3:10pm Wednesday 29th January 2014
Welsh Rugby Union Division Four East
Monmouth 5 Cwmbran 0
AFTER Christmas and the weather enforced weeks of match inactivity, compounded with Cwmbran winning convincingly earlier in the season, it was with some trepidation that spectators tripped to the Sports Ground last Saturday through puddles galore, to see the return match.
A missed penalty in the gusty conditions inside the first minute did little to calm Monmouth nerves, as displayed in the next attacking move, which broke down because of a poorly directed pass.
Monmouth continued to pressurise down the slope through their forwards, but a further chance went begging as a grubber kick went dead, and then a wild pass took away another scoring chance.
With the fierce wind it was as well centre Rose covered back to recover the long kick out of defence by Cwmbran.
If the pitch was greasy and handling difficult, risk of hypothermia grew as the most appalling squall sent the touchline supporters running for cover, while the players had to pretend they were concentrating on the game rather than their personal welfare.
Play remained erratic for a while as a result, but Monmouth got near through some good driving play by prop Luke Hunter and then No.8 Mike Griffiths, but cutting back inside led to a ruck and a turnover, rather than perhaps with hindsight the more rewarding option of using the two supporting players to target the right flank.
Just as quickly Monmouth were back under pressure from high swirling kicks ahead by the visitors, relieved, not for the first time by a correspondingly high kick ahead from scrum-half Price for right wing Morgan to chase. The resulting touch brought the whistle for the break, leaving Monmouth reflecting how many opportunities had been missed by both sides in the rather haphazard play of the first half.
No doubt they were also wondering how they were going to do playing up the slope, but words from their coaches urging better control of passes and greater support for one another will have provided some reassurance.
Almost immediately from the start a ball lost in a collision was booted 55 yards downfield. In return Monmouth regained virtually the same amount from hacking the ball back again, but they missed the penalty they had won for holding on.
Five minutes of to-and-fro attrition led to another penalty for Monmouth, but just eight yards out, the move faltered with a knock-on.
The momentarily bright sky may have been an omen at this stage, because Morgan in a chase of yet another kick ahead seemed to be barged out of his scoring attempt.
He kept his balance to pick up and score what was eventually to be the only score of the game, after 64 minutes of stirring stalemate. The conversion went close but allowing for the wind across the posts did not work as it flew straight and true past the right upright.
The sun peeped out and the scheduled Monmouth touch-judge made a late, surprise appearance. The charitable amongst those dripping wet on that touch-line assumed a delay in traffic, but some linked it to the sudden absence of any rain at that particular moment.
Players were now looking tired and relying on kicking even more, while spectators were distracted by an overhanging rainbow, when centre Lane was clean away only to be called back for being offside.
As if to test the referee who had a murderous task in the mud and errors which he managed well, Lane made exactly the same break just two minutes later with the same disappointing result.
Monmouth were now on song going into the lengthy injury time with full back Layne making many yards as he can, followed by a series of rucks which brought Monmouth to the edge of the goal-line in the left corner.
Cwmbran defended as if their very lives depended upon it, holding out for a losing bonus point despite the loss of a player to the sin-bin for slowing down the ball in the final sequence of rucks.
Monmouth had done themselves a power of good with several newcomers replacing those still on holiday and this must give them the confidence they have been lacking prior to the turn of the year. But then the League will again be disrupted for the 6 Nations games.
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