1XV v Machen (Home) 12 Jan 2013

22-8 Win

Back to league winning ways

After the distraction of much postponed cup matters, it was back to earth and at home last Saturday for Monmouth.

Visitors Machen initially seemed more ring rusty than Monmouth with the latter more lively at the off and No 8 Sam Harding in particular revelling in his opportunity to play in that position. Ball handling and support play in general was sparkling and after pressing hard on the visitors’ line Harding was able to charge down an attempt at a relieving kick and score the first try of the game inside the first five minutes. Reliable fly half Rhys Ricketts added the conversion.

Machen were quite stunned by the setback and the power of the back row forward was almost immediately again evident when Harding forced his way through clinging tacklers to score again in the virtually identical spot which gave Ricketts the confidence to add another two points.

But Machen did not lack for pride and clawed their way back enough to be awarded a kickable penalty which though they missed now prefaced a much quieter period for Monmouth who found themselves unable to gain and retain their previous volume of possession.

The referee had in fairness warned both teams prior to the match of his desire to police the tackle area firmly and as the penalty count began to grow Monmouth were first to lose out to such an infringement when Machen clawed back three points with a penalty for failure to release the ball after a tackle.

As play neared half-time Monmouth regained some of their former aplomb perhaps because of better fitness levels or just sheer determination when wing Anthony Layne made ground up the left and when halted found prop Luke Hunter up in support who fed on to Harding who almost gained his hat-trick. But unfortunately when within five yards of a score he knocked on when tackled.

Monmouth kept up the pressure and on the very stroke of half-time Monmouth were awarded a line-out in the left corner. With the coach’s cry of ‘keep it simple’ ringing in people’s ears, Monmouth over-complicated things losing possession and position and with it the last chance of a score in that half.

On a count back it was clear that what was limiting Monmouth was their tendency to fall foul of the referee particularly in the rucks, because otherwise when they had territorial advantage they were playing some excellent rugby.

But it was Machen who were fired up most by the break and from a penalty in their own 22m area made it all the way to the top right hand corner with a try only being prevented by a last ditch covering by right wing Josh Gray.

Monmouth were still on the end of some harsh decisions when an impressive break-out from defence was called back for alleged ‘crossing’ when no-one had seemed to be inconvenienced. Worse was to come when sparkling scrum-half Morgan was sent from the field for ten minutes when he was adjudged not to have rolled away when knocked over at a ruck.

A similar offence from Machen ‘in the red zone’ a while later brought a further three points for Monmouth but nothing further with the offender being overheard saying to his team-mates behind the posts ‘we were lucky there!’

Monmouth backs still occasionally sparked and when centre Andrew Davies made a break Adam Roberts made a typical gutsy run down the right to feed Josh Gray for a try in the right corner which made the kick out of the cloying mud too hard for Ricketts on this occasion.

With penalty count fast approaching 24 against and less than 5 for Monmouth captain and 2nd Row Will Copley was next to be ‘sin-binned’ which gave Machen encouragement and with sleight of hand at a line-out and some Monmouth inattention, they gained a consolation try in the left corner.

In the ten minutes which remained given a large portion of injury time Monmouth had to dig deep to prevent any prospect of a Machen losing bonus point and but for a chase back by Gray to touch down just before an attacker their 22-8 win could have looked worse. Having said that Monmouth may also have gained a winning bonus point with late endeavours but three tries to one was a fair measure of the day’s relative efforts.

Bettws are next week’s Swalec Bowl opponents away with a 2p.m. kick off.

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