WRU East One

Blaenavon RFC 31 Monmouth RFC 17

ON a rare rain free day on Saturday hopes were high of an open game away against Blaenavon helping Monmouth’s three-quarters to run amok, but it was not to be, reports PETE WALTERS.

 Although they scored three tries in a more spirited second half come back, Blaenavon’s superiority in virtually all aspects of the game brought them five tries and a bonus point, as well as their convincing win. 

Kester Mobbs-Morgan looks for a gap
Kester Mobbs-Morgan looks for a gap (Gareth Roberts)

As usual the visitors played right until the end, but the half time deficit of 12 points proved too big a hill to climb, let alone the pitch slope bolstered by the home team’s determination to keep Monmouth at bay. 

Blaenavon set off as they planned to do for the whole game. Strong carries by their big forwards and in particular their strong centres found Monmouth’s tackling deficient in both height and consistency. 

Logan Woskett and Kester Mobbs Morgan attempt to chargedown a kick
Logan Woskett and Kester Mobbs Morgan attempt to chargedown a kick (Gareth Roberts)

The scrum was a weak point too, frequently being moved back both with and without the put-in. 

They struggled with mauls, too, which was perhaps not surprising given the Blaenavon forwards’ strength, size and determination. 

Both sides kicked as deeply as they could for territory and on balance mistakes and speed of following up rather dictated the advantage here too as Blaenavon led 12-0 at half-time. 

Dan White's attempt to take a quick penalty met short shrift
Dan White's attempt to take a quick penalty met short shrift (Gareth Roberts)

Monmouth had their moments in the first period, with wing Matt Tabb making the more obvious ground.

But execution generally was poor and may well have had something to do with cold hands as well as excitability when a chance of making deep inroads occasionally came their way.  

One flash of inspiration was when full back Lewis Bates scanned the field and angled it cross field instead of the ping-pong kicks to and fro that were so apparent throughout the game. 

Harry Whelan crosses for Monmouth's 2nd try
Harry Whelan crosses for Monmouth's 2nd try (Gareth Roberts)

Having said that, Blaenavon were soon to find their way back to score their second try sufficiently near to the posts for an easy conversion. 

The two relatively close quarter tries by Blaenavon in the first half were so nearly pulled back just before the whistle for half-time, following an excellent break by Tabb which ultimately foundered 10 metres out following some indecision and the ball finally being thrown forward whilst trying to keep it alive.  

The second half commenced with the same strong carrying from Blaenavon which enlivened the seemingly small local crowd who ignored, as it appeared did the referee, a crucial forward pass. 

They were more enthused though when Blaenavon drove the Monmouth pack up and back in a scrum into the lower left hand corner, but the referee ordered a re-set seemingly by way of consolation and Blaenavon did not miss this further chance to drive over for another unconverted try. 

Shaun Hobbs pounces on a loose ball to score Monmouth's opening try
Shaun Hobbs pounces on a loose ball to score Monmouth's opening tr (Gareth Roberts)

Playing up the slope now, Tabb again made a substantial break but putting the ball to boot was a wrong option as it ricocheted off a defender and was taken back into the visitors’ half. 

A turnover saw prop Tom Green showing how fast he can move and making a sufficiently large dent on the home defence that it brought a penalty and a kick for a touch in the corner. 

Centre Dan Dunmore made good ground cutting a fine angle which threw the defence into disarray and eventually brought an unconverted try for No.8 Shaun Hobbs. 

From the re-start Tabb again ran the ball back but the move was ended by a poor pass, although play was brought back for what had been a high tackle which are becoming increasingly rare as players get used to the essential requirement these days to tackle lower. 

The home team were now trying to protect their lead, hence more regular penalties against them for offences such as no rolling away from or ‘no arms’ tackles. 

From a good line-out take near the end of the third quarter, wing Harry Whelan cut through in the centre to gain a converted try. 

This stirred Blaenavon and within minutes, they had driven a scrum and broken a few tackles to restore their 12-point lead. 

Monmouth continued to push hard with the help of some fresh legs, but an attempted chip ahead proved fatal as the ball was run back, kicked ahead and from a scrum resulting from a defender’s knock on and an incomplete tackle at the back of a further scrum, the ball was slipped to the home team’s pacey left wing to take the score to 31-12. 

Never beaten, Monmouth went to the other end where full back Bates scored but despite continued pressure, play was slowed down by indecision and predictability at the base of rucks and scrums and time ran out rather to the relief of the home fans and Blaenavon having closed out the game without further scores. 

This Saturday (January 13) brings Pontypool United - hammered 80-5 by Brynmawr at the weekend -  to the Sportsground, so what might Monmouth achieve then?

Also in East One, Abergavenny were just pipped 22-20 away to East One leaders Talywain in a fighting performance, while Usk missed out 16-10 at home to Garndiffaith in East Two, and Chepstow fell, to a 28-11 loss at Fleur de Lys in East 3.

Other fixtures this Saturday include – Abergavenny v Ynysddu, Blaina v Chepstow, Newport HSOB  v Usk.