National League 3 East A - Monmouth RFC 16 Usk RFC 19
MONMOUTH RFC faced close neighbours Usk for the third time this season on Saturday and suffered a second defeat, with an agonisingly late penalty try the difference.
Another almost summer-like day brought a large crowd to Chippenham Fields to see whether Monmouth or Usk were to claim the bragging rights between these close neighbours. And what a close encounter it turned out to be!
Inside two minutes, outside-half Sam Parsons put Monmouth into the lead with a penalty kick following an infringement at the first scrum of the game. Usk were awarded a penalty at a maul soon afterwards but their kick went awry.
A long kick ahead by the visitors ran dead but despite the home three-quarters looking promising in attack, a series of half tackles saw Usk progress in return along the touch-line urged on by their more vociferous supporters.
The referee, with an assessor present, was keen on anything approaching ’high’ in tackles and after a few early warnings, two quick yellow cards for other reasons went Monmouth’s way before the end of the first quarter.
Despite some strong defence, Usk’s repeated forward charges eventually told when one of their second rows found a gap and went over untouched from 15 metres.
For the home side the visiting kick was fortunately poor and the two man deficit cost Monmouth only this five point score, allowing them the opportunity to pressurise in turn once they were back to par numbers. Full back Lee Goddard was prominent in this, first with a booming kick downfield which brought a period of forward pressure and a penalty kick to the left corner. Usk similarly kicked deep and this time Goddard made a sparkling counter-attacking run out of his 22, taken on with power and guile by centre Amosa Nove. Athough he found left wing Kester Mobbs-Morgan in support, the covering defence eventually closed down a very threatening move.
The balance of play was now changing, not helped by the number of lines-out conceded by the home team, but it was not they who engineered the next score but rather Parsons, who so obviously signalled his pass out along the line that the seven points from the interception was a gift beyond belief.
Not to be outdone Monmouth rallied with number eight Tom Hawkins making a good break ruined only by a careless back pass to no-one, although undaunted a later one worked for him.
With the half-time whistle fast approaching Nove ran from deep, breaking two tackles and then wrong-footing the defence with a clever dummy to score a converted try near the posts to make it 10-12.
Usk were not to be outdone and when Monmouth failed to catch cleanly from the restart they were very lucky to prevent a score by holding up Usk in their left corner as the whistle sounded for the break.
Monmouth came out the more determined, winning several rucks on the trot, and although the ball was switched away from the side which seemed most promising, Parsons was on hand to drop a goal to regain the lead 13-12.
Usk now piled on the pressure but little Dan White managed to force a penalty as they tried to force themselves over the line. Monmouth, soon after, won a free kick which went up the middle and a strong counter-attack was thwarted by Mobbs-Morgan, who was quick off the mark and put in a good tackle.
Play went to and fro, with long kicks going dead and both sides missing penalty chances until Parsons knocked on at a set piece near the line, only to be rewarded by a penalty which he duly converted to increase the lead to 16-12.
Usk retaliated by camping near the Monmouth line. A maul was resisted and then with several penalties being taken as scrums, collapses resulted in re-sets as time ticked by but always with Usk now looking in the ascendancy. The Monmouth pack gave their all but eventually cracked, only to see the referee run to the posts to signal the feared penalty try.
With just a minute left to redeem themselves the kick-out was poor and the penalty conceded in the resultant scrum saw the ball kicked safely to touch by Usk for a 16-19 victory. The losing bonus point showed yet again how many close losses Monmouth have suffered this season, but league progression comes only from tries and wins, and not coming a close second on so many occasions. Next Saturday brings another stiff challenge for the Druids at home to Caldicot.