In very wet and windy conditions at the Sportsground last Saturday, it was important that Monmouth were quick out of the traps before the cold and mud got to everyone.
An early high kick on the wind was mis-fielded by Caerphilly, the visitors, and after a couple of scrums due to mishandling errors a kick to the right corner resulted in a kick at goal which fly-half Parsons skilfully floated on the winfd for the opening score which no-one was to replicate during the remainder of the game.
For once Monmouth appeared to stick to playing to a game plan and as a result there was repeated use of the boot to keep Caerphilly on the back-foot as they fumbled high kicks gusting awkwardly in the wind, or when they ran out of defence with determination either knocked on or kicked ahead when they had further promising passing opportunities.
Both sides struggled with the conditions though and there was much use made of the ‘Mark’, the free kick for which was then not often completed with a well directed riposte.
Both sides were invading the other’s 22m area with Caerphilly using long angled grubber kicks but defences held sound. Excitement there was a-plenty helped by frequent handling errors and misjudged chip kicks resulting in handing over possession to the opposition when something less speculative might have ensured its retention.
Captain Sam Harding made an excellent break early in the second quarter which made 35 metres towards Caerphilly’s left corner. A scrum resulted from the move and he was on hand again to pop the ball to scrum half Dan White who dived over for a further five points.
Prop Green vigorously drove downfield only for Caerphilly to fight back but Monmouth intercepted a move of theirs at close quarters only for them to almost immediately repay the compliment. When they put the ball to the boot, White was back defending, picked up and put a long grubber kick down the left touch-line only to be strangely taken slightly to task by the referee when a Caerphilly prop now off the field impeding his follow up.
The half closed with Caerphilly pressing hard up the slope and against the elements but Monmouth held out for the much needed break and no doubt discussions as to how they might hold onto their 8 point lead this time against the odds
Monmouth had been threatening with the solidity of their scrums but less so at rucks despite the endeavours of Korb who was once more everywhere. A little less hesitation before engaging might ensure opponents do not get there first.
Play moved relentlessly to and fro and Monmouth largely played safe but when Caerphilly were to later introduce a substitute, passive scrums became the rule thus negating one of Monmouth’s more significant strengths. One skill that could not be negated however was their dogged tackling which was to prove crucial as Caerphilly probed hard for a score of their own.
Not all the kicks out of defence went where planned and an almost suicidal attempt to run out of defence at one stage had the spectators’ blood pressure raised as a score was only prevented when, with an overlap in the corner the potential scorer knocked on.
Monmouth’s defence though was generally good with people back when necessary making turnovers at rucks which was to frustrate their opponents’ intentions and the more vocal of their supporters in equal measures.
Copley dogged away in the engine room and Shirlaw was at times excellent in defence and attack. Ricketts (the nephew that is) nearly went over at one stage and a forward pass to the wing prevented a try for the hosts as the darkness descended but Caerphilly kept battering away in return and the ball was fortunately declared ‘held up’ when from a distance it seemed inevitable that at last they would score.
But they did not and Monmouth took the play back to them with the whistle ending this hard fought encounter back in their half.
The early scores had been rigorously defended for a well deserved home win.
New Tredegar away this coming Saturday will prove equally testing but hopefully the weather might have eased by then.