1XV v Llanhilleth (Away) 19 Nov 2011

31-22 Win

Still Undefeated

Monmouth RFC have lost to no-one yet in the Swalec League Division 5 East and are equal on 40 points at its top with Hafodyrynys and with a game in hand over them!

The four tries scored against Llanhilleth last Saturday earned them an all important bonus point but things were tight towards the end as they lost someone to each of two successive yellow cards. They managed to hold out however and it was only the upright that prevented Llanhilleth from gaining a losing bonus point of their own as they also stuck to their task quite gamely.

Monmouth commenced in a rush but failed to capitalize from a few powerful thrusts towards the Llanhilleth line. As a result the home team steadied their game and were first to score after nine minutes with a penalty due to a visiting back straying off-side whilst defending.

The referee, Jeff Lake, whose last game before his retirement this was, was correctly strict with failures to release in the tackle but an errant kick at goal spared the visitors from slipping further behind.

Unusually for Monmouth they were met up front arguably by larger and more rugged opponents but Monmouth were well led by the example of captain Matt Ricketts with his tackles of ball carriers around the rucks.

And then a breakthrough at the end of the first quarter when from an excellent line-out take by No 8 Mike Griffiths the ball was spun along the line to the left where wing Gareth Morgan completed the move with a try. Ricketts added the conversion only for battle to resume right through to half-time save for a very ably kicked further penalty for Ricketts.

Three-10 was an encouraging lead but it was clear that big Llanhilleth runners needed to be decked early if their threat was to be minimised and for Monmouth to speed up the game in a controlled way. Running their forwards around the field to test their fitness was said to be the key at this stage.

Almost from the kick-off Morgan ran elusively down the left gaining much ground and from several scrums taken instead of penalties, Griffiths was able to pick up and barge his way over. The conversion, again by Ricketts, followed by a further converted try when Griffiths intercepted around 40 yards out and scored whilst being tackled over the line, created a comfortable cushion and confidence visibly grew.

Perhaps a little complacency helped but Llanhilleth lacked for nothing in terms of pride and they came back to put Monmouth under so much pressure from mauls near their own line that the inevitable happened and they clawed their way back to 10-24 with a converted try of their own.

Monmouth went back to their scrum power game and regained territorial position. Flanker Ed McCord next crossed over as a result with Ricketts again on target, but Llanhilleth were nowhere near down and out despite Monmouth’s fourth try but with 20 minutes still to play.

A long relieving kick up-field saw scrum-half Ludo Thomas covering back some 50 metres to save the day but received a yellow card for allegedly holding on despite Llanhilleth’s forwards clearly winning the ball.

This provided even greater motivation for the home team and despite a reshuffle in the defence they were eventually stretched enough to concede another converted try and a reduction of their lead to 17-31.

Tackling became even more frantic and when captain Ricketts was also sent to the sin-bin for impeding a player within ten yards of a short penalty, things looked bleak when the numerically stronger side again scored even though they failed with the kick failing to gain a bonus point of their own.

Fortunately, given the added injury time to be played, Thomas resumed play and despite Llanhilleth’s efforts, Monmouth held out for a brave 22-31 win built to a large extent around the unsung heroes of the pack, of whom the second rows and No 8 were outstanding. Even the Llanhilleth players admitted though whilst standing under their own posts for the umpteenth time that Monmouth had scored some excellent tries.

An away trip next week against Trinant follows an element of relaxation this Thursday at 7p.m. with a General Knowledge Quiz in the club-house to which all are welcome.

Tries: G.Morgan, M.Griffiths (2), E.McCord
Conv: R.Ricketts (4)
Pen: R.Ricketts

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