1XV v Pontllanfraith (Away) 28 Apr 2012

23-9 Win

Two Wins in a Week Keep Up Title Pressure

In the season end dash to catch up on postponed fixtures, Monmouth visited Newport Saracens last Wednesday (18th) and put them to the sword 3-20 despite their hosts having imported three players to strengthen their chances.

In the most appalling wind and rain it was never going to be a spectacle of classy back moves with endless handling errors by both sides due to frozen digits and a greasy ball, so it was no surprise that the game was eventually won by good line kicking on the wind, careful goal kicks by fly half Rhys Ricketts and strong driving by the Monmouth pack rounded off by two tries from the rugged play of No 8 Mike Griffiths. Good enough in the circumstances and assured by some very strong tackling, the best of which came from Adam Roberts.

On Saturday (28th) a change of pitch to higher ground at Pontllanffraith ensured a well-drained surface despite days of inclement weather, although the wind still intruded greatly for the first half at least.

Sadly however the greatest influence in what was a highly combative game was the way in which the referee judged things, awarding 22 penalties against Monmouth compared with around 5 against the home team. Not conforming to the referee’s law interpretations is one thing and bound to attract retribution but when penalties are awarded for things such as lifting players legs in tackles and then the very same thing is openly ignored when the opponents do similarly is hard to understand.

After an initial exchange of successful penalty kicks it was the host pack which used the wind and slope to good advantage. Monmouth defended strongly on their own line although there were worrying lapses elsewhere, but eventually the pressure told after 13 minutes following a succession of rucks and with a solid two man drive over their line, Pontllanffraith scored the first and their only try of the game but the kick failed.
Progress upfield by Monmouth was repeatedly set back by the whistle and relieving line kicks but full back Anthony Layne introduced the telling spark when after making ground he kicked towards the left hand corner. Ricketts (the nephew), up in support, prevented the ball from being allowed to run into touch by a defender and from his fly hack and a resulting scrum, No.8 Mike Griffiths crashed over for a try which was sweetly converted given the wind.

Having taken the lead 8-10, Monmouth’s tails were up and from position gained from a kick upfield, the ball was taken on by flanker Ed McCord. From a resulting ruck captain Matt Ricketts was delighted to take the ball at pace and break through several tackles to score his first ever try for the team. Ricketts, the younger again, added the points to stretch the lead to 8-17 which was nearly increased by some mobile support play from first hooker Stacey Edwards backed up by 2nd row John Powell but sadly came to nought when it deserved better. The loss of a forward to a yellow card was the only remaining incident of an eventful first half.

The plan for the second half was an obvious one of using the wind and slope to gain and maintain position from where they could play football whilst ensuring better support of ball carriers and trying to ensure the already heavy penalty count was reduced.
But Pontllanffraith had regained their composure and again were giving as good as they got with strong bursts out of defence. Monmouth equally were keen to counter-attack and from one such foray left wing George Shirlaw made considerable ground coming in-field before centre Andrew Davies took charge and instead of using the line outside him, beat four or five players over 20 metres to score under the posts, making it an easy kick for Ricketts.

Pontllanffraith were now determined to recover ground in the remaining 20 minutes but despite their many attempts, the Monmouth line held firm for a sound if frustrating win.

The next opponents are Bettws away tonight (2 May) when Monmouth must continue their winning streak if they are to remain on course for winning the league title. Hafodyrynys still lead but Monmouth still have games in hand when they can overtake them by the last game at home against (would you believe?) Pontllanffraith again on 12 May.

Tries: M.Griffiths, M.Ricketts, A.Davies
Conv: R.Ricketts (3)
Pen: R.Ricketts

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