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Fairwater make it back-to-back final wins over Canton

Fairwater make it back-to-back final wins over Canton

Fairwater celebrate their cup final victory over Canton (Mike Jones/Replay Images)

Pipped at the semi-final stage in the WRU National Bowl, Fairwater at least ensured they ended the season with some silverware as they retained the Worthington’s Malcolm Thomas Cup. 

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They scored half-a-dozen tries in a 42-25 victory over Cardiff rivals Canton at Llanharan’s Dairy Field in a repeat of the 2019 final. The Water won that one 25-17 three years ago to secure their first trophy in 15 years.  Brendan McAloon’s side ran in three tries in each half with lock Matt Dinham, tighthead prop Kyle Halley and fellow forward Ethan Denty going over in the first half. Flankers Louis Jones and Michael Bratcher, twice, touched down after the break. 

Lewis Bratcher kicked three conversions and two penalties and was named man-of-the-match. Centre Peter Hughes scored a breakaway try for Canton, who led early on and 19-17 at the break. Full-back Sean Cochlin ended with 20 points as he kicked six penalties and a conversion. 

“Silverware is silverware, and a cup in whatever shape or form and format is a special moment for any club. And although it’s been delayed a bit because of Covid, to go back-to-back in a local derby is pretty special for the boys,” said Fairwater skipper, Thomas Leigh. 

“It was really good as captain to be able to pick it up in front of all the boys, as well as all the kids from our community who came out to watch.” 

Cochlin kicked Canton into a third minute lead before Fairwater hit back in the ninth minute with an unconverted try through Dinham. Four minutes later Canton led again when wing Ashley Jones set Hughes away for a try with Cochlin adding the extras to make it 10-5. 

Fairwater’s second try came on 16 minutes through Halley with Lewis Bratcher this time converting. Cochlin split the posts again on 24 minutes to edge Canton 13-12 in front, but Fairwater were over for the third try nine minutes later scored by Denty, unconverted. 

However, two further efforts from the tee from Cochlin gave Canton a two-point advantage at the break. Fairwater’s indiscipline at times kept Canton in the hunt but it was their stronger bench that would make the difference. 

The introduction of Jones and Michael Bratcher – usually starters – proved to be game changing and ultimately swung the match Fairwater’s way. Lewis Bratcher and Cochlin traded penalties after the re-start before Fairwater were over for try number four scored by replacement Jones on 54 minutes, unconverted, to lead 25-22. 

Cochlin’s sixth and final penalty briefly levelled it up on 58 minutes but, after Lewis Bratcher kicked a penalty on 64 minutes, he then converted replacement brother Michael Bratcher’s try on 71 minutes to open up a 10-point lead. 

Michael Bratcher had also been on the scoresheet in the 2019 final when he also captained the team to glory on that occasion in the absence of Leigh, who was away on his honeymoon. 

And it was Michael Bratcher who would have the final say here on 75 minutes, going over for his second and Fairwater’s sixth try. Lewis Bratcher converted. 

“I think starting off, maybe the moment got to us a little bit in terms of it being a cup final. Giving away penalties that kept them in the game, But we played rugby in the right areas and were clinical and took our opportunities when they came, which is something we’ve been working on,” admitted Leigh.

It has been a strange stop-start season following the long Covid shutdown for Fairwater, who have played more cup games than league games this term. 

However, steered by head coach McAloon, assisted by Ricky Theaker, they have stuck together and went agonisingly close to securing themselves a WRU National Bowl final clash with Llanharan at the Principality Stadium, going down narrowly 17-15 in their semi-final at the hands of Bryncethin. 

“It’s been hard for us this season and on the pitch it shows. We’ve not had a run of games and you never get into that momentum,” said Leigh. 

“Rugby is very much a momentum game; you build on confidence, you build on performances and going one game, three weeks off, another game, two weeks off, one game, cancelled, cancelled, games arranged then cancelled, then cancelled again, makes it tough. 

“But fair play to the boys, they’ve stuck together for the duration of it. They’ve kept in touch with each other, kept the banter up, kept the camaraderie up and that kept us together as a close-knit community club.” 

This was the fourth meeting between the two sides this season, with the previous three yielding one win each – and a draw. Fairwater ran out 31-10 victors in the pool stages of the Bowl way back on 21st August last year with the return tie at Canton at the start of October ending 7-7. 

The one league meeting between the sides in Admiral East Central Division 3A saw Canton run out 24-14 victors at Fairwater on 8 February. 

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