WRU East One
Having drawn at home with Risca earlier in the season, Monmouth made the away trip on Saturday with a very changed side and not without some trepidation, with several players injured and one even on a skiing holiday, reports PETE WALTERS.
Risca supporters were overheard prior to the game discussing how important it was for them to win this game, which may explain why they had brought in players on permit, unless of course they were having to play with a depleted side, too?
Whatever the case, for Monmouth, their ‘stand-in’ players stood out for all the right reasons and proved their worth in spades, particularly when it came to defence, made all the more important during the two periods when the team was reduced to 14 men by way of yellow cards awarded against them.
The calm weather and relatively dry underfoot conditions made for a running game and the energetic way in which both sides set about the contest alleviating any cold their supporters were experiencing.
Play was immediately fast and furious and continued that way for much of the game, punctuated only by loud blasts on the whistle largely for clear and well signalled offences.
But one could not help thinking if, in the referee’s working life, he enjoyed lecturing folk, as he regularly stopped play to talk to one or other of the captains. He rightly kept an eye on high tackling and things that potentially slowed down play, but his continual interruptions effectively slowed things down, too.
At the end of the first quarter, Risca were first to score from a penalty with fly-half Dan White trying the same twice in quick succession but bagging only the one to tie the score at 3-3.
Monmouth attacked for a prolonged period and then Risca came back at them gaining a penalty for having their maul pulled down near the line.
Quickly taken, it led to a pile up, which had the referee peering closely under bodies before awarding a try, which when converted gave them a 10-3 lead with a mere minute of normal time left to play.
But Monmouth were not to be outdone. From the kick-off they quickly regained possession and a long break down the left hand side saw centre Dan Dunmore showing his pace and elusive abilities to score near enough for White to equal the scores well into extra time.
Rightly equal at this stage given the sterling efforts of both sides, the second half kicked off with great expectations.
An immediate penalty to Monmouth for a deliberate knock on took them into the lead and soon after, centre Morgan Jeffs intercepted a long overhead pass to scamper downfield for a converted try.
Flanker Will Korb next made a break of some 30 metres but spilled the ball when tackled, resulting in a scrum in which area Monmouth were largely the more dominant. A strong scrum drive brought a penalty which White kicked to stretch the lead to 23-10.
Monmouth’s next attack on the left was switched in-field where No 8 Ellis Brown cut an exquisite line to burst through to score under the posts.
Next, and just as exciting was an inter-passing move, again down the left, where wing Richard Jones neatly off-loaded for scrum-half Oliver Scriven to score a bonus point try.
Rugged defence was now to the fore for Monmouth and Tom Hawkins, who had taken over at No 8, was prominent enough to ‘take one for the team’ when yellow carded for one too many of the frequent penalties.
Risca rallied but were held out and/or up on their many incursions.
Monmouth had some relief of their own when awarded a free kick but the high up-and-under was caught cleanly and at pace by a defender, giving him the impetus to make 35 metres.
Fortunately, the ensuing tackle and turnover gained Monmouth a penalty plus a further 10 metres for dissent.
Hawkins resumed but soon a this time dominant Risca scrum turned enough to expose the right Monmouth flank and a move over 60 metres gained them their one and only second half score almost on normal time.
The visitors were on a roll and in the last few overtime minutes, a deliberate knock-on penalty gained them enough territory to cap an excellent performance by the pack, with open-side flanker Jack Edwards charging in over 25 metres for their fifth try.
White kicked the conversion again for a superb 44-17 victory.
The next fixture is away to Blaenavon this Friday on the eve of the Six Nations weekend (March 10), kick off 7.15pm.