WRU East One
SO NEAR... with visitors Brynmawr having beaten Monmouth 75-14 earlier in the season, hopes of reversing the result were not high amongst the spectators at the Sports Ground on Saturday, reports PETE WALTERS.
But they were soon made to think again when, after a mere five minutes, a move left along the line and a few winning rucks saw centre Morgan Jeffs break through tackles for the opening score.
Or could it be a false dawn with the mighty Mawr, sitting joint top in WRU East One, merely starting slowly?
The wind was going to be an influential factor as the precursor to Storm Isha was already blowing strongly corner to corner.
Ffrom the start, kicks upfield were prone to ballooning in an uncontrolled way, although an attacking asset for those who knew how to use it in the downhill direction.
And so it proved when the first attempted conversion by Monmouth failed badly, and Brynmawr were soon to gain a 70 metre touch by riding on the wind.
Once in the home 22, their pressure was intense and whilst the hosts did well at defending the repeated rucks and mauls near their line, it was not always legally, and inevitably one of the penalties quickly taken saw the visitors go into a 7-5 lead through a driving maul that this time was unstoppable.
The defence during the 10-minute period since the opening score had been encouraging.
And it engineered a good break and from a scrum on halfway, a penalty kick found touch in the right corner.
After a few winning rucks then saw Monmouth stalwart second row Shaun Hobbs use his size and power to drive over for a try converted comfortably this time by full back Matt Tabb for a 12-7 lead.
The visitors responded but had a try disallowed, possibly for obstruction, although the referee’s signalling may have meant one of several possibilities.
Scrum half Oliver Scriven was adept at making good ground as well as stoutly defending and with the aid of Hobbs’ mauling, Monmouth secured a penalty which was kicked to touch deep on the right followed by a strong carry by prop Tom Green.
When stopped Monmouth won a penalty for going in on the side, converted by Tabb to stretch the lead at half-time to 15-7 against the elements and slope.
Fired up by their ‘talking to’ in the break Brynmawr came out firing on all cylinders, and despite being frustrated by dogged defence, a penalty for not rolling away after the tackle narrowed the score to 15-10.
Brynmawr became a stronger side following substitutions with even burlier forwards coming on.
But despite another good Hobbs carry out of defence, a penalty for holding on gave the visitors a further three points responded to quickly by a penalty of Monmouth’s own from some 40 metres distance, making it 18-13.
Tempers became frayed at this juncture but Tabb this time was to pull wide a further kick at goal from some 35 metres out.
The game was turning somewhat and despite good harrying by wing Harvey Thomas to force a line-out, it was lost and a sharp move on the blind-side saw Brynmawr’s speedy left wing fed for a runaway 60-metre try, eluding a last-ditch attempt at an ankle tap by fly-half Dan White.
All square at 18-18 now with some 10 minutes left to play, a scrum saw Monmouth sliding back which did not bode well.
A decision soon after to substitute both tiring props might have been a game saver at this point, but a yellow card offence by one of them almost immediately for ‘too many penalties’ despite having just arrived was to prove disastrous.
And leaving 14 men to hold out against the continuing pressure from the visitors was going to be difficult.
And Brynmawr’s strength at the set piece finally prevailed when another strong drive saw them go over the line for a converted, try leaving Monmouth clutching a losing bonus point only from a game they could have won and that against the joint ‘table-toppers’!
This Saturday (January 27) they are away at Risca, so they must set to and try again for the win that is currently just eluding them.
It was a day of little rugby elsewhere mainly due to the weather.
But Ross-on-Wye RFC men’s squad appear in crisis just six years after lifting a league title, forfeiting a fourth game in five matches.
Rooted to the bottom of Counties 3 Tribute Gloucestershire North, a club source admitted they were “struggling” to put a team out, owing to a lack of ‘consistent players’, but hadn’t pulled out of the league at this stage.
This Saturday January 27) they are due to play Painswick away, followed by Bredon Star at home on February 3.
Other local games this Saturday include – Usk v Caerleon, Abercarn v Chepstow, Abergavenny v Pontypool United, Croesyceiliog v Caldicot .