WRU East One

Monmouth RFC 24 
Abergavenny 17

THE diagonal wind blowing fairly strongly from one corner to the opposing one during Abergavenny’s visit to the Sportsground on Saturday was likely to play a part in this season’s return game, which indeed it did, reports PETE WALTERS.

In the first half Abergavenny employed the right tactic in using their strength at carrying, thwarted only on most occasions by Monmouth’s dogged defence which restricted the visitors to just one try on the quarter hour.

Ollie Scriven hares off before offloading to Jack Edwards  for a try
Ollie Scriven hares off before offloading to Jack Edwards for a try (Gareth Roberts)

In the meantime Monmouth played to their strength of moving the ball through the backs, backed up by the occasional long kick out of defence on the wind.

Early pressure came from the hosts and they would have been three points up immediately after the kick off when a player was illegally impeded, but wing Tabb overcompensating for the wind, missed the penalty as a result.

Minutes later, feeding off a good carry by their forwards, some slick passing by Monmouth further out brought an excellent try by skipper Dan Dunmore which Matt Tabb comfortably converted.

And keeping up the pressure Monmouth were over again courtesy of No 8 Jack Edwards supporting a move from the back of a line-out and just three passes before scoring, with Tabb again on hand to kick the extras.

This, however, brought the visitors to life, who drove upfield and from the penalty conceded at the ruck, kicked to the corner and drove the maul.

Shaun Hobbs crosses for a fifth consecutive game
Shaun Hobbs crosses for a fifth consecutive game (Gareth Roberts)

And although halted several times just short of the line, they eventually gained seven deserved points for their troubles.

Trying to manage the wind, Monmouth dropped out but straight to touch which kept the pressure on themselves which Abergavenny were keen to seize upon.

Incidents, good and bad were apparent. Abergavenny wasted some attacking drives by holding on after the tackle and a Monmouth drop out was seriously over-kicked whilst trying to use the wind, with some words of dissent rewarded with a penalty 10 metres back.

At this stage the pressure was all from Abergavenny, helped in part by a poor clearing kick from full back Lewis Bates returned in kind, but with Monmouth spared by the award of a five metre scrum, although spectators were left unclear as to why that was not a goal-line drop-out.

And then a good penalty kick to the right hand corner brought a line-out and a move that almost brought another home try, but a tactical kick to the left wing failed and they were brought back for another penalty.

This time it was worked to the left again and it was right wing Harry Whelan who was on hand to clinch a try for a 19-7 lead.

That was soon narrowed by a three-pointer to the visitors for handling in the ruck.

In return the last play of the half was a penalty kick to touch, but in the kicker’s eagerness to achieve distance, the ball was kicked dead depriving his team of one more go at a score from a line-out.

Monmouth with a 19-10 lead now had to play into a wind which only temporarily relented during the second half.

Kicking upfield for territory was not an option with reliance instead on traditional three-quarter play and also in particular several lengthy and intelligent grubber kicks by by centre Dunmore.

Play was very much to and fro and led well for Monmouth by their skipper.

Bates made a strong break resulting in a penalty for holding on for lack of early support at the ruck, and then Dunmore broke, kicked ahead steering his next fly hack cleverly to support on his left.

Abergavenny held out until second row Shaun Hobbs was able to use his strength to crash over to extend the lead to 24-10 with nearly 25 minutes to play.

Abergavenny then gave their all and within minutes they exploited some missed tackles and had stretched the home defence enough to put their left wing in untouched for a converted try to make it 24-17.

The final quarter was absorbing for its intensity and the final minutes brought the forecast rain, adding to the nail-biting tension, with penalties available for the visitors to kick for touch in the corner and then rely on their well drilled pack to drive towards the line to at least level the score.

Monmouth defended bravely though, and a last-ditch corner line-out that looked very threatening saw the visiting hooker throw the ball in crooked even though his catcher had claimed it from way above the heads of his opponents.

All that was left for the hosts to do was win their scrum and kick the ball out for their 24-17 win and the double over the visitors.

More Six Nations gaps now apply until Monmouth’s next league game away at Bedlinog on March 2, which will be as much or even tougher a challenge!

Elsewhere, Chepstow beat Machen 13-10 at home in a mid-table WRU East clash