20 November 2023 / Club News

Forgeside RFC 1st XV v Brecon Athletic – 18th November 2023

Forgeside RFC 1st XV v Brecon Athletic – 18th November 2023

Brecon Athletic’s limited League programme this campaign has seen them throw their names into the pot for arranging fixtures at short notice, with Team Manager, Gari Davies, having had a particularly busy time on the phone as a result of this. Their willingness to play, and the worrying lack of options, has meant that Brecon have had to offer to go on the road to be able to get fixtures and, therefore, for the third time this season, they boarded a Williams Coach to take a journey to the top of the Gwent Hills to play a team in the East set-up of the national structure.

Nonetheless, this hasn’t diminished the enthusiasm of the wider squad, and the bus arrived at the northern end of the Torfaen County Borough, with a substantial squad. The destination was Forgeside RFC, a side currently playing in the same league as Hollybush and Beaufort, who the Athletic have recently played. Forgeside are based to the immediate south west of Blaenavon, with the name of the village, and rugby team, reflecting the proud history of Ironworks in the area, with the ground sat high on the southern side of the valley formed by the Afon Lwyd, looking back towards the Blaenavon Ironworks World Heritage Site.

South Wales rugby being the relatively small world that it is, means that, whilst you come across teams that you would not necessarily face on a regular basis, the small pool of playing talent means that opposition players are often recognisable, and Forgeside looked a strong outfit with players who have regularly played at a higher level. This was indicative of the scale of the task facing the young Athletic group, as they took the field on a blustery and often wet afternoon. In spite of the recent weather, the pitch held firm, if not, understandably, a little heavy, whilst the relatively narrow width would prove to be influential in how the game panned out.

Indeed, it seemed as if the weather and other elements were key factors to what was a game that became a tightly fought battle, particularly between the respective packs of forwards, as the initial exchanges saw both teams attacking in relatively narrow channels, before having the confidence and game awareness to move the ball into the wider areas. As the game progressed, it was Brecon who became more adept at this, and all their scores resulted from phases of play where they created tries, or benefitted from mistakes made by the opposition out wide.

An official from the home team approached the Brecon supporters, and commented positively on the fact that the Athletic Group were clearly a young squad that reflected progression from the Youth set-up in recent seasons, and the energy this gave the team was evident as the contest panned out.

In the starting front row, Bryn Nicholl was an energetic all round presence, and worked hard at scrum time to help provide a platform for teammates to build on. Hooker Tommy Witcomb built on recent performances and was a particular threat with ball in hand. Dewi Worwood, on the tight head, provided a strong, stable presence, and was also busy at breakdowns. Rhys Evans, Callum Worwood, and Howell Morgan continued in this vein, and the three of them provided some positive individual moments to the overall performance.

Behind them, Callum and Owain Williams were athletic and forceful options in the loose skirmishes, whilst also supporting their hookers in securing a good degree of lineout possession, on what was a difficult day for this element, given the blustery wind.

The back row also contributed hugely to the success that the team strove hard for, as they worked well as a unit, both in attack and defence.

Flanker Ryan Luker was an effective presence at the breakdown, as he contested this area keenly, whilst No 8 Teilo Harris continues to be a physical and energetic asset for the team. Captain Josh Millichap provided his usual performance of quality and commitment, and was a key presence with ball in hand, whilst the introduction of Davey Herdman at half time added another powerful ball carrier to enable the team to get some momentum in the heavy conditions.

Behing this forward group scrum half Tom Phillips played well under significant pressure at the scrums and breakdowns. His service enabled half back partner, Gareth Price to dictate a large part of the game, as he kicked well in difficult conditions, as well as using his strong passing skills to release his outside backs when required. Centres Eifon Jones and Luis Price benefitted from having the ball in hand, with the former being able to cut the line on a number of occasions, as he made a number of metres with ball in hand. Young Luis also carried elusively and well, and was rewarded with a score where he picked up an a homeside mistake to gather the ball from some 40 metres out, and showed a great turn of pace to outstrip the defence to score.

Fullback Dafydd Edwards was also prominent with ball in hand and beating defenders, particularly when running the ball back from loose kicking whilst, outside him on the wings, Sam Davies was rewarded for another strong performance as he was put away to score the first try of the game, and was also confident in dealing with the kicking that came his way. On the other wing wind Waqa Kalivati was a powerful and athletic presence, and was a constant thorn in the home side defence when he had the ball in hand. 

The replacements bench were also used very well, in adding to the positivity and energy, with Sammy Hellard providing a 40 minute cameo of strong defending and elusive running, and Louis Crockett settled into a second period fly half role by moving the ball smoothly, and battling hard to kick effectively against an awkward wind. James Hellard came on and provided his usual high standards, on both sides of the ball, and in the backs and forwards, whilst Isaac Demesi was used in a number of different back three positions but was rewarded for a fine effort with the final score of the game that sealed the victory for Brecon.

The victory was a well earned and hard fought experience for this young squad, and will provide a good base from which to work on as they now move into a period or some league games. Josh Hamilton, who was on the bench for this game, but not required, will be keen to force himself into the selection mix for the senior teams moving forward, and both the 1st Team and Athletic XV will look to utilise the very strong squad in the near future, particularly as injury niggles come into the picture.

The coaching team have welcomed the commitment shown on occasions such as the recent visits to the Gwent Valleys, and also when they have had good numbers to work with in training. On the back of this fine win, the work-ons are those of a technical nature, in terms of ensuring sharp handling, and also securing the ball methodically, with sufficient numbers at the breakdown area, and attendance at training will afford the opportunities to work on areas such as these.

The squad and supporters enjoyed a warm welcome in the Forgeside Social Club after, and were also grateful to the referee for their efforts on the day.

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