1XV v Amman Utd (away) 14 Jan 2017
Monmouth Exit Cup as West Proves Best
Hopes were high last Saturday morning when a bus-load of players and supporters set off for Ammanford in bright sunshine despite knowing that their National Bowl fifth round tie was against Amman United who were unbeaten this season. Uncertainty surrounded whether Wales and British Lions icon, Shane Williams would be playing for this his home Club, seeing he had begun a new Gaelic football career in Ireland and had been playing there a mere two days earlier. Rain showers were forecast for the game itself on top of a pitch that appeared to have suffered quite badly from recent bad weather.
But what an opportunity it presented, too: apart from a further potential step towards appearing at the Principality Stadium, what a tale to tell one's children or even grand-children that one had decked or 'skinned' the great Shane.
The start was momentarily encouraging when 'The Amman's’ first move along their back-line was snuffed out with a good tackle on their returning star, but in no time at all, despite playing up the slope, the pressure was on Monmouth again as the home pack initially looked the more lively and organised.
Given recent televised criticism of new guidance on high tackles, the referee rightly used his discretion when three minutes into the game he penalised Monmouth for such an offence and they went 0-3 down but with numbers left intact on the field.
This stirred the visitors who moved downfield and gained a penalty of their own for not rolling away in the tackle but Parsons missed the chance to draw level and the home team kicked their way back upfield, winning them another converted penalty for offside by an overeager three-quarter. Kicking and forward play quickly began to dominate although with hindsight, making robust inroads in the middle with quick ball to stretch defences wide in the earlier stages may have proved more beneficial for Monmouth.
It was Amman Utd who took advantage of the greasy surface best when they exploited their mauling and driving strengths to force their way over to clock up their thirteenth point bang on thirteen minutes but Monmouth heads did not go down and they put together several drives and also some reasonably intricate three-quarter moves with several switches of direction. Handling was becoming a difficulty though and some promising incursions ended with a spilling of the ball in tackles.
With both sides kicking deep for territory, full back Parsons stood out with safe catching and speedy strong counter-attacks. Hopes were raised when a mid-field penalty for offside brought a five metre line-out but the throw-in was adjudged not straight. The home team again kicked for territory but were lucky when a Monmouth re-joinder made good ground only to end with a forward pass.
And then a minor tragedy: winger Smith was accidentally kicked in the head while struggling to contain a loose ball and his team-mates retaliated thinking there had been foul play instead being penalised for dragging out the offender by his neck. The referee deserved credit for his clever use of discretion, but the kick led to a maul following a line-out which Monmouth initially repulsed but were then driven some 15 metres over their line for their second try which went unconverted. 18-0 was now looking daunting and despite a good charge by No. 8 Hawkins the ball was again lost in a tackle and half-time was soon upon them.
The challenge now was at the least to restore pride even though totally turning the tables in worsening conditions and up the slope might have been beyond them. But they set about their task with determination and for the next 40 minutes gave their all with individual substitutes making their mark and causing the home players to employ all their guile to frustrate Monmouth in their fight back. Penalties resulted for trying to slow things down but none in kick-able areas and good drives with prop Green and flanker Rees prominent made ground but not always ones that met with the referee's approval for quick release of the ball. Emanuelli kicked well out of hand and on one occasion made a good break followed by a cross- kick which led to a touch 10m out and a subsequent touch down that was overruled for a knock-on. Shane Williams employed his power and skills to make a long break down the left touch-line followed by a cross-kick of his own which sadly left the covering Harding sliding helplessly into touch and downing the touch-judge in the process.
But largely it was Monmouth who kept up the pressure requiring some dogged defence from their opponents to keep their line intact.
With two minutes to go a local forward was yellow-carded for not releasing a tackled player and nippy scrum-half White was quick to take a short penalty with Hawkins on hand to force the ball down through would be tacklers and over the line for a well deserved consolation try which with the conversion made the score a more respectable 18-7. This apart they had truly played the better in the second half but the early deficit was always going to have created a hard ask.
Instead the Monmouth boys will have enjoyed the experience and been left wondering if on another day, in the dry, things may have turned out differently. But it is now time to concentrate on the League and the visit of New Tredegar to the Sports Ground on Saturday - k. o. 2. 30p. m.
Published by Pete Walters, last edited Mon, 16/01/2017 - 6:01pm.