WRU East Two

Dowlais 24 Monmouth 14

Monmouth had obviously not travelled well on the bus to Dowlais Top, because within three minutes of starting, despite a good early burst through the middle by Harry Johnson, the hosts expolited a missed tackle in midfield to go over in the right-hand corner for a 7-0 lead, reports PETE WALTERS.

Aided by a touch judge whose eyesight seemed a little askew at times, Dowlais played the more intense rugby for much of the first half, in what proved to be the visitors’ final league match of the season.

Monmouth were good at kicking deep but trying to punch up the middle was getting them nowhere, and spreading the ball wide, was frustrated well by the speedy and accurate tackling of the home defence.

Pressure, too, was coming from the hosts’ good line-out play and their well=practised driving maul. To outflank the defensive abilities facing them, Monmouth were passing more and more hastily to the detriment at times of their own accuracy.

The next near score came after full back Johnson made a lengthy break out of his own 22, but conceded a penalty some 45 metres out, with the Dowlais kick falling just below the bar.

A further penalty against Monmouth was kicked on the half hour to the right corner, when after a few rucks a home centre used his bulk to crash over for their second converted try.

Monmouth centre Dan Dunmore nearly redeemed things following up his good chip ahead, but when stopped, there was no support to hand.

Dowlais brought the pressure back to the Monmouth line which was only spared by a penalty.

Here the referee showed his frailties when from a Dowlais throw in from touch, their players pre-bound whilst Monmouth stood off which should have meant a penalty, but the referee did not see it that way.

Defending, Monmouth were then penalised for not releasing and the penalty touch to the left-hand corner inevitably led to another maul and an unconverted try for a 19-0 half-time lead.

With the floodlights now on, Monmouth set about their uphill task with more purpose.

But Dowlais were as quick as ever at capitalising on any errors by the visitors, as well as using all the tricks at their disposal, such as throwing the ball away at stoppages and holding people back to prevent them gaining an advantage, all of which were rarely if ever penalised, although perhaps, ‘not seen’, would be a more charitable comment.

Substitutes now joined the fray which lifted the visiting forwards a little. But play followed a smilar pattern with strong carries by Dowlais, turnovers, and immense clearance kicks. largely courtesy of Johnson.

Diminutive fly-half Dan White was everywhere trying to shore up the defence, but with little apparent opportunity to weave his usual magic in breaking the line, although Morgan Jeffs, Will Korb and Johnson were able to do so given their relative strengths.

The Dowlais left wing, who was always sharp, took his team a further score ahead when he picked up from the side of a ruck 35 metres out and scorched his way into the corner, although it was questionable whether his foot was in touch.

That made it 24-0, strangely followed by a penalty from the kick-off against the home team for which no-one knew the reason for.

Monmouth now began to come back, but time was running out.

Scrum-half Oliver Scriven speed broke speedily from the left his own half covering a good 40 metres of avoiding tackles.

A high tackle brought a yellow card and finally the home defence was stretched left following a Johnson break for substitute wing Adam Roberts to score in the corner.

The kick with the cross wind was superb to make it 24-7.

Then following some neat side-stepping by flanker Korb, centre Jeffs was on hand to score a second try which Johnson duly converted to cut the defict to 10 points.

Aided now by a second yellow card, this time for a deliberate slap down of a pass, Monmouth chased a losing bonus point hard but again, as this season has repeatedly shown, it was a case of too little, too late.

Whilst nearing a further score, Monmouth were held up in the tackle as they tried to release the pass, with the scrum awarded to Dowlais who ended the game worthy winners.

Sadly at Thursday’s post match review, the decision had to be taken to forfeit Saturday’s final game away at champions Newbridge due to a surfeit of injuries and unavailability.

A disappointing end to a very encouraging season for such a group of young players, with a final WRU East One place of 10th.

It’s not the last rugby action though, with a big fundraising match at the Sports Ground this Saturday (May 20) in aid of mental health.

The 2023 Ted Senior Foundation Charity Rugby Match - played in honour of the former head boy at Monmouth Comprehensive School - kicks off at 2pm.

The Monmouth Combination team is again made up of Ted’s old teammates from school and club, whilst TSF Barbarians will include his friends from university and afar.

Food and drink will be available at the match, as well as the chance to buy TSF merchandise.

See www.thetedseniorfoundation.org and the foundation’s Facebook and Facebook events pages to buy tickets for the event (£5 entry).