WRU?National League Division 2 East - Newport HSOB 8 Monmouth RFC 37

ON a surprisingly firm pitch despite Storm Callum flooding the nearby lower River Usk, Monmouth’s challenge instead was a strong gusting wind at the Newport High School Old Boys’ ground last Saturday.

Having to play into the downfield wind determined Monmouth’s first half tactics and how well they worked, rattling up four tries to gain a bonus point inside the first half!

Their hosts predictably kicked long and deep but did not allow for the skill of the Monmouth backs in running the ball back and breaking the home front line defences time and time again.

Last ditch tackling though helped to keep down the score during the first quarter.

Centre Morgan Paley was quite elusive from the start with an outrageous dummy starting a move over 75 metres spoiled only by a knock-on near its conclusion. Pressure was maintained and within 12 minutes Paul Emmanuelli had kicked them into a three point lead.

The visitors’ interpassing was impressive with hard yards being made in particular by prop Tom Green and lock Tom Hawkins frustrated only at times by the home team’s blitz defence.

Chances came though and Emmanuelli cut an excellent angle to nearly score under the posts but when held up, the penalty on offer for offside was willingly taken, to extend the lead to 0-6 in the 17th minute. Green it was again who minutes later made good ground. Scrum half Dan White continued the move with the recycled ball and Emmanuelli cut through to the posts for a try. He drilled the conversion so hard into the wind it ended up in the Sky aerial on the club-house roof not far from the score-board which now showed 0-13.

Newport fought back and Monmouth were guilty of not releasing in the tackle which was something that had become a trade-mark of their hosts until then. The hosts pulled their penalty kick but soon got their first points on the board as their scrum forced it to turn and be penalised.

Monmouth responded with an excellent move to the right, inspired by the tricky running of full back Rhys Gant and well supported by centre Ash Bateman, which went along the line and saw wing Josh Hughes score a debut try in the far corner. The kick failed in the wind.

Gant again triggered a move from the re-start. Hughes found himself on the end of a miss-pass to score again although the kick hit the post. With the visiting supporters urging them to keep up the pace, flanker Zak Williams broke from deep in his half supported by Hughes to nearly score. From the ruck the ball was spun along the line to the opposite corner where wing Amosa Nove ran in untouched for the fourth and bonus point try right on half-time. Newport to their credit, used the break to re-build their confidence given the 3-30 deficit, similarly running the ball back out of defence as Monmouth used the wind to gain territory, assisted by occasional failures by Monmouth to find touch and patchy following up of kicks.

The home full-back revelled in the many opportunities to run and often proved difficult to halt which saw his team making inroads into the 22. A touch resulting from a penalty brought a score from a driving maul which seemed to find Monmouth unprepared in the way it crossed the line so quickly. The conversion struck the post but the move to 8-30 and a drop-out direct to touch from the restart rang alarm bells.

Newport were back battering the Monmouth line but the way in which the visitors now defended suggested any risk of complacency had been sorted. A deep kick out of defence brought a sliced kick to touch by Newport and rugged though the local pack continued to be along with strong tackling in the centre, substitute prop Hunter provided some added resolve of Monmouth’s own.

Nove was neat scoring on the left but for once his strong running was thwarted when many would have bet on his scoring. But he made amends almost immediately by setting up Hughes, who had by now switched to scrum-half, for his hat-trick try. What a triumph for one so young!

With the balance swinging back Monmouth’s way, Emmanuelli marginally failed a kick at goal from the 10 metre line and although Newport soon retaliated with a deep break along the touch-line Nove caught the attacker from behind.

A good win away which hopefully will be good preparation for next week’s game against Caerphilly at the Sportsground.

Photos courtesy of Gareth Roberts