WRU East Division One
With variable performances in the previous weeks with first a good win at Abergavenny and then a disappointing loss at home to Bedlinog, the pre-match talk was all about how aroused or switched on visitors Monmouth would be from the start, reports PETE WALTERS.
And to their credit within three minutes they had attacked, and from a grubber kick slightly fortuitously rebounding off a defender’s leg and taken by a team-mate, they won an offside penalty which wing Matt Tabb slotted for an early three-point lead.
But Nelson had warmed up, too, and were quickly back in Monmouth territory trying to drive a set piece scrum, but illegally, allowing the visitors to ease the pressure.
This was repeated several times, including Nelson being deprived of a score for crossing.
Choosing to drive a midfield scrum some 20 metres really set the scene for what the Monmouth pack were having to face throughout
And following a promising three-quarter move deep into home territory which fell foul of a fumbled pass into touch, a further driving incursion brought an offside penalty in favour of the home team 35 metres out.
With 20 minutes gone, a kick to the corner brought a line-out five metres out, from which Nelson drove another maul, and after several phases Monmouth succumbed to a seven-point score after a try and a goal from far out.
Tabb fielded the kick off and followed his kick upfield, with centre Jordan Howells supporting well, and when stopped, prop Tom Green showed a rare turn of speed, complete with a dummy, to almost go over, with the score clinched ultimately by support from back row man Ellis Brown.
It took only five minutes for Nelson to recover the lead and their mojo though, with another maul-winning converted score.
Not to be outdone, the visitors broke out through lively centre Morgan Jeffs, carried on by full back Lewis Bates who always makes ground with ball in hand.
This time he grubber kicked, causing the opposing full back to be taken over his own line.
And with half-time imminent Howells was fed a pass from a scrum near the line which allowed him to score the converted try which took Monmouth back into a 17-14 lead at the break.
Both sides continued to go hard at it with the home pack cleverly using their scrum domination to good advantage, emphasised by their scrum-half being allowed to put the ball in almost with impunity to the feet of the back row.
Energy-sapping mauls became more prolonged, leaving visiting supporters to wonder when it should be appropriate to call ”Use it!”
Largely, Monmouth defended well, although the home No 8 seemed to be able to make good ground through flailing arms, at one stage over 40 metres.
Bates though did similarly, though with more guile, taking play deep into the opposing half.
And a scramble deep in the right corner saw the ball go loose, with Tabb crowning a good game by scoring an unconverted try before leaving the field injured.
Scrum penalties were still a problem and when Nelson gambled on a relatively easy kick at goal in readiness for a hoped-for clinching try to win the game, it was missed, leaving the visitors to breath again and dig deep. And that they did, securing another crucial three points from a penalty for holding on after a tackle.
With Nelson now vigorously trying to overturn the lead, and taking advantage of a side now weakened by a yellow card awarded for a high tackle, they created a succession of rucks, moving play first right, then left, with Monmouth defending desperately. And they succeeded in drawing nearer with a converted try, with just two minutes of normal time left to play and the gap now four points.
Fingernail gnawing worsened amongst the crowd, with the referee seeming to play an excessive amount of injury time.
The pressure became unbearably tense as Nelson won a touch in the left hand corner.
But before it could be taken, followed by an inevitable driving maul to which Monmouth had fallen victim several times, second row Logan Woskett was called back onto the field.
The maul was formed only to face a dogged defence, bringing the final whistle without further score much to the delight of the small band of visiting support and to the despair of the home crowd, making the journey home a pleasant one for your correspondent and others.
As Dowlais are still in the WRU Cup competition there is no game for the 1st XV this coming weekend. The next game is at the Monmouth Sports Ground on Saturday, December 9 v Senghenydd, kick-off 2.30pm.