at this level of the game in Wales, with some of them having a significant history in this competition.

Whoever they now face, Brecon will be aware that they will have to perform at their highest level if they are to realise the dream of running out at the Principality.