1XV v Usk (home) 26 Dec 2017

0-7 Loss

Usk beat Monmouth (just).

Boxing Day ‘friendly’ rugby matches are predictably more a ‘war of attrition’ than an exhibition of open running rugby, and when the ground is already cut up and rain pours throughout, the probability of one score settling things is high.

With Monmouth Druids winning 24-14 at home in the morning, one might think Usk would be wary of their visitors in the afternoon in the annual derby match but, it was not to be so.

After a delay and a re-start when the referee realised there were no post protectors in place, as soon as Monmouth full back Nove fielded and ran back a deep kick over some 55 metres before Tabb was tackled into touch, it looked as if the visitors’ proven threquarter superiority might determine the outcome but soon it was clear that playing a forward dominated ‘narrow’ game was the more promising tactic as Usk put Monmouth under intense pressure.

Defences were good, however, which ensured the large crowd of spectators was entertained by end to end play by largely unidentifiable brown shirted players as they kicked their way upfield and back again as play was frequently turned over thanks to firm tackling and subsequent handling errors.

Monmouth’s normally dominant scrum was weakened by the absence of their regular tight head prop and captain and when they lost a man to a red card for a high tackle the odds were always going to be in Usk’s favour.

From the ensuing penalty, play moved deep into Monmouth’s half and despite desperate defence their goal-line was breached near the posts to take a 7 point, and ultimately, match winning lead.

The following 35 minutes or so were sufficiently invigorating for players and spectators alike to forgive the increasingly wet and cold conditions although the match official at least had the co solution of a change of shirt at half-time. Errors galore there were but rarely was either goal-line seriously threatened.

That is until Monmouth produced a barrage of up and unders as the final whistle approached. With the visiting supporters noticeably less voluble than those from Usk until now, they began to urge on their team and just when a levelling score looked on, the ball was dislodged in a strong tackle and that was the derby lost for another year.

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