1XV v Hartridge (home) 26 Nov 2016

8-16 Loss

Monmouth Shaded by a Better Team

Monmouth travelled away to Hartridge last Saturday with a team specifically chosen to face up to their dominant pack and that, apart from the first scrum, is what they did with each pack thereafter giving as good as they took.

Their Llanwern High School home with its excellent pitch and spacious changing rooms provided the ideal location and conditions, apart from a strong cold breeze, for a hard fought game which Hartridge was to win but relatively closely, with Monmouth just falling short of a losing bonus point. With Monmouth holding their own in the scrums they were however kept on their back foot in the early stages by the strong running of the home forwards who definitely knew how to run on to passes at speed and this backed up by two speedsters on their wings brought many relieving kicks which, when they were not cleared to touch, were run back at them at pace. Luckily the tackling if bruising was good early on.

With Hartridge knowing their pitch best, they took the lead after six minutes with a well taken, breeze assisted, dropped goal from near halfway.

Both sides were prone to give away penalties at the breakdown through not releasing in the main, although the home team was also prone to dive over rucks to seal off the ball. Penalties in the main led to lines-out rather than attempts at goal which suggested a lack of confidence by the kickers. That is until the end of the first quarter when things changed for the better. Hartridge made it 6-0 with another penalty and then scrum half Tabb pounced on a loose ball from the kick off and made good ground. When a penalty resulted from the stoppage, Parsons responded with one of his own.

With the home team wobbling at this stage, they knocked on at the re-start. A grubber kick following the scrum gained ground for the visitors and an infringement at the line-out saw them win another scrum. Tabb moved the ball left along the line but the try that was to follow, although finished with style by the left wing, flowed from their Kiwi centre"s superb ability to draw a man and lay off the pass.

6-8 was a good lead with five minutes to the break but when Parsons blew a penalty kick high and wide from 25 metres there was still time for the home team to rally. And this they did with an extended kick and chase into the left corner. It could have been worse than an 11-8 half-time deficit but for the generosity of the referee in ignoring several attempts to impede the chasing runner and eventual scorer.

Monmouth was the first to show in the second half with an excellent cross-field attacking kick which made a full 70 metres for touch but both sides seemed to be slow getting back to speed as they fired mis-directed kicks into each other's territory and then failed to tackle accurately and decisively in return.

Hartridge were the first to exert serious pressure from a maul following a line-out which they were winning most of but to the visitors' credit they defended their line well. That is until the ball was spread wide to the left, the defence was drawn in leaving their wing clear to stretch the score to 16-8. Again the kick failed.

Monmouth responded and as their opponents tried to slow things down the penalty opportunities grew. The touch-line was repeatedly and unsuccessfully worked presumably because a 45m straight kick had missed, when with hindsight a penalty or two kicked with the wind would have made for a closer result and at least a bonus point or maybe more.Both sides were going at each other hammer and tongs and Monmouth can at least take comfort that their defences held so well but their luck held, too, as Hartridge sliced badly an 18m kick at goal. Their own kicking however remained a problem with a failed drop at goal in the closing minutes.

All in all a hard fought battle where the better drilled side won. Still a team in development, Monmouth have a further test this Saturday (3rd) when the visitors to the Sports Ground are Newport HSOB - k.o. 2.30p.m.

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