1XV v Usk (Home) 26 Dec 2012

34-20 Win

With Monmouth’s Swalec Bowl game at Rogerstone now having been postponed three times, it is as well the traditional Boxing Day derby game against Usk went ahead if only to allay some of the worst effects of Yuletide excesses.

Usk were fired up from the start no doubt by a desire to avenge the defeat in the morning match of their Second XV by Monmouth’s Druids but missed a scoring opportunity from a penalty after driving Monmouth back to their line. Suitably alerted Monmouth made it to the other end but similarly failed to kick the goal.

But this inspired rather than deterred the home team who in the sixth minute saw flanker Ollie Grey up in support of his brother and winger, Josh, who had outflanked Usk’s scrambling defence on the right to gain the game’s first try. The greasy underfoot conditions again defeated the kicker.

The Usk pack was showing some early dominance in the set scrums and it was no surprise to the crowd mainly sheltering in the stand, when the visitors were next to score, making good use of the slope and kicks to the corners. A series of rucks brought an equalising try for the visitors just 14 minutes into the game but again without a conversion.

A penalty by fly half Rhys Ricketts for a high tackle regained the lead for Monmouth but a short while later Usk, using their nouse and weight’ drove a maul over in the left corner for an 8-12 lead.

It was now Monmouth’s turn to gain in strength and after pounding the line through a series of rucks were adjudged to have been ‘held up’. Their attrition continued and Usk lost a man to a yellow card.

Monmouth were soon to see a reward for their persistence aided by the welcome sharpness of scrum-half Gareth Morgan newly back from injury, when George Shirlaw slid through his tacklers on the right to gain a lead of 13-12.

Attack became ‘all out’ now as the half time whistle beckoned. The ball was worked back from the line by Monmouth’s forwards but centre Dewi Lane sadly dropped the ball in the act of scoring in the right hand corner to keep Usk very much in the hunt.

Monmouth obviously had to find a way of combatting Usk’s driving mauls to keep Usk in check whereupon the better rugby they were playing should see them through, although this was more likely if the backs lined up more deeply and came onto the ball at pace.

Lock Ed Wheeler on his return home was playing stunningly and was next to score with a solo effort converted by Ricketts, and apart for the temporary setback of an Usk penalty for offside, it was Wheeler again who made a try for Rhys Ricketts who was to convert again.

27-15 midway through the second half seemed a comfortable home lead but with the advent of a range of home substitutes and the scrums becoming uncontested at Usk’s request due to injury, the balance changed subtly bringing Usk back into the game.

Monmouth won a scrum and from an ensuing ruck, Morgan broke away to find Wheeler on hand yet again to score his second try of the game. Ricketts had now found his kicking boots and the score advanced to 34-15 with ten minutes left to play.

But Usk still had a psychological score to settle and spent the last few minutes of the game giving as good as they got, battering the Monmouth defences which eventually cracked just on the final whistle.
The 34-20 result reasonably reflected the balance of the ’friendly’ played in a good spirit throughout and refereed by an official comfortably on top of his game. If only the same could be said of all games and league matches with their extra edge in particular.

Tries: O.Grey, G.Shirlaw. E.Wheeler (2), R.Ricketts
Conv: R.Ricketts (3)
Pen: R.Ricketts

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