In the middle of a good run of form Brecon ground out another impressive victory to climb to fifth place in the Division 1 East table. Risca, the visitors, were one point and one place ahead of Brecon coming into the match. In the reverse fixture, played on 15th October, Brecon were effectively beaten up at forward, particularly in the scrums which Risca totally dominated. A measure of how much Brecon have improved in the four months since that fixture, was the way that they stood up to the powerful Risca pack. This time and in spite of facing huge opponents, Brecon’s scrum was secure. Yet the victory owed as much to the way that Brecon coped with their opponents’ driving forward play and lively backs as it did to the way that the scrum fronted up. There was no doubting that on Saturday both teams looked much better all-round sides than those which faced each other in October, with the result of the titanic struggle being in doubt until Brecon pulled ahead with a bonus point try in the final ten minutes.
In the final analysis the main difference between the two sides was Brecon’s finishing ability and their stubborn defence. Brecon outscored their opponents by four tries to one but until the closing ten minutes could not pull away from their dogged opponents. Undoubtedly, Brecon’s backs, when in full flow, had a greater cutting edge but Risca’s backs were also dangerous, although, against a solid defence they were unable to match their opponents’ finishing power.
With the pitch in remarkably good condition following the recent spell of wet weather, Brecon started well. Flanker, Ioan Edwards brilliantly claimed the kick off and prop, Richie Davies, showed that he could be a handful with ball in his possession. His run led to a penalty which Dean Gunter converted to give Brecon an early lead which they never relinquished.
Brecon then looked to push further ahead during an early period of dominance. Lively Brecon scrum half Adam Hoskins was just held up over the line and Jake Crockett threatened after he gathered an inch perfect Gunter kick but an interception allowed Risca to break Brecon’s stranglehold. A wonderful Adam Hoskins cover tackle prevented a score and Brecon made the most of their escape. They played their way back up-field and created pressure which, for a time, the visitors defence coped with until a couple of important forward interventions created space for Brecon’s prolific finishers. Ewan Williams initially showed wonderful hands to latch onto a difficult pass and offload out of contact. Young Richie Davies and Jonathan James drove hard at the visitors defence before Dean Gunter put Lucas Jones in for his fifth try of the season with a well-executed wide pass.
Risca fought back immediately. They regained the kick off and forced Brecon to show a far more resolute defence than the one which was so porous early in the season. Risca’s only reward was a penalty which put them within five points of their hosts.
Brecon’s response was almost immediate. They first established territorial ascendancy and then from an attacking position they broke the visitors defence. Prop Richie Davies again had a hand to play in the build up to the try. He again drove hard and low with ball in hand to create a ruck in midfield on the visitors 22. Gunter ran right but turned the ball back inside to full back Jake Newman who put second row Andrew Hosie in space. Andrew showed great awareness and handling skills to draw the defence and then put prolific try scorer Jake Crockett in for his 16th try of the season. In response Risca did all that they could to level the scores in the minutes remaining before half time. A penalty kick put them within 7 points of the home side and the remainder of the half was spent deep in Brecon territory. Brecon withstood the onslaught brilliantly with captain Ewan Williams leading by example.
The start of the second half was not promising for home ambitions. The ball was dropped at kick off and Brecon gave away a penalty allowing Risca to move to a four point deficit. This was a critical point in the match as momentum was beginning to swing in favour of Risca but from the kick off Brecon imposed themselves in the Risca half and dominated the next ten minutes of play. Davey Herdman and Jim Williams showed up well during this period with their energy and willingness to carry. Finally the pressure told as Brecon restored a two score lead after a scintillating try. From a solid scrum Gunter linked with centre Cameron Gardner who cut back against the grain and clinically split the home defence. His pass inside put Jake Newman over for his 13th try of the season before Gunter converted.
Once again the momentum of the game swung. Risca gained control and after dragging the home defence wide on both flanks they finally worked an overlap which allowed their left wing to score in the corner.
Entering the last quarter Brecon’s lead had now been reduced to four points and the game was very much in the balance. Risca threw everything into attack and it took a wonderful Andrew Hosie steal at a line out and a magnificent Jake Crockett relieving kick to lift the pressure. Once that happened, however, Brecon took final and complete control. Risca, no matter how hard they tried, could not get out of their half and in their desperation they made a critical error. Trying to run out of their 22 they dropped the ball under pressure. Their centre attempted to hack on but only succeeded in kicking it straight into the arms of arch poacher, Crockett. He had the easiest of tasks to stroll over and register his 17th try of the season. Gunter’s conversion settled the result of the match with Brecon promoting themselves to fifth in the League table.
Further good team news came from both the 2nd XV and the Youth XV winning their respective matches over Hereford and Caerphilly by 12 points to nil and 28 points to 19.