Brecon RFC | 1st Team 33 - 24 Caerleon RFC | 1st Team
Eifion Jones
Try 1
Jake Crockett
Try 1
Dafydd Edwards
Try 1
Dean John Gunter
Conversion 4
Christopher Davies
Try 1
Jarryd-lee Davies
Try 1

Match Report
18 September 2018 / Team News


As Brecon first fifteen move ever deeper into the season, and a picture of the relevant strengths of the twelve teams in Division One East emerges, the mild late summer weather saw them welcome the respected Caerleon squad who made the meandering journey up the Usk to the picturesque setting of Parc de Pugh.

The early results in the league, allied to the knowledge of their opponents from previous seasons, left the home team playing and management squads in no doubts that they were in for a competitive afternoon against a team who, whilst sometime enjoying mixed results, have always proved to be durable and dogged opposition with an ability to mix their game up.

Caerleon enjoys a famously historic story as a major Roman settlement within SE Wales and, as the ancient legions were reknowned for their organisation and control, this is something that is equally applicable to their modern day sporting legion.

With this knowledge in mind, the home team, who have enjoyed a winning start to their season, were keen to bring their own strengths and aspirations to bear in this eagerly anticipated fixture. Notwithstanding the early victories, Brecon have been acutely aware of the areas they are seeking to improve, not least of which is ensuring that decisions are made quickly and positively, and that actions are executed with precision and accuracy. They have been a team who have enjoyed a winning start but are still looking for all the pieces of the jigsaw to fall into place and for their performances to click into something that delivers their much anticipated all round skills.

Caerleon, in their team huddles, spoke continually of the need to be alert to the home team ambition that would normally manifest itself in a willingness to attack from all areas of the paddock. The early exchanges of the first half were redolent of people’s perceptions of the relative strengths of both teams, with the gladiatorial confrontation of two committed forward packs being set as a counterpoint to the ambitions of the players, particularly the Brecon three quarter line, to exploit the wider areas of the home team’s ‘fast track’ playing surface.

Whilst Brecon showed great vigour and intent in this first period, their visitors were proving to be resolute in their outlook and they showed impressive composure and control in their group, particularly in areas such as their line out and driving maul. Brecon’s notable episodes in this period revolved around their attacking intent, and centres Efion Jones and Cam Gardner were prominent in this regard, the former breaking the defensive line on a number of occasions and offloading to his partner who made significant yardage with the ball in hand The fact that they were not able to convert these into scores was probably indicative of a certain lack of accuracy at crucial times although the team was showing a positive attacking and creative intent.

Brecon were also guilty of some unforced errors and indiscipline and, with an early yellow card having put the home team on the back foot, the visitors pressed, initially landing a three point penalty from home indiscretions, and then setting a sold attacking platform through their driving line out, through which they ultimately scored the game’s first try, with one of their forwards plunging over. The conversion by the composed visiting full back, adding to his earlier penalty, gave Caerleon the scoreboard advantage with the home response being a penalty goal converted by fly half Dean Gunter. 

This seemed to rally the home team who, back to full strength, started to gain the territorial and possessional upper hand. Ironically, it was an error by the visiting team, as they pressed deep into Brecon territory, that saw scrum half Lewis Cooke break away on a 50 metre dash that, having drawn the scrambling defence, saw him feed full back Jake Crockett ,who was flying up in support, and he was able to run in under the posts unopposed, having outpaced the remaining Caerleon defence.

Galvanised by this, Brecon pressed repeatedly, and they took control of the pace and direction of the game for the remainder of the first half. They attacked through a number of different channels, whether it was the carrying of the forwards at close quarters, or probing at the wider visiting defence through their elusive outside backs. It was through a possibly more mundane, but notably effective, route that their next score came when, following a line out secured through a penalty, the home pack pressed forward with excellent control before releasing powerful flanker Chris Davies who, showing the more positive aspect of his lively contributions, drove over through a couple of tacklers to score a well deserved five pointer.

At this stage, Brecon looked to be dominant, and it would not be a disrespectful to the visiting team to say that the home support was looking to guess where the next try would come from. The response to this question was marked insomuch as Brecon took control of the ball and produced a series of phased attacks that saw significant contributions from all areas of the team. After one such well crafted attack, some deft handling saw second row Jarryd Davies released in the wider channels where he proceeded to bounce off some Caerleon defenders before touching down for a try that was, collectively and individually, hugely impressive.

The contributions from fly half Gunter’s boot, certainly as he grew into the game, meant that the half time oranges arrived with Brecon leading 19-10, and providing sufficient evidence that hinted at better thngs to come as the game moved into the latter period. The coaches would have been impressed by the improving performances of their charges, particularly after earlier errors, and would have impressed the need to maintain the high pace and edge to their game to wear down their tenacious opponents.

The opening skirmishes of the second half promised much for the home crowd, as Brecon looked to move the ball at every available opportunity, and also sought to build upon an increasingly powerful and dominant scrum. The home crowd would also have appreciated the effort of the visiting Caerleon squad as they proved eminently obdurate and very much looked to rise to the attacking challenge posed by their hosts. This enabled them to repel a number of the home teams attacking efforts, and the pressure they put on led to some Brecon errors as they looked to force matters, leading to some handling errors that impacted upon their momentum.

The contest was of great intensity as both teams raised the standard of their performance, and Brecon will have been aware that they needed to improve their delivery and direction to break down the defence of the visiting team, who had not come merely to be bystanders at the home team’s attacking party. 

It took a moment of real quality to break down the stubborn visiting defence with fly half Gunter, taking on a more lateral route that was supplemented by an intelligent, and distracting, running angle from Cam Gardner, managing to create sufficient space with a deft touch of hand that enabled Eifion Jones to split the visiting back line and take the aerial route to the try line as he ‘flew’ in under the posts. The additional converted points gave the home team a reasonable cushion to give them confidence to seek to push on to claim the victory spoils and also a bonus point should they score a further try.

They attacked and probed through differing tactical means, with all players being prominent and buying into the team’s offensive ambitions. It was rather ironic therefore that the next score came through a counter attacking opportunity as Caerleon pressed strongly. Winger Dafydd Edwards was able to win the ball in contact from where he kicked over the opponents defence into space created by their earlier commitment to attack. Full back Jake Crockett showed great pace again as he pressurised a retreating defender, this causing the ball to break free. Flanker Ioan Edwards was first in support and he gathered the ball to continue pressing forward. The visiting defence was in disarray and, as he was tackled, he had options either side of him that wold have led to a score. He chose the safer option of pleasing his mother as he passed to the ball to his younger brother Dafydd, who had also followed his kick ahead, to receive the pass and outstrip the last defender to score in the corner, securing the bonus point. This was converted from the touchline with aplomb by Dean Gunter, and the game moved into its closing period with the home team and supporters hoping to build upon their 23 point lead to add some further scores.

Needless to say, and consistent with how they had performed throughout the game, Caerleon were not going to submit and accept that, particularly when the home team were reduced to 14, and they dominated the closing exchanges to such an extent that they added two further scores of their own, the first from some typically driving forward play, and the second a score of real quality as their fly half stepped the pressing defence and raced in from 35 metres for a converted score that, when the final whistle arrived, meant that the scoreboard showed a 33-24 scoreline that was a credit to both teams.

The Brecon coaching team will have been pleased with a bonus point victory that sees them currently remain in the upper reaches of the division, and will be aware that this was achieved against a team who, it is fair to say, will have an influence on the league this season. It remains the case however, that you will always look to take lessons from such performances, and they will certainly focus on the areas that will need improvement. These remain areas such as ensuring the line out remains a fully functioning attacking base for the team, and that they ensure that focus and discipline are exemplary. The game they are seeking to play is often one that involves risk and this is to be applauded. The risk/reward balance however is one that needs continued concentration in terms of ensuring that the execution is of the highest order, and that the team realises its full potential and reaps the undoubted rewards that it should.

The overall opinion will remain that it was a ‘job done’ and all players contributed to this. The front row and Andy Nicholl, Ryan Williams, and Richie Davies were strong at set piece, whilst the former two were also prominent with ball in hand. The latter continues to raise the bar in terms of his consistently high all round performances. Subs Tommy Witcomb and Kev Jones continued the good work indicating the increasing strength in depth. The second row were also prominent, with Darren Witcomb putting in an eye-catching performance with his powerful charges, whilst partner Jarryd Davies combines set piece accuracy with great energy in the loose. The back row of skipper Ewan Williams, and flankers Chris Davies, Ioan Edwards, and Davey Herdman are a potent combination of ball skills, tenacity, and often ferocious defence.

Behind, scrum halves Lewis Cooke and Geraint Workman both take advantage of their rolling contributions to put pressure on each other to raise their games, whilst outside them, fly half Dean Gunter put some early inaccuracies behind him to again mix his game well, gaining field position and choosing when to release his dangerous three quarter line. The aforementioned centres of Eifion Jones and Cam Gardner have their consistent excellence supplemented by the powerful presence of Sam Campbell, with this solid creative base providing increasing opportunities for a back three of Mike Powell, Dafydd Edwards, and Jake Crockett, who offer a potent mix of pace, elusiveness and power when needed.

The squad move on to face newcomers Hartridge in their next fixture, with the team from Newport presenting something of an unknown challenge following their promotion to Division One this season. The Brecon focus has to be on continued improvement and development of their own strengths, and they will be keen to move their game up a few levels.