Last Saturday, a very young Monmouth side, with an average age of just 22, played top of the League Hartridge RFC who have not lost a game all season. The match was once again played on Chippenham Playing Fields with the Kingfishers football team playing on the Sports Ground.
Experienced and well drilled, Hartridge RFC got off to a rampaging start. With scrums taken against the head by each side, which was to be the order of the day, play switched from one side to the other.
With Monmouth RFC under the cosh in possession, Hartridge were penalised for offside 5 metres into the Monmouth half. A quick tap penalty from Monmouth scrum half Max Davies caught the visitors unaware. Having beaten 4 men, Davies’ pass to the supporting runners fell slightly short only to be hacked on by new recruit, number 7 Joel Grant, who collected the ball to score the first try of the game. Captain Sam Parsons converted to make the score 7-0.
Hartridge came back with a vengeance, with the Monmouth side resolute. A penalty was awarded for offside with the Hartridge no. 10 making the score 7-3.
Winger Kester Moggs-Morgan terrified the Hartridge RFC forwards all afternoon, looking to crucify the catcher at each restart. Having won the restart, Monmouth were awarded a penalty for a high tackle on the 22 which Parsons converted.
It was Hartridge’s turn to terrify the opposition from the kick off. With the ball knocked on at the kick off, ensuing pressure from Hartridge forwards led to the first try for the Hartridge no. 8 who was to prove to a real nuisance all afternoon. The try was converted to make the score 10 all after a dramatic first 10 minutes.
Monmouth once again came under pressure in the scrums. An over throw from a line out led to exerted pressure from Hartridge RFC with Monmouth penalised for a high tackle, Hartridge took the lead for the first time in the game on 20 minutes to make the score 10-13.
Monmouth were resolute, despite a creaking scrum, with Davies’ crisp passing allowing no. 10 Parsons to keep his back line on the front foot. One of a series of scathing runs by no. 13 Amosa Nove saw him glide through the opposition following a series of hand offs. When tackled Nove found no. 7 Joel Grant a full 25 metres to his left with a pinpoint pass, only for Grant to be taken out with a high tackle 5 metres from the line. The crowd were aghast that the Referee decided to yellow card the Hartridge scrum half for an illegal tackle and award a penalty to Monmouth when a certain try would have been scored had it not been for the tackle. Parsons converted to make the score 13 all.
Monmouth once again appeared to go to sleep from the kick off and with exerted pressure from Hartridge, their full back scored from a quick tap penalty to make the scores 13-18 with the conversion missed.
Hartridge now had their tails up and put together a series of phases which resulted in another try for no. 8 in the corner making the score 13 points to 23.
Further scintillating play and some excellent inter-passing between the Monmouth backline saw Amosa Nove once again break the line only to be taken out late with a no arms tackle after releasing the ball which went unpunished.
The second half started with Monmouth trailing 13 points to 23. With the home side penalised for an alleged high tackle by Tom Hawkins - who had a great rampaging afternoon from no. 8 - as did his brother Alan who at 18 years of age has a promising career in front of him in the second row for Monmouth.
A further penalty for Monmouth forwards going over the top of a ruck resulted in a kick for touch and a try from the resulting driving lineout which was converted to make the scores 13 points to 30. At this point it looked for all the world that the game was slipping away from Monmouth.
Some great Hartridge inter-passing caught Monmouth offside with Hartridge deciding to kick for the corner. With a Hartridge knock on after prolonged pressure on the Monmouth 22, Amosa Nove scooped up the ball to run in the full 70 metres to score under the posts with Parsons converting, the score started to look a little more respectable at 20 points to 30. With the oldest player on the Monmouth side, former Club Captain and stalwart Sam Harding, coming off the pitch on 50 minutes, the average age of the Monmouth team reduced to 21, against a grizzled and well drilled Hartridge RFC.
With fast ball from a Monmouth lineout on the Hartridge 10 metre line Monmouth no. 8 Hawkins drew in 2 men and with James Smith running a beautiful angle to outpace the defenders to score under the posts which Parsons converted to bring the scores 27 points to 30. Despite some thunderous runs from the Hartridge centres, they had little change from the Monmouth backline, with Smith and Nove making scything tackles time and again throughout the match.
Following some loose play once again from Monmouth following the restart, a knock on by Hartridge led to a Monmouth scrum 5 metres from the Monmouth line. With the Referee deciding that the resulting clean hook from Monmouth hooker Joe Christopher was a certain indication that scrumhalf Davies fed the ball into the scrum illegally, a free kick was awarded to Hartridge. Hartridge scored from the resulting 5 metre scrum with a well worked push over try which was subsequently converted. The Referee had put some daylight between the sides at 27-37 with 17 minutes remaining.
Monmouth came back after the restart with real passion and determination. With a blatant dump tackle on Smith in front of the posts, Parsons closed the gap with his trusted kicking boots to make the score 30 points to 37.
Monmouth secured the restart and after some sublime inter-passing between forwards and backs and a further high tackle, a yellow card was awarded to the Hartridge no. 5. Parsons brought the score to 33 points to 37.
Almost immediately from the restart Monmouth were penalised for not releasing in the tackle which the Hartridge no. 10 converted from 45 metres to make the score 33 points to 40.
With a restart once again secured by Monmouth, the home team turned up the pressure. After a series of rucks scrum half Davies, who was a live wire all afternoon, picked up from the back of a ruck to find that there was no one in front him and ran 60 metres to score close to the posts, bringing the score to 38-40. Parsons missed the resulting conversion as a result of Hartridge RFC players running early to charge down his kick. The Referee called them back and allowed Parsons to take a further kick. Parsons converted to level the scores at 40 points all. With Hartridge once again winning the resulting kick off, prolonged pressure and over 20 phases of play, led to a score in the corner with the match ending 40 points to 45 to Hartridge, with them retaining their unbeaten run in the League.
The Monmouth pack deserve credit for their hard work with Josh LeBon, Jake Hartells and Alan Hawkins all still teenagers, who proved themselves to be warriors on Saturday. Fast hands from no. 9 Davies and great support work from Joel Grant allowed a sublime and dangerous looking backline to perform exceptionally well with General Parsons fully in charge.
The side will be looking forward to playing Newport HSOB next Saturday away in Newport.
Congratulations gentlemen on a great game of rugby.
Tries: J.Grant, A.Nove, J.Smith, M.Davies
Conv: S.Parsons (4)
Pen. S.Parsons (4)