1XV v Blackwood Stars (Away) 03 Sep 2011

What a start to the season!

Monmouth suffered some late and significant withdrawals before their first Swalec league fixture of the season away to Blackwood, but no-one could have foretold what was to happen thereafter.

The game started late and not without a little trepidation as Blackwood Stars was one of the teams to frustrate Monmouth’s bid for promotion last season, and from the kick=off and the two rucks to follow they were to be frustrated by a knock on in the right hand corner as they threatened to score.

Monmouth retaliated from the scrum they were awarded with a break upfield which with good support came frustratingly near but a mere minute later Monmouth had gone ahead through wingman Adam Roberts elusive and pacey running which Rhys Ricketts converted.

Monmouth’s pack began to show their strength and experience as they repeatedly drove the younger Blackwood backwards in the set pieces although they certainly did not have it all their own way in the line-out, twice gaining good ground only to lose the ensuing throw-in.

Their driving maul was good at this stage, too, causing distinct consternation in the home team’s ranks as was fly-half Aaron Price’s relieving kicks out of defence. In fact it was from one of these which forced a scrum on half-way which scrum-half Gareth Morgan broke away from only to succumb to a fine saving tackle by his opposite number.

The very next action saw him make much further ground but his klck ahead was to run dead and Blackwood could breathe again. Blackwood welcomed the relief that a kick out of defence brought but they were still prey to the vigorous scavenging of the back row of Edwards, J Price and Griffiths as well as the drives from the rear of rucks and scrums.

Monmouth pack was in the ascendancy at this stage in the turn-over stakes and when 2nd row John Powell stole the ball near his own line to initiate a well supported run with fine inter-passing in which both wingers were involved was in keeping with play at this stage. Centre Dewi Lane rounded off the move when he wrong-footed two Blackpool defenders to score Monmouth’s second try. Ricketts again added the extra points for a well –deserved 14-0 half-time lead.

It seemed all Monmouth needed was to provide much of the same again, but it was they who were to falter as Blackwood grew in confidence, capitalizing from errors in open play and ‘gift’ penalties, running from virtually anywhere whenever they could.

First they edged back with a penalty kick for entering a maul from the side and then when Ricketts was sent to the ‘sin-bin’, with heavy pressure being exerted by the now enthusiastic Blackwood pack to drive to the line and for one of their number to dive over for their first try.
Monmouth’s defence was tiring and the home strike runners exploited this by seeming to break through at will but fortunately the lack of a Blackwood goal-kicker kept the score to first 8-14 and then 13-14.

But then the referee intervened in an unexpected way. His verbal coaching of both sides had been well received until now even if playing advantage for rarely more than a brief moment was not, but as Blackwood again headed for a near certain try in the left corner, the referee was laid low by a nasty Achilles tendon injury which prevented him from seeing and thus allowing the ‘score’.

With some treatment and encouragement from the home team to continue, only around another three minutes of play was possible before he had to call it a day, abandoning the game to be replayed at a later date.

Lovely dry conditions and already the traditional end of season fixture backlog has begun to grow!

Newport Saracens provide the opposition at the Sports Ground next week when Monmouth will hope events are more predictable and gaining their first win of this season.

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