1XV v Abercarn (Away) 08 Mar 2014

22-28 Loss

Monmouth overtaken again to lose.

In sparkling Spring sunshine last Saturday Monmouth set about Abercarn in such a way that eventual victory looked all but certain. But they have often promised and then deceived, losing 28-22 by the end of a game that several times could have gone either way.

Two promising counter attacks by the younger and pacier of the Monmouth backs in the first few minutes had home players arguing with the referee who was trying to stamp his authority on the game. Wing Mat Tabb missed a penalty in the strong cross-field wind but slick passing and positive running made it look very much like something was about to click.

And then against the run of play, the Abercarn fly-half struck a beautiful penalty directly into the wind to open the scoring only for Monmouth to respond immediately with a move that worked the ball to speedy Sam Skipp on the left to outflank the defence. Tabb added the extra points to make the score 3-7.

Abercarn were rattled as the Monmouth pack drove them at every set piece and their prop paid the penalty for back-chatting the match official by the award of a yellow card but Monmouth missed the resulting kick.

Scrummaging superiority was limited temporarily by the apparent need for uncontested scrums but in the next phase of play the Monmouth forwards, who were at this stage at their vigorous best, won several rucks and when the ball went right, Tabb was there to gain the try. Ricketts glided a difficult kick through the uprights for a 3-14 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Enthusiasm got the better of the visitors though and after several instances of tacklers failing to release or to get back on their feet, Abercarn clawed back the score to 6-14 with a penalty of their own.

From the re-start Abercarn were pegged back in their 22m area and Sam Skipp streaked away for his second try only to be called back for a penalty the referee had awarded Monmouth. This sadly wasn’t the only occasion when he paid scant regard to the benefits of ‘advantage’ although Monmouth did kick the resulting penalty for a 6-17 lead with 2 minutes of ordinary time left.

But Abercarn had gradually become more cohesive as if some of them had not previously played together and thanks to some ragged defensive alignment and a speedy burst by the home team, sloppy tackling brought them an unconverted try and a narrowing of the gap to 11-17 just before half-time.

Perversely, the strong wind now began to blow down the length of the pitch into the faces of Monmouth which fact Abercarn were soon to exploit with long raking kicks to keep Monmouth on the back foot.
The only solution was to run the ball out of defence but first centre Ross and then 2nd row Harding having made good ground found no-one up in support as they succumbed to tackles.

Abercarn rucking was by now superior with Monmouth’s strength in the set-piece the only consolation. Both sides were playing with vigour and were also guilty of wild passes disrupting the flow of things but Monmouth persisted with rushing up to tackle unevenly and lived dangerously as a result.

Monmouth cracked and let Abercarn go ahead 18-17 with a try on the right although many travelling spectators felt a forward pass would have been a fairer award and soon the lead was stretched further with a penalty for not rolling away.

Speedy retaliation and a floated miss pass to his left by fly-half Ricketts to Ross who fed Skipp who when nearly closed down towards the left corner slipped the ball inside for Ross to score. Ricketts narrowly missed the conversion but Monmouth now led 21-22 with 20 minutes to play.

In response Abercarn were awarded a questionable penalty for offside which fortuitously rebounded off the post and Monmouth continued with good scrummaging which increasingly now met with the displeasure of the referee.

Keeping Abercarn out was becoming harder and with three minutes of normal time left after a series of rucks the Monmouth line was breached again and the try converted.

All was not quite yet lost as 8 minutes of added time was eventually to be played. Griffiths left the field with a blood injury and the scrum continued to feature well.

But eagerness was not sufficient alone and proved to be Monmouth’s downfall in the end as passes were first fired far too hard to be gathered on the right and then right on the final whistle directly into touch on the left.

A losing bonus point was again scant consolation for the excellent start but somehow the momentum needs to be maintained throughout if they are to pose a threat to Ynysddu on 22 March in their next league (away) game.

Tries: S.Skipp, M.Tabb, C.Ross
Conv: M.Tabb, R.Ricketts
Pen: R.Ricketts

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