WRU East One
Monmouth RFC 13 Blaenavon 15
BLAENAVON, having eventually restored a two-point lead ten minutes before the final whistle, ensured their victory in the fast approaching dusk on Wednesday night, by retaining the ball with a seemingly endless series of short distance ‘pick and goes’ – perfect and proven tactics – reports PETE WALTERS.
Relying on their noticeably bigger pack proved a benefit following their half-time talk in recovering from a deficit of six points going into the break.
Trying to compete with Monmouth through their three-quarters had failed in the first half with Monmouth periodically stretching them with fast passing three-quarter moves which exposed gaps near the touch lines.
No clear try possibilities though, although prop Mattie Cotton made some exciting carries leaving potential tacklers floundering in his wake and fly-half Dan White spread the ball wide for the most part.
The penalty count favoured Monmouth with local full back Harry Johnson converting two and missing two, including losing a match ball in the adjoining river as a result of the height and length of his kicks.
That is not to discount the mid-field carries of Blaenavon and particularly the impressive attacking and defensive skills of their full back.
The visitors’ scrums were initially difficult to contain but by the second half the opposite was occasionally true.
Monmouth more than equalled the percentage territory occupied often as a result of Johnson’s powerful 50-metre and more clearances whenever needed.
The second half brought a distinct change of approach from the visitors, straightaway deploying driving mauls as a forceful means of attack.
Despite brave resistance from the home team, after five minutes of trying to confront this, a further drive deep into the home 22 brought a move to the right where a missed tackle saw the first try of the game.
Within a further five minutes, a line-out ten metres out saw Monmouth collapse under the assault, allowing Blaenavon to slide into a 12-6 lead with a converted try.
Battle intensified and as a result of a penalty for not rolling away after a tackle, Monmouth kicked their way into a five metre line-out which when won was spread along the line from the right hand corner through several eager supporting hands to be completed by centre Jeffs.
The conversion edged Monmouth into a one point 13-12 lead.
The visitors’ strength then came to the fore again when a penalty for collapsing a maul from a line-out saw Blaenavon regain a two-point lead which they were never to relinquish.
They knew how to keep the ball and on the few occasions that Monmouth invaded their 22 their eagerness led to errors that prevented them from scoring.
Despite some further stunning deep kicks out of defence by Johnson, eventually Blaenavon successfully played ‘keep the ball’ leaving the large-ish home crowd to depart seeking warmth and light other than in the Sportsground. Another case of ‘so near yet….’
Monmouth host Pontypool United on Saturday (April 29), kick-off 2.30pm, while Blaenavon visit Risca.