1XV v Newport Saracens (Home) 10 Sep 2011

52-30 Win

Monmouth win despite ‘questionable tactics’.

Monmouth’s first home game of the season was a spectacle containing 12 tries in all resulting in a 52-30 win over visitors Newport Saracens which will certainly have impressed match sponsors – Heat Tech. But the switch by the visitors to uncontested scrummaging after half-time could so easily have robbed Monmouth of a deserved win.

Uncontested scrums are an important safety feature in the game of rugby and the young ‘Sarries’ pack certainly struggled to compete with the more experienced home pack, but when one realises that they had already allegedly been overheard discussing ‘when they go uncontested’ during their warm up for the game, one has to believe that the decision becomes one more of tactics rather than one of pure safety.

The referee of course is the judge of such matters but when presented with claims of injuries to players he must also opt for safety for obvious reasons and when the Saracens scored with pace and style immediately after the decision and the break the home crowd feared the worst.

Aided by the strong wind and their youthful enthusiasm and pace the visitors were first to strike from the kick-off with a stunning converted try but the first scrum showed they would be struggling to cope with the power of their opponents in the tight.

And so it proved with Monmouth progressively building a lead but with Newport retaliating at pace from loose situations.

Centre Dewi Lane and kicker Rhys Rickets levelled within five minutes, then missed a penalty but flanker Mike Griffiths was soon to make major inroads into the visitors half. A sharp move by scrum-half Gareth Morgan and pass to the supporting No 8 Ed Wheeler brought another try converted by Ricketts, which opened a lead that Monmouth were never to relinquish although Newport all but overtook them just after half-time.

The scene seemed to be set when having extended the lead to 17-7 with a penalty kick, Monmouth drove the visitors back big time in the middle of the field but were adjudged to have taken the scrum up and in a dangerous manner. Quite why a dominant pack would wish to wreck a scrum when they could have continued to drive it back yards is not clear but the resultant penalty narrowed the score to 17-10 with spectators laying bets that uncontested scrums were now an almost certainty.

Scrum half Morgan was next to score in the left corner although this time Ricketts failed in the wind. With the score advanced to 22-10 relaxed tackling allowed Sarries a further score but left wing Chris Reed responded almost immediately using his speed and strength to break through tackles for a good try in the same corner and a lead of 27-15.

Not to be out-done, the visitors regained some ground with a penalty well into injury time.

The coach’s half-time talk complete, changes were immediately necessary as the referee brought the bad news about passive scrums and annoyance grew as to how injuries were now apparent in players who ten minutes earlier before the break had seemed to be coping albeit with some difficulty in their front row roles.

Following the immediate reversal of pressure by Saracens narrowing the score to 27-25 with a right wing try, Ricketts bagged a penalty and then was fed by Morgan for an excellent try.

Monmouth began using the wind and Ricketts increased the pressure with a good kick to the right corner creating the opportunity for Gareth Morgan to score a try from his quickly taken free kick. Ricketts stretched the score to 42-25 and then fly-half Aaron Price got just reward for a very competent game with a try from 10 yards or so out.

Newport Saracens to their credit had not given up and after a fairly frantic last five minutes achieved the final score capitalising on some hurried passing by the home team to gain a bonus try of their own for a four try haul of their own in this 52-30 humdinger. Pity about the scrums though!

RTB Ebbw Vale are next up at home at 2.30p.m. on 17 September at the Sports Ground.

Tries: D.Lane, E.Wheeler, G.Morgan (2), C.Reed, R.Ricketts, A.Price
Conv: R.Ricketts (4)
Pen: R.Ricketts (3)

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