1XV v Blaenavon (Away) 08 Mar 2013

21-29 Loss

Monmouth fail in the fog at Blaenavon

A Friday night re-arranged fixture prior to another 6 Nations weekend seemed a good idea for catching up on a fixtures backlog until ascending the hill to Blaenavon in thick fog when one assumed play would be impossible.

The referee decided the game was playable even though visibility at the start was no more than a third of the width of a very puddled field, but what one could not see as spectators one could assume from the noise of moving action interspersed with fairly frequent whistle blasts.

In the murk, with the advantage of both the slope and the breeze, Monmouth started well with fly-half Rhys Ricketts putting the first three points metaphorically on the board, for no-one would have seen it, from an early penalty inside two minutes.

But it was Blaenavon who were first to cross the line aided by slack tackling in the middle of the field and supplemented by the conversion and a penalty for off-side, Monmouth were 10-3 down well inside the first quarter.

Monmouth were dominant up front and gradually their game built through first another penalty by Ricketts for an off-side offence and then a scintillating try given the conditions. Centre Dewi Lane made a good break and good yardage, and when the ball was recycled, No. 8 Mike Griffiths took play into the 22m area for debutant scrum half Dan White to switch in and then out to score his very first senior try. Ricketts only just failed with a difficult kick from near the right touch-line.

Blaenavon were struggling at this stage and when Monmouth received three scrums in succession with Griffiths forcing his way over from the base of the scrum, dissent amongst the home team was apparent. Ricketts converted from out of the mud to give Monmouth a deserved 18-11 lead at the interval.

Whilst the second half presented bigger challenges, provided Monmouth worked hard and cut out mistakes, they should have been able to maintain pressure through their play at the set pieces and rucks, but this had not allowed for the loss of their largest forward to a yellow card due to his not releasing someone in a tackle.

His absence from the field for ten minutes proved to be a game changing event, with Blaenavon regularly kicking deep into the left corner and twice crossing the line with a driving maul from lines-out with both being ably converted by their fine goal kicker.

With the lead now 24-18 to Blaenavon, Monmouth were going to have to work hard to escape the slope and the home side’s determination to keep them penned in the 22.

With some considerable effort Monmouth clawed their way back despite the now torrential rain, enough for Ricketts to claim another three points for a misdemeanour at a ruck and then at 24-21 .... the fog cleared.

The contest was now very even and keenly fought and when Monmouth defended a foray into their 22 with a strong clear out at the ruck, it was a great surprise to see Blaenavon move the ball swiftly along the line for their winger to score again in the left corner.

At 29-21 with 15 minutes still to play the game in theory was still open but try as they might Monmouth were kept on the back foot and as time ran out their attempts to move upfield became more frantic in an attempt to gain at least a losing bonus point, but run out it did, and they now need to ensure the further break for an International weekend prepares, rather than inhibits them for their next game which will be at home against Caldicot at 2.30p.m. on Saturday 23 March.

Tries: D.White, M.Giffiths
Conv: R.Ricketts
Pen: R.Ricketts (3)

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