1XV v Usk (away) 26 Dec 2015

0-24 Loss

Second Derby Win In Succession For Usk

Despite Monmouth Druids toughing it out on Boxing Day morning to beat Usk 15-12, the build up given to the game between the 1st XVs ‘grudge match’ as Usk had cleverly billed it in a U-Tube video greatly increased the pressure and expectations and worked – at least for the home team.

Both games commenced with a minute’s silence as a mark of respect following the sad passing of Ian ‘Sedge’ Seymour, a friend to all who knew him through rugby, but then the traditional annual battles commenced.

In quite slippery conditions, the seemingly older 2nd XV Usk pack played a driving game which saw them first to score, but the younger Monmouth team was the more expansive, and even though it was the visiting pack who were again pressurising towards the end, Monmouth held out long enough to claim the first spoils of the day.

And so, back to Usk, where a more vigorous game plan was to prove the better on the day. Monmouth often defended doggedly but when they gained possession they kicked far too much of it away, allowing the home team to counter-attack or use the pace on the flanks to make some telling scores.

But much occurred besides. Almost from the kick off Monmouth conceded a penalty for not rolling away after a tackle giving Usk the first kick at goal which they missed from a relatively short distance and later hitting the post from the same spot some time later even though the pitch played excellently despite recent relentless rain. Now that Usk train away from their main pitch its reputation as a bit of a mud bath now seems to be over.

Monmouth occasionally were able to break out of their half but were rarely able to retain possession long enough to put Usk under real pressure but as the first half neared its end despite Monmouth’s flanker Shirlaw turning over possession at a ruck near his line it was Usk that won a succession of rucks to create space enough to score through an overlap near the right corner. Despite the poor kicking earlier, this distant one lifted the score to 7-0 and within minutes, after Usk marked a rather aimless punt ahead, they won a line-out on the left and then a penalty and a yellow card for an illegal attempt to impede their progress. The pushover try in the corner and the difficult conversion were a seeming formality at the half-time 14-0 changeover. Quite a hill for the visitors to climb therefore; enough for a local old-timer, no slouch himself in his day, to laughingly suggest that Usk might need to drop the fixture because of their newfound dominance!

Monmouth set off determined to recover lost ground but in no time at all they were having to defend doggedly near their line. Despite doing so successfully the pressure on them was maintained with Usk attacking from good positions and eventually repeated good support play caused their defence to crack. The next score which went unconverted near the end of the third quarter was a mystery in that Usk had a man sent to the ‘sin-bin’ presumably for an offence after the try was scored but the referee’s signals were becoming difficult to see at a distance in the increasing gloom both physical and metaphorical.

At 19-0, Monmouth rallied a little and a deep attacking kick gained much ground only to roll dead and when they tried to move the ball through hands along the line it was all too lateral.

Usk now came back to score an excellent try in the left corner, eluding a last ditch tackle in the process, but too far out this time to add the extra points. 24-0 down made it a deficit that was not going to be recovered and try as Monmouth might, in their eagerness, their discipline was to slip, too, picking up two yellow cards along the way as their frustration showed.

Usk had shown the greater fire and cohesiveness on the day and deserved their win, so it was off to the bar to commence, or was it perhaps to resume their Christmas celebrations in Monmouth’s case?
Still, there is always next year, when the challenge will be greater – to avoid the hat-trick!

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