1XV v Usk (Home) 21 Apr 2012

27-25 Win

A Near Thing

Last Saturday’s Swalec League game against Usk was always going to be tough so it was a great relief when the Monmouth pack began to dominate in the last ten minutes of the game, overtaking the visitors to win 27-25 with only injury time to play – and despite the relatively low score Monmouth kept up their league title chase with this four try win and a bonus point.

Despite being first to score with a penalty, in the very early stages it was the Monmouth backs who looked the more lively with scrum half Gareth Morgan shining and scoring twice in the game as well as giving the final winning pass to substitute left wing Tom Cratchley to dive over in the corner through the despairing tackles of Usk defenders. Fly-half Rhys Ricketts as usual tackled and attacked vigorously bringing a personal tally of 12 points including his first half try.

But Monmouth performed below par in general, falling foul of a punctilious but fair referee and not coping well with the bigger Usk second row forwards in the lines-out and driving mauls. The resulting deficit of 17-20 at half-time when both sides had scored two tries apiece although one was allowed despite having appeared to be beyond the dead-ball line did not help Monmouth’s confidence.

For the impartial, the first half had been vigorous and entertaining, and others had been given much to cheer or complain about in equal measure. But if the local back row had not defended doggedly helped by at least two try-saving tackles by the backs, the game could have slipped beyond Monmouth’s reach.

Even more commitment was called for by the Coach with greater emphasis on accuracy and support play strong direct running by the Usk centres began to break through the Monmouth tackles and stretched the lead to 17-25.

And then Monmouth’s pack dug really deep with just ten minutes to go and play moved firmly into the Usk half where the visitors were having to defend their goal-line with just a hint of desperation. Penalties for trying to slow down the game brought scrums followed by rucks followed by yet more scrums and Monmouth’s traditional set scrum strength began to reap rewards.

First Morgan sniping from the base of a ruck near the line found a gap and caused Usk consternation but when Monmouth forced another penalty for not releasing in the tackle, from the resulting scrum Morgan again ran blind, drew the defenders and passed to Cratchley to crash over to take the lead right at the end of normal time.

With a few more added time minutes to play Usk tried to rush back but Monmouth with their bonus point in the bag, were by now too fired up to let things slip. This had been the most challenging game seen on the Sports Ground for a while and as the final whistle blew all agreed it had been a near thing.

The pressure on Monmouth does not ease as they now play four games in the next two weeks to Hafodyrynys’s two in the chase for the League title, so large-scale vocal support may prove the key, first at Newport Saracens at 7.15p.m. Wednesday and then away again on Saturday at Pontllanffraith (k.o. 2.30p.m.)

Tries: G. Morgan (2), T. Cratchley, R.Ricketts
Conv: R.Ricketts (2)
Pen: R.Ricketts

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