1XV v Hafodyrynys (away) 13 Jan 2018

16-9 Win

With Newtown having conceded their December game, Monmouth moved on last Saturday to the next round of the Bowl and known opponents in Hafodyrynys.

Knowing their own pitch well, Hafod kicked off up the slope hoping to seal the game later, by playing down into their favourite deep corners, but first, thanks to a penalty for a high tackle, they were 3-0 up almost immediately.

The early pressure came from the home team, aided by Monmouth seeming slow to catch alight, epitomised by a casual run back over his line by White the full back to touch down just in time a deep kick through.

The visiting pack was more robust from the start, despite the apparent greater weight in opposition, and young prop Ridgeway was soon asserting himself to win an attacking penalty. From the ensuing touch the ball went right to be chipped into the corner winning a scrum when a defender carried over to touch down. Although the home team frustrated play temporarily, wing Smith took a quick pass and dived over. With a greasy surface underfoot, the conversion from far out failed but Monmouth had taken the lead inside the first ten minutes and as it turned out, it was never to be relinquished.

White by now had returned to his sharp self and a counter-attack he started near his line made a good 50 metres before it eventually was recycled and reached No. 8 Hawkins who was unstoppable in the corner. Again the kick failed but the visitors were attacking well and the omens were good.

Hafodyrynys came back and put the Monmouth line under pressure first with a missed penalty for needlessly handling in a scrum and then a succession of rucks near the visitors’ line, but when they tried to spread it wide, Centre Hellard all but achieved a high pass interception which he unfortunately knocked on.

Play remained competitive with the referee trying hard to pick up on attempts to slow things down although the real ‘persuader’ - a yellow card for persistent offending - might have helped.

Whilst his desire to punish offences was laudable, on several occasions promising moves were called back rather than playing ‘advantage’ but was effectively keeping the game relatively ‘even'.

Monmouth tried hard to move the ball through the hands but whilst the risk-taking proved eventful, eventually common-sense prevailed and two penalties in succession were at last taken and not ignored as they had been earlier, raising the score to 3-16 by half-time.

But was this going to be sufficient given Hafofyrynys’s penchant for playing downhill through the boot and their forwards by mauling in the second half of games?

The team talk had obviously not registered the risks enough as visiting defenders tried to run out of defence, with some rather wild passing amongst the backs resulting in turnovers which Hafod were pleased to use to maintain position deep in the Monmouth half. The saving grace was that the visitors’ defence was good with various players tackling well beyond normal expectations.

With Hafod keeping them pinned in their half, incursions into the home half were few, so when Monmouth widened the gap with a dropped goal with 16 minutes of normal time left, Hafod had it all to do.

But play was still exciting as Monmouth’s belief in themselves continued unabated. A three man overlap was again halted by the referee calling back play but further ‘crazy rugby’ as some old-timers in the crowd were heard calling it, also continued to give home supporters hope as errors fell into Hafod’s hands.

Occasional rousing ‘carries’ by the likes of Hawkins regained position but the real strength in this hard game was in the defence of their line which they did stoically right until the end for this solid further progression towards a possible final at the Principality Stadium at the Season’s end.

Next week brings league rugby again, away at Abertysswg, when try scoring again becomes more relevant.

Tries: Smith, Hawkins
Pen: Emanuelli (2)

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