Ben Francis CupBlackwood 29 Monmouth 26

DESPITE fielding a weakened side away to Blackwood on Saturday, Monmouth scored four of the game’s seven tries only to succumb to a late penalty.The teams were level pegging with four minutes to play until the hosts secured a three-point lead that ultimately ensured their progression in the Ben Francis Cup, much to the delight of a reduced crowd probably owing to the Wales v New Zealand game.Blackwood seemed the more vigorous and composed in the early stages with sparkling backs capitalising on the strong carries of some of their forwards.And despite resistance the hosts who at this stage dominated in the scrums were 19-7 up leading to the break.Tom Hawkins was to redress things with a neat pick up and over near the line to narrow the gap to 19-14 a minute into extra-time, though, to boost Monmouth’s confidence.The second half brought changes by virtue of some substitutions and Monmouth began to regain some scrum dominance as well as the ability to take their chances when they arose.After the restart following a succession of rucks near the home line, Rhys Evans went in at the left corner for 19-19, but Matthew Tabb’s kick was pulled slightly although having the distance from far out.Blackwood responded almost at once though, when, in turn, their left wing ran virtually the length of the field to score a try well converted from near the touch-line to regain a 26-19 lead.Monmouth counter-attacked well on several occasions without completing the moves due to handling errors forced by the home team’s stout defences.Until, that is, due to a signalled and poor pass in a Blackwood attack deep in their opponents’ half, centre Chris Reed pounced on their mistake and ran untouched to the line to equal the scores at 26 points each.Both sides went at it, hell for leather, for the remaining 20 minutes but when Blackwood were awarded an easily kickable penalty to take the lead 29-26 with just minutes to play, even the measly one minute of extra time subsequently allowed was insufficient to prevent the home side from progressing in the cup.A hard fought and interesting display by both sides with, as usual, full marks for effort, but some skills still to be honed (a la the All Blacks?).