1XV v Machen (home) 11 Nov 2017

24-23 Win

A match between two teams both vying to lead the National League Division 3A East table was always going to be close and it was Monmouth who breathed a sigh of relief when the visiting fly half from Machen fluffed a penalty in virtually the last play of the game allowing the home team to hold on to a 24-23 victory.

In a fascinating and hard fought game their two distinct styles moved play back and forth, resulting in distinct periods of superiority and/or pressure.

Following a respectful minute's silence Machen were the slowest out of the blocks seeming not to want the ball from Monmouth's kick off and the home team remained under pressure until centre Hellard went on a run that left three men floundering in his wake to put the first 7 points on the new electronic score-board.

Machen responded quickly though, scoring an easy penalty for handling in the ruck.

The period of play that followed deep in their half despite their counter-attacking was comfortably restrained by some resolute tackling, but when they did break out, a simple penalty gift saw them narrow the scores to 7-6. Just two visits to the Monmouth 22 had brought Machen two scores and six points.

Despite Monmouth's inferior line-out play they were soon on the charge, making good ground from deep in their half led by full back Parsons who fed wing Williams who came inside and continued the move until the defence crowded him out. Fly half Emanuelli saw his opportunity following a stoppage and dropped a goal.

Machen upped their game and Monmouth struggled to cope with their marauding play. Their defence held for some time until No. 8 Giles was carded for being 'yet another' in a sequence of offside defenders. Further strong defence resisted attacks through scrums and mauls and then eventually cracked to gift the lead of 6-13 to the visitors just before half-time after going down to 13 men.

The half-time break was no place for the faint-hearted as Coach Everett verbally tore them apart but there was no easy way back for the home team as when a player was told to wait, because he was erring offside; despite stopping as ordered he was then still penalised for being offside which gave the Machen kicker his fourth success of the day and a 10-16 gap for his team highlighting a period when Monmouth had seemingly been hustled out of their stride.

Centre Paley it was who changed things at the start of the third quarter with a superb break that Machen struggled to contain. On the front foot they had been good especially with their driving mauls which Monmouth had equally struggled to cope with but then the breakthrough they had been seeking came. Following a rock solid scrum, Hellard charged 45 metres downfield for his second try for Emanuelli to again convert.

Monmouth were now playing again. In just a few minutes, scrum-half White was on his way with one of his sizzling breaks in mid-field moved along the line to flanker Green who timed his pass to wing Smith beautifully. The 24-16 score was encouraging but with 20 minutes left anything could happen.

And it nearly did. Despite a deep relieving punt upfield, Monmouth did well to hold up the ball over their line from a counter-attack. They were then unlucky being penalised for delaying a throw-in at a line-out. From the free kick awarded their defence was overlapped upfield on the left and despite a last ditch cover tackle from Hellard were just 24-23 ahead from a superb touch-line kick.

The following 12 minutes were exceedingly tense. Monmouth kicked well but were no match for their opposing better drilled, and seeming giant, second rows. A Monmouth move seemed certain to clinch the game for them but having to stretch to take a pass forced a knock-on in the midst of the move.

Machen reverted to the driving maul and when Monmouth were adjudged to have dragged one down, their visiting kicker stepped up planning to maintain his 100% record for the game. As his kick sliced past the posts the Monmouth supporters were ecstatic at being let off the hook.

But what a game it had been. Committed, clean and a complete contrast in styles. The return match in March should be equally riveting.

It is International time again next week and with Usk unable to agree such an early kick-off instead, why not watch the televised game in the warmth of the Clubhouse with plenty of refreshment at hand?

Tries: Dafydd Hellard (2), Will Smith.
Conv: Paul Emanuelli (3).
Pen: Paul Emanuelli.

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