This was a Cup Final that had everything. The game was played at a high tempo between two very good sides that made the most of perfect conditions.
Brecon RFC 18 - Merthyr RFC 19 No quarter was asked or given and yet the game was played in true sporting spirit. Ultimately the game hung on the last action of the match, a penalty kick to Brecon. The kick was certainly not easy some 35 metres from the posts and 5 metres in from the touchline. However, with Jake Newman already having successfully kicked a 40 metre penalty during the game, Brecon and Merthyr supporters held their breath. Jake struck the ball well but it sailed just wide of the near post to the delight of the Merthyr team and supporters and the dismay of the whole of Brecon. So close and yet so far Brecon under 15's will be disappointed but they should not be dismayed. They contributed enormously to an outstanding game of rugby fought out between two contrasting but equally matched teams. The fact that they could get so close to victory was a huge credit to a team which has matured and improved throughout the season. Coaches Keith Williams and Keith Lee in an after match talk with the players emphasised that, "Every one of you should take pride from that performance. We pushed a very good team playing on their own territory to the absolute limit and it was they who were praying for the final whistle in the final phases of the game. Pick your heads up, believe in your achievement and move on to even better things next season." If the team including subs Toby Vaughan, Jordan Baker, Tom Price and Owen Price can heed these words then surely they will be a force to be reckoned with next season. What made the contest an even more enthralling encounter was the contrast in styles which was evident from the outset and was illustrated clearly in the first two scores. Merthyr had a big pack efficient and at times abrasive pack which effectively supplied ball for a fast and attractive back line. In the early stages they proved too hot for Brecon to handle as their centre carved his way through the home defence to score a converted try. Brecon were shaken but showed great spirit and with the front five, Jack Jones, replacement Alex Moses, Josh Davies, Darren Harries, Dan Bowen and Paris Theod being in the slight ascendency Brecon's back row of Dewi Jenkins, Tom Morgan and the outstanding Alwyn Lee were able to carry the game to their opponents. It was Alwyn who initiated Brecon's scoring response with a great break which was well supported and when livewire scrum half Davy Herdman got the ball away centres Oscar Klapholtz and Aaron Evans used the ball intelligently to put full back Richard Marsh away for the try. Richard had a very good all round game, fielding the ball well and counterattacking with pace. With confidence restored Brecon took the lead when Jake Newman beautifully converted a penalty. With the game flowing freely there was little surprise that Merthyr should retake the lead. Again their backs did the damage as direct running and swift accurate passing completely outflanked the Brecon defence allowing the right wing a clear path to the line. Almost immediately Brecon should have regained the lead. Jake Newman spotted space on the wing and put in a neat kick. Left wing Billy Shepherd took it brilliantly, rounded the full back and hared for the line. In the act of scoring he was hit by the cover and he lost the ball over the try line. The costly miss was compounded when early in the second half and in spite of some great initial defence from wing Lloyd Davies some poor tackling after a 22 drop out allowed Merthyr a converted try. With Brecon now two scores behind the writing was on the wall but the Brecon pack and Darren Harris in particular had obviously not read the script. In the last quarter and in adversity Darren was absolutely outstanding and almost unstoppable. Once Jake reduced the gap with a penalty he led Brecon to a storming finish. After Davy Herdman made a great sniping run on halfway Darren broke from the ruck 30 metres out and initially blasted his way through close defence before powering away to score a try which Jake converted to put Brecon 1 point behind. Then before the final penalty attempt Darren made two more storming charges for the line only to be caught by cover just short. Ultimately it wasn't to be as Merthyr tenaciously hung on to their slender advantage to win a thrilling match of the highest quality.
Warren Gatland has confirmed he will be joining the fast approaching 50,000-strong crowd at Judgement Day III on Saturday to run the rule over potential Wales Rugby World Cup squad members in the competitive surrounds of the Millennium Stadium.
Cardiff Blues are hosting a special Open Evening this Wednesday night at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park to give prospective students and parents the chance to discover more about our new and exciting rugby education programme.
Our Cardiff Blues Rugby Camps return this Easter to give children right across our region the opportunity to participate in rugby during the holidays - and after selling out our last two camps you can book NOW to avoid any disappointment!
The players at Cardiff Blues will be hoping to play with some true Gallic flair for the rest of the Guinness PRO12 season - after the region teamed up with a successful French bistrot in the Welsh capital.
Cardiff Blues will be celebrating St David's Day when the region faces Edinburgh Rugby at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park on Sunday afternoon (kick-off 12.45pm) - with hundreds of children invited as part of our Regional Schools Day.
Fine footwear retailer The Brogue Trader - one of the official sponsors of Cardiff Blues - is celebrating after being recognised by the British Footwear Association at its annual Footwear Industry Awards.
Battling Cardiff Blues produced a second half performance packed full of character and spirit to push Ulster Rugby all the way in an absorbing Guinness PRO12 encounter at a packed out Kingspan Stadium.