1XV v Newport HSOB (home) 26 Mar 2016

22-21 Win

Hard Fought Victory

The strong wind prefaced the worst Storm Katie was to offer later as visitors to the Sports Ground, Newport High School Old Boys, kicked of deep into the 22m area to which Monmouth responded with a high return kick and charged down the re-joinder. James Smith picked up and charged on, breaking through a despairing tackle to put the home team 5 points ahead inside the first minute.

The game was to be one of many errors and almost as many penalties, the first of which went awry in the wind as would many others.

Both sides knew kicking would dominate and great care was needed to prevent doing so direct to touch and even dead which pegged the visitors back often in the first half as it would Monmouth after the interval.

When the kicking was accurate it took Newport along the left touchline and into the corner winning a penalty for crossing as Monmouth had appeared to clear their line well. The choice of a scrum was wise and the visitors drove over to take the lead 5-7 only five minutes from the start.
Monmouth responded immediately running play into the opposing half.

Newport took a line-out but under pressure the ball went loose and James was again on hand to pick up and regain the lead 12-7.

Play was vigorous on all counts and the rather too tolerant referee was next giving a visiting player a lengthy talking to for stamping. In their eagerness to keep up the pressure Monmouth were spraying the ball wide and when one went astray Newport were able to capitalise with a converted try to once again to lead by two points and all this inside the first 25 minutes.

From the kick off Monmouth’s second row Sparey was up to tap back the ball but a recurring feature of the game despite considerable individual vigour was inadequate support play. Their pressure continued and nearly brought a score thwarted only by a deliberate knock on which resulted in a penalty. But in these windy conditions a penalty was little reward for a good passage of play to be broken up illegally.

Centre Lane had a great 35m break upfield which sadly went unsupported but when the visitors kicked their way out of difficulty which moved play some 85 metres with the aid of the now strengthening wind. From the ensuing line and a scrum the stronger visiting pack trundled Monmouth back over their line with a penalty try the result. The half time whistle blew soon after but with hope for Monmouth as they now gained the elements as an aid.

Penalties and turnovers galore continued and it was becoming clear that Monmouth needed to beef up their set piece and eventually after a little indecision from the touch-line chiefs, they did and immediately it was clear it would stabilise matters even if a penalty was soon gifted which fortunately missed its target from not far out.

Phillips was picking and going with his usual robustness and when he was replaced by his name-sake Leighton nothing had been lost as the latter loves to duck low and make ground around the scrums.

Working to order Monmouth used the boot fairly well but on some occasions one wondered whether short passing along obvious overlaps might not reduced the lead more readily.

But Monmouth’s pack was beginning to dominate and from a penalty and then a 5m scrum Monmouth drove over and Parsons neatly floated the conversion to narrow the gap to 19-21 with more than a quarter to play.

NHSOB dug in deep but if Monmouth had not tried so many solo efforts an earlier score would have resulted but solid defence is always going to frustrate 11 stone wet through scrum halves from diving through their tackles.

A double movement over the line frustrated another attack as Monmouth battered away but mistakes continued from both sides as the wind and rain reached their afternoon peak.

Options taken continued to be dominated by solo moves but relief eventually arrived when Parsons successfully cleared the crossbar with another well taken kick to gain a 22-21 lead.

In the remaining 12 minutes Newport tried to claw their way to victory, working the right touch-line and using the maul as their superior attacking weapon. When Hunter was yellow-carded for dragging down such a drive with minutes to go, local supporters feared the worst, but Lane cleverly deserted the three-quarter line to provide the extra power needed to shore up the pack and it was he who was to win the ball and move play back in the opposite direction.

The final whistle sounded to give Monmouth the win they deserved but the weather and they had combined to make very hard work of it. We shall have to wait and see whether they can make a better fist of it next week away at Caerphilly

Tries: J.Smith (2), N.Philips
Conv: J.Smith(2)
Pen J.Smith

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