AFTER the distraction of much postponed cup matters, it was back to earth and at home last Saturday for Monmouth.

Visitors Machen initially seemed more ring rusty than Monmouth with the latter more lively at the off and No 8 Sam Harding in particular revelling in his opportunity to play in that position.

Ball handling and support play in general was sparkling and after pressing hard on the visitors’ line Harding was able to charge down an attempt at a relieving kick and score the first try of the game inside the first five minutes. Reliable fly half Rhys Ricketts added the conversion.

Machen were quite stunned by the setback and the power of the back row forward was almost immediately again evident when Harding forced his way through clinging tacklers to score again in the virtually identical spot which gave Ricketts the confidence to add another two points.

But Machen did not lack for pride and clawed their way back enough to be awarded a kickable penalty which though they missed now prefaced a much quieter period for Monmouth who found themselves unable to gain and retain their previous volume of possession.

As play neared half-time Monmouth regained some of their former aplomb perhaps because of better fitness levels or just sheer determination when wing Anthony Layne made ground up the left and when halted found prop Luke Hunter up in support who fed on to Harding who almost gained his hat-trick. But unfortunately when within five yards of a score he knocked on when tackled.

It was Machen who were fired up most by the break and from a penalty in their own 22 made it all the way to the top right hand corner with a try only being prevented by a last ditch covering by right wing Josh Gray.

Monmouth backs still occasionally sparked and when centre Andrew Davies made a break Adam Roberts made a typical gutsy run down the right to feed Josh Gray for a try in the right corner which made the kick out of the cloying mud too hard for Ricketts on this occasion.

With penalty count fast approaching 24 against and less than 5 for Monmouth captain and 2nd Row Will Copley was next to be ‘sin-binned’ which gave Machen encouragement and with sleight of hand at a line-out and some Monmouth inattention, they gained a consolation try in the left corner.

In the ten minutes which remained given a large portion of injury time Monmouth had to dig deep to prevent any prospect of a Machen losing bonus point and but for a chase back by Gray to touch down just before an attacker their 22-8 win could have looked worse.

Bettws are next week’s Swalec Bowl opponents away with a 2pm kick off.