“Massiv” day at Memorial Ground
“A tense affair with so much at stake” commented team Manager John Lyons “The Wanderers showed what a good young side they are becoming and they deserved the win but take nothing away from Brecon who are a good side and who have had a great double winning season. The playoffs can be so cruel to the losing side”
“A great team effort. To secure promotion from a five point deficit shows the great character of the playing group” Added Martyn Fowler
“After last weeks game we could feel that if we put in a performance we were capable of overturning the 1st leg result” commented Captain Aaron Fowler “We managed the game well knowing that if we kept the structure of the game we could minimise their threats.”
On a warm grey afternoon the game was preceded by a wonderfully respected minutes silence to respect the loss of “Bert in the box” who passed away recently.
The Wanderers kicked off and after Brecon had cleared, the first possession gave the home side an early long range penalty shot but Luke Fish saw his attempt narrowly drift wide of the posts. The visitors started to warm to their task and began to go through the phases. The Wanderers came under pressure and an offence at a ruck allowed Dean Gunter to open the scoring with a penalty 0-3 (23-31). The home side struck back immediately. Recovering the kick off they moved the ball wide and a high tackle on James Loxton gave Fish a chance to level the scores with his first penalty 3-3 (26-31). The Wanderers press is a little unsure as to what happened over the next couple of minutes due to Cameron Gibbon, off as a blood injury, needing stitching up on the side of the pitch! Gunter certainly put Brecon ahead again 3-6 (26-34) and the report resumes with the Wanderers back on the attack. A driving lineout set up good field position and after moving the ball wide right the home side pounded at the line with some close quarter driving. Slowly wearing down the defence the Wanderers created space and when Fish released his backs Josh Male waltzed through a wide channel to cross under the posts 8-6 (31-34). Fish converted 10-6 (33-34). Brecon hit straight back. Challenging well at the kick off they induced another penalty and Gunter stepped up to land his third penalty 10-9 (33-37). Both sides seemed to struggle with restarts and when Aaron Fowler broke clear from the next kick off the attack was thwarted when the supporting forwards went off their feet at the ruck allowing Brecon to clear their lines. The Wanderers clearly wanted structure in the game but the visitors showed that in broken play they could be very dangerous. From turnover ball after Dan Apsee knocked on they kicked deep and it took all of Will Ford’s efforts to scramble back and secure the ball long enough to allow the home side to clear their lines. Brecon piled on the pressure and they started to really test the Wanderers defence. Gunter saw another penalty shot hit the bar but the ball bounced back into Brecon’s hands and the pressure was still on. Another offence gave Brecon another shot at goal but this attempt narrowly missed keeping the Wanderers just ahead. The game entered its final minutes of the half and the Wanderers for the first time put themselves ahead on aggregate. A carry from deep by Dylan Lawley, on as a replacement for Ryan Davis, carried well and the move was continued by Josh Sheehan. When the ball was recycled Male found a mismatch in midfield and he carried deep into the 22. The defence scrambled back but Male popped the ball inside to Loxton who crashed over for the second try 15-9 (38-37). Fish converted 17-9 (40-37). Back came Brecon but once again solid defence prevented them releasing their dangerous backs when Sheehan and Gareth Hall held an attacker up and the home side were awarded a relieving scrum. The half ended with the Wanderers back on the attack but Fowler saw his neat front peel at a lineout thwarted as he put one of his paws in touch just before scoring. Half time 17-9 (40-37).
Both sides emerged from the break keen to get on with the game but the officials were enjoying their halftime oranges so much play was delayed a minute or two! The second half began brightly. Brecon had the early play but as in the first half they found the Wanderers defence difficult to penetrate. A penalty allowed Fish to take play deep into the visitor’s territory and after a move of several phases and an advantage played by the referee gave Fish a chance to land his second penalty edging the Wanderers ahead 20-9 (43-37). Brecon, not surprisingly for a side that had won a league and cup double this season struck back. Attacking through several phases they pounded the home side defence but could not find that killer ball to convert a try scoring opportunity. Gunter landed his fourth penalty 20-12 (43-40) to keep them within a score of promotion and there was everything still to play for. Both sides started to utilise their benches, James Greenfield on for Rob Lewis who had put in another sterling shift, but Brecon were certainly looking to get back on terms. After a penalty gave them good field position they attacked with several close quarter drives. The Wanderers were pushed to breaking point but the youngsters, with Anthony Cox to the fore, showed great heart and commitment to jackal the ball giving them a relieving penalty after several minutes under the cosh. Back came the visitors and once again they put the home side under pressure. A spilled ball allowed Max Cunnington to break away only for the Wanderers to concede a penalty whilst on the attack and the pressure came straight back on the home side. It took every ounce of effort to resist their attacks. Eventually the Wanderers broke free and Ford made a telling run from deep. Tensions on the field crept up a notch, understandable with so much at stake and the referee was forced to explain to the Captains that players must leave post match drinking venue discussions until after play had ended! The Wanderers called for more cavalry with Joe Russell and Ioan Lewis entering the fray for Hall and Morgan Evans. Then came the telling score After great jackaling from Mike Owen gained a penalty, a move of several phases saw Gibbon cut back and show great strength to force his way over 25-12 (48-40). Fish converted 27-12 (50-40). Brecon now had to chase the game needing two scores and their task was further troubled when a big catch and drive by the Wanderers forwards saw Fowler emerge as the maul crashed over the line for the fourth try. Fish converted again to make it 34-12 (57-40) with very little time left. Tensions continued to boil over and in injury time the referee was forced to issue two red cards, Callum Bricknell being one and then the time was called by the officials when some idiots in the crowd decided to react badly. Fortunately it could not detract from a superb second leg performance and the Wanderers head to the championship!
Tries: Cameron Gibbon, Josh Male, James Loxton, Aaron Fowler
Cons: Luke Fish (4)
Pen: Luke Fish (2)
Management man of the match: Forwards: Michael Owen
Backs: Cameron Gibbon
Wanderers Massiv man of the match: Cameron Gibbon
Pens: Dean Gunter (4)