1XV v Hafordrynys (Away) 03 May 2014

32-21 Win

Spring In Monmouth’s Heels

Now the nicer weather has come with its drier pitches Monmouth seem to have gained a spring in their heels as they won yet again in a Swalec League game last Saturday. The early part of the season brought near misses as their scrum dominated but little else, but now confidence is such that the ball is being sprayed around with more conviction and the tries bring wins as in their most recent success, wining 32-21 at Hafodyrynys.

The home team appeared the more youthful as their initial eagerness kept Monmouth on the back foot, not helped by some early examples of weak tackling by the visiting centres.

Monmouth worked their way back up the sloping pitch eventually and with Hafod stepping offside at a ruck, fly half Ricketts put the first three points on the board from the penalty only to see the lead snuffed out by a retaliatory score awarded for stamping in the ruck.

Ricketts, having his usual impactful game, led a break-out which progressed for some 60 yards before a turn-over at a defensive ruck. A resultant line-out led to Monmouth winning the ball at a ruck which threw the home team and allowed Ricketts to swoop and put a further 7 points on the board.

Hafod came back at Monmouth and an overeager front row man was penalised at a ruck for reaching over and impeding clearance of the ballt. The penalty narrowed the score to 6-10 at the end of the first quarter – a fair reflection of play up until that point.

With Hafodyrynys using the slope to good advantage a rather ambitious attempt by the visitors to keep the ball in play upped the pressure causing an attacking line-out within ten yards of their line.

But the defence was sound and Tom Green led a stirring charge up-field into the home half. The tackler failed to roll away and Ricketts kick at goal was just thwarted by the right hand post but with Monmouth doing a little ball-watching Hafod was able to break put and take play deep into the Monmouth half and then along their line to the right, where a score was only prevented by full back Adam Roberts‘ timely last ditch tackle, - in keeping with his generally good play throughout.

The line-out that followed brought play adjudged to be over vigorous by scrum half Price for which he was shown a yellow card and the home team capitalised upon the one man deficit soon after to take the lead 13-10.

Monmouth responded well but when one of their players was tackled in the air, the resulting penalty was far out and just missed by Ricketts. Wing Tabb was next held on the left but retention and recycling of the ball saw Tabb in the action again, squeezing over in the corner.
The difficult kick from near touch was missed but Ricketts made up for this by increasing the lead to 13-18 just before the break when a Hafod player tried to slow down the ball at a tackle.

With the slope in their favour hopes were high amongst the visiting supporters but an excellent diving catch showed the determination still being displayed by the home team. These expectations were dented further when Hafod drove again and again through some fairly wishy-washy defence to score in the left hand corner, tying the score and then went ahead 21-18 with a penalty following a side entry at a ruck.

Monmouth backs began to attack again but squandered an overlap with a knock-on in a move and then made things harder for themselves again by a poor throw into the line-out which lost them more than 40 metres.

The pack was not going to let this game go the way of many others and regained the lost ground through strong driving play forcing Hafod to concede a penalty by stealing the ball in an off-side position. And then front-rowers Ricketts and Green combined to gain 40 metres with the team eventually gaining a penalty in the right hand corner as Hafod defended desperately. A yellow card eventually came for this repeated cynicism.

Despite their back row seeming to spend more and more time unbound at scrums stalwart 2nd Row Copley used his height and strength to force his way over to take Monmouth into a lead of 25-21.

Monmouth now let rip with Tabb just being caught and then with a good move ending in touch when a score was on the cards.

Hafod fortunately failed with a long range penalty before Ricketts cut back in a move to add seven points for a 21-32 score with 5 minutes left. Injury time came and Monmouth were now stretching the opposing defence but, sadly, an overlap opportunity was squandered when a pass was so mis-directed and ill-chosen that a certain 5th try went begging.

The enthusiasm and hunger are now there as is the growing confidence among the younger players just as this season nears its end but perhaps next year’s chances will be enhanced somewhat by plain basic handling and tackling skills practice for all concerned in the Summer break.

There is of course one more opportunity for their loyal supporters to be convinced otherwise in the final away game of the season at Old Illtydians next Saturday. How good it would be for the above comments to be proved wrong in this rearranged finale.

Tries: R.Ricketts (2), M.Tabb, W.Copley
Conv: R.Ricketts (3)
Pen: R.Ricketts (2)

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