Monmouth RFC 24 Nelson RFC 24
SATURDAY 18th August brought the first full contact rugby of this season on Chippenham and some very mixed emotions at the same time.
The trial game between Division One visitors Nelson and Division Two newcomers Monmouth, should have been challenge enough without the fact that team mate and star player Max Davies had recently and tragically passed away, while Dafydd Hellard was away fighting hard against a serious illness.
The game was preceded by a very respectful minute of applause both from players and the large crowd in attendance. and it was perhaps no surprise that the visitors scored first with Monmouth’s thoughts elsewhere. Nelson rather dominated matters for the first 10 minutes or so until scrum-half Dan White, who was sharp throughout, took a quick penalty and was on hand to score and take the lead to 7-5.
With Monmouth having settled, the contest remained lively and evenly matched, despite Nelson regaining the lead with a score in the right corner following a move full of short accurate passes but with the possible suspicion of an unpunished knock-on.
A disappointment for both sides though was Monmouth losing Dean Bartlett with a strained groin in the early stages which necessitated uncontested scrums and, whilst making for more fluid play, did little to prepare both packs for forthcoming contests up front.
As the interval approached, Monmouth built on some effective rucking and were near to scoring along the left touchline when they were forced into touch. The succeeding moves faded out in the left corner as the whistle sounded for the interval.
The pause and substitutions obviously favoured Nelson because Monmouth were put under intense defensive pressure immediately from the re-start which they withstood bravely for some time but eventually cracked to go behind 7-19 after only five minutes of play.
Defence was necessarily good and the ability to counter-attack from deep through both new full-back Thau and centre Amosa Nove saw the visitors scrambling to keep their territory defended from time to time.
Nelson’s full back had moved to fly half and with his elusive running caused a few scares and a further try which stretched the lead to 7-24 but then things changed.
Monmouth’s forwards began to make breaks and gained substantial yardage as well as appearing in supporting roles as the game became more loose.
White sniped away and scored again and was to later make 30 yards, leaving many defenders mesmerised by his jinking run. Back-rower Hawkins made strong runs and was rewarded with a try, but the highlight was the several charging runs made at considerable pace by prop Green. Such fitness and so early in the season augurs well if he is able to keep it up.
Nelson were fading as Monmouth ran at them again and again and a good move along the line was rounded off by a good try by Thau and the intense satisfaction of a draw against such potentially tough opponents.
When several key players return from holidays and the line-outs are tidied up, if the scrums turn out to be the strength they were last season, the omens are promising for a good first year in the new division.
Next week will again bring back memories of another good man, when Berry Hill RFC visit for Sedge’s Memorial Game and a Fun Day for Children. The first match kicks off at 12pm.
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