WRU East One
Monmouth RFC 24 Pontypool United 19
Bright Winter sunshine last Saturday lifted the spirits of the large crowd at the Town’s Sportsground until it disappeared and the bitter cold took hold again, reports PETE WALTERS.
Players took a short while to adjust to the conditions with play initially being a little scrappy including the visitors kicking a penalty for touch but failing to make it.
Fly-half Dan White was first to spark a move which full back Adam Roberts took on, both of whom were to give good accounts of themselves in defence and attack until the latter left the field injured after the break, although in this instance a poor pass ended the move.
It was only six minutes to wait for a score though when second row Shaun Hobbs powered over from near the line, right wing Matt Tabb converting comfortably for a 7-0 lead.
The visitors responded with vigour though, and helped by a penalty for not rolling away they drove to the line.
Initially they had the ball held up, but maintained the pressure with a succession of winning rucks.
Resolute defence by Monmouth held them out for fully 10 minutes, but united finally broke through for a converted try of their own to tie the scores at 7-7.
Play went back to the other end and whilst many of the large crowd were watching a Pontypool forward trying to remove a scrum cap from an opponent without first undoing it, which brought on a small fracas, Monmouth moved the ball with speedy passing from the right corner to find Roberts in mid-field to score near the posts, which was again converted.
At 14-7 the home centres were now finding gaps, Morgan Jeffs making ground and then grubber kicking.
The ball was won and when the ball was moved left play was halted for a knock-on in a one-handed attempt to intercept the floated pass which was rewarded with a scrum to the hosts rather than the kickable penalty one would ordinarily expect.
Worse than that, this brought the first sign of the strength of the visiting pack as Monmouth were pushed back at the set piece.
But from a deep defensive position when the ball broke loose captain and centre Dan Dunmore broke away supported by Tabb before a promising move broke down by way of a poor pass.
A scrum was next lost to a penalty for coming up under pressure, but when White ran the ball back he was involved twice in the move looping round a fellow three-quarter only for Tabb to fire a pass straight to touch.
Following an exchange of deep kicks, the visitors then found themselves in a position to engineer a long driving maul.
Although it was initially held out Monmouth were unable to clear their line, and after several rucks the visitors eventually crossed for a score to mke it 14-14 right on the half-time whistle.
Their strength had been their ability to retain the ball over many phases helped by Monmouth seeming to be content to defend whilst not actively trying to get their hands on the ball.
The hosts began the second half now up the slope with a good move which brought a penalty for a high tackle after a surprisingly long period of advantage, which Tabb kicked to regain the lead again at 17-14.
A lively move from left and then right cost Monmouth a penalty for crossing, but soon they should have capitalised from a yellow card for a sliding trip tackle 27m out but the kick was pulled wide.
Roberts then showed some good pace and change of direction but injured himself in the process, leading to the introduction of fresh legs.
A succession of penalty offences by both sides followed, as both teams perhaps tried to avoid conceding scores whilst also showing dissent with decisions.
A promising Pontypool move left was stopped in its tracks by a show-stopping tackle by replacement full back Rhodri Williams, and although the pressure from the visiting forwards was still intense, Dunmore then broke away from the left corner to find White in support who completed the 75m run to the posts for a converted try near the end of the third quarter to stretch the lead to 24-14.
Tempers began to become frayed and there were a few short stoppages as a result whereafter the unsighted referee awarded a yellow card each for their continuation of some personal disagreement.
Whether it was quite worth the essay he then appeared to write, followed by lengthy talks to the captains, only he will know.
Much was now at stake, as the visitors eagerly sought a losing bonus point and the home team one for tries scored, but despite vigorous attempts by both, it was United who prevailed with an unconverted try from a scrum drive and then a ruck in the left hand corner for a 24-19 result.
A fair result with contrasting styles of play but one can only say ‘a win is a win’, and roll on this Saturday (January 20) when second-placed Brynmawr, 50-3 Saturday winners over Dowlais, are rhe visitors to the Sports Ground and potentially a much bigger kettle of fish, kick-off 2.30pm.
Elsewhere at the weekend, Usk were humbled 97-8 away in a 15-try demolition by Newport HSOB, while Chepstow lost 33-17 at Blaina.
Usk will try and pick up the pieces at Blackwood this Saturday, while Chepstow have the weekend off.