Ledbury RFC 29 Monmouth RFC 29
WALES v England wasn’t the only cross-border rugby match at the weekend, as Monmouth RFC travelled to Ledbury on Friday night, reports PETE WALTERS.
And what an encouraging warm up game it proved to be, played in good spirit throughout and ending in an honourable 29-29 draw.
In perfect playing facilities at the impressive Ross Road complex and in front of a very large crowd, the game was fast and furious from the very start with strong carrying by both sides and some really solid tackling.
The first major strike came from Monmouth, and its diminutive speedy left-wing Harvey Thomas, who broke down the left-hand side, putting the full back on his back in the collision and running over him for the first score of the game.
Fullback Harry Johnson failed to convert from far out on the very wide pitch.
Ledbury, roused by this early setback retaliated with a good break in the centre, leading to a penalty for not releasing which then led to a line out and a driving maul and five points to draw level.
From a deep Ledbury move on the right it was Thomas who again excelled with a thumping tackle although it was a foot in touch in goal, which ultimately prevented Ledbury taking the lead.
Monmouth were now under the cosh for a while and a penalty to touch brought another try to Ledbury as their pack drove over to take the lead 12-5.
The kicking game predominated for a while with Johnson’s powerful high punts to the fore, but the home team were stronger at hand-to-hand hand battling at this stage, helped by very direct runners, and the visitors succumbed to a further try by a burly second row barging over for a converted try.
Centre Morgan Jeffs left the field injured at this stage but Monmouth demonstrated they have some beef of their own both in the front row and with news second row Shaun Hobbs who replied in kind to narrow the lead to 17-12.
But with half-time fast approaching and as legs tired, from a long pass to the right Ledbury went into a comfortable 22-12 lead just before the break.
What Monmouth coaches said to their team must have been special because upon the re-start captain and open-side flanker Jack Edwards was up and over following a series of dummies to claw things back to 22-17, although Johnson pulled the conversion.
The home team responded quickly with a display of quick hands to score near the posts, made worse by Monmouth losing a man to the sin-bin for backchatting the referee, who in fairness was having a good game.
Then a lengthy break for injury, as substitute scrum-half Lewis Ryan, just recovered from a broken collar bone, on a long break along the right-hand touch-line tried to ‘step’ inside the defence, damaging his knee painfully, although fortunately he was walking gingerly later on.
Edwards was to lead by example again following a penalty for not releasing and a touch to narrow things to 29-24, following which prop Bartlett soon made an interesting mid-field break only to be penalised for holding on after the tackle.
Substitute prop Luke Hunter had strengthened the set piece by now leading to a penalty and a scrum following which a dancing run by substitute wing Matt Tabb led to a try by Kester Mobbs-Morgan and the final score of 29-29.
A good refreshing start in readiness for a visit by Abertillery Blaenau Gwent RFC at Chippenham this coming Saturday (KO 2.30p.m.)