Monmouth’s cup hopes dissolve - Bettws 23 Monmouth 16
AFTER numerous previous postponements, Monmouth finally played at Bettws on Saturday only to be thwarted by numerous errors that detracted from their hopes but also by a side that seemed to want a win more.
Bettws who had not played at all since Christmas might have been expected to be very rusty but it was Monmouth who found the physicality and pace of the game compounded by a boggy pitch a bit beyond them.
Some poor tactical kicking, missed tackles, inadequate support play and a few specific and fatal errors saw their Millennium Stadium hopes dissolve when Bettws won this Swalec Bowl game by 23-16.
Individuals played as well as usual with Rhys Ricketts and Mike Griffiths noticeably in the vanguard, but despite initially putting pressure on the home team, a missed penalty allowed Bettws to regroup, and near the end of the first quarter score first with a penalty and then a burst through the centre and several attempted high tackles for an unconverted try as the conversion was unusually charged down.
Monmouth rallied and as fly half Ricketts caught the Bettws scrum half in possession, his protests as to its fairness so upset the referee that he was sent from the field for ten minutes for dissent. Ricketts enjoyed taking the penalty points that followed as his kick barely crept over the crossbar.
Monmouth tried hard to make their numerical advantage count with scrums from penalties again and number eight Griffiths thought he had achieved the aim but was adjudged to have made a second move in the act of scoring. The only consolation as Bettws defended furiously was a second penalty kick from Ricketts for handling in the ruck.
At 8-6 with some re-direction from the coach at half-time Monmouth put Bettws under extreme pressure with charging down of kicks but they were let off the hook by a succession of missed tackles and a speedy move along the backs and down the right brought a try for their wing In the corner too far out to convert in the underfoot conditions.
The same seemed about to happen again minutes later bar a bone crunching tackle by Ricketts on the ball carrier the force of which sent the ball flying into touch.
The balance again altered as a result, bringing a penalty this time for Monmouth for failing to roll away from the tackle and when Monmouth dissented they fought back up-field for Griffiths to stride through and over a defender’s tackle for the try that was to take Monmouth into a 13-14 lead.
Bettws fired again and were helped to level the scores by a questionable offside decision at a ruck from a referee who handled the game in the main well and decisively.
Both sides were now striving hard to gain the final advantage. One thrust by Monmouth took the move back inside when they had an overlap they might have used. With the pressure mounting Griffiths received in mid-field and in trying to throw an overhead pass to his wing saw Bettws intercept to take a seven point lead by scoring under the post.
Time was running out and a final attack by Monmouth saw a pass directed past outstretched hands direct into touch but not before second-row John Powell had been able to make yet another record breaking appearance by substituting the injured flanker Ollie Gray, just in time for one scrum and one dirty knee cap which at least justified his having a shower.
Attention now returns to the League and the various rearranged games caused by previous postponements but another Six Nations game this week may add to the disjointed nature of 2013 thus far.