WRU East One
With minutes left on the clock Monmouth found a reservoir of energy and from an unusual set piece line-out move they drove to the Bedlinog line, reports PETE WALTERS.
Desperate defence by the home team led to a succession of rucks along the goal-line with flanker Ollie Parke eventually crashing over through the tiring defences near the posts for fly-half Harry Johnson to convert and claim a much-deserved losing bonus point.
After all the inclement weather of late, a large-ish contingent of away supporters made the trip last Saturday via the Heads of the Valleys via Fochriw over the mountain down to the relatively balmy riverside at Bedlinog, to see the most recent East Division 1 challenge for Monmouth who are good at staying the course but not quite clinching the win. And again, so it was to prove.
High-flyers Bedlinog, still with some slight hope of promotion given the anticipated league changes, set off with determination, but were matched by an equal degree of resolve from Monmouth, albeit they are nearer to the other end of the table.
Both sides were looking to spread the ball to the wings and the drift defences were adept at forcing people into touch.
But there were weaknesses, more on the home front than with the visitors, with defences coming up quickly and giving penalties away for being offside.
Bedlinog, however, had the first shot at goal but missed a relatively easy kick and then Monmouth were first to score around ten minutes in with three points for an offside offence in mid-field.
Play moved close to the visitor’s line when a kick for goal fell just short but the catcher dropped it and whilst recovering the loose ball a player strayed offside and Bedlinog were quick to react, crossing the line to take the lead 7-3.
Left wing Matt Tabb was next to feature prominently with a good break and chip kick on the right.
Johnson, too, was exercising his punting skills and following one such booming kick and a knock on by the catcher, Monmouth used their three-quarters to good advantage winning another three points from a penalty kick by the fly-half at the end of the first quarter.
Worth recording, too, are the stunning tackles put in by so many throughout, but with two bone shakers of particular note coming from flanker Will Korb and centre Dan Dunmore
Johnson’s high kicks were troubling the home defence and a further mis-field took Monmouth into a 9-7 lead.
Monmouth’s scrums were dominant although the line-outs were even, helped perhaps, by the referee’s view of ‘straight’.
One such perverse view led to a good attack by Bedlinog but relief rose when a player reached high for a pass, seeming to knock on in the process.
A converted try was however awarded with the match official signalling the ball had been ‘knocked back’ for a 14-9 lead on the stroke of half-time.
The second half start was reassuring in that the kick off was knocked on and from the resulting offside Johnson was again able to narrow the score to 14-12.
Alarm bells rang when tight head Luke Hunter went down with an injury to his knee.
Apart from one scrum which Bedlinog smashed, the club stalwart held firm leading to quite an equal, although not always good tempered, series of exchanges for much of the second half.
First, the hosts extended the lead to 17-12 with a penalty for not releasing after a tackle.
And next the visitors did well in thwarting a score by holding up the ball carrier over the tryline.
Then Monmouth just failed with another kick at goal which had the length from afar but which just faded to the right.
Bedlinog then put together the simplest and best move of the game when from a scrum they spread the ball left along the three-quarters drawing men as they did and sending the wing in at the corner.
The difficult kick stretched the score to 24-12 leaving visiting supporters wondering if that was it, especially when a deep kick for touch obtained a superb bounce to set up a line-out on the Monmouth 5m line in the left corner.
Sterling defence prevented a further score and with some home players now going down with leg cramps in succession, one had to wonder if they were hurting or time wasting?
Monmouth dug deep and with the help of a penalty kick to touch in the right corner which they won, the resulting maul was well held.
But when the ball was released, a few probes at the line saw substitute Park seize a scoring opportunity before Johnson sealed a well deserved losing bonus point with his conversion.
The Six Nations takes over with the next 1st XV game at home to Penallta two weeks on Saturday (February 18).
Elsewhere Usk beat visitors Abertysswg 16-5 to leapfrog them to third in East 3,