JUST seven days since losing narrowly to Blaenavon at home, and with another tough fixture in between, it made one wonder how bodies would stand up to yet another physical test when the two met again in Tuesday evening's fixture, reports PETE WALTERS.
And strongly contested it was, although tempers were largely contained, partly through the awarding of yellow cards to largely home team forwards.
The evening sun was still warm, making for an intense sunset and with a dry pitch making for the type of play Monmouth like: trying to spin the ball wide at every possible opportunity, so much so that a final score of 26 -14 to the visitors was a fair result.
Monmouth kicked off downhill into the strong sun, and an early slapping down of a pass brought a penalty within minutes of the start which fullback Harry Johnson kicked successfully.
A stoppage then ensued to clear dog faeces found on the pitch before play could recommence, which was to recur twice during the game giving players a breather but disrupting the flow of play.
Wing Matt Tabb then made a good break before conceding a penalty at the breakdown.
But Johnson was awarded one after first cleverly fielding a kick close to the touch-line and then making some 40 yards before being stopped.
Blaenavon hit back from the resultant line-out, stealing the throw in and made good ground all the way via another line-out and driving maul to the top right-hand corner where Monmouth with desperate defence conceded a penalty try to go 7-3 in front.
It was a good example of the home team playing to their strength and a good reason for the visitors to keep the ball moving and away from their forwards.
Monmouth immediately then initiated a move by fly-half Dan White, which saw left wing Kester Mobbs-Morgan cross the whitewash, only to be recalled for an apparent foot in touch.
Tabb next broke down the right to be halted by a heavy two-man tackle but the ball was recycled and spun along the line first one way, and then the next, to gain another penalty, although it was not clear why, as the referee did a lot of arm waving but with little obvious clarity.
Johnson though narrowed the lead to 7-6 before another stoppage for a visit by the poor man with the plastic gloves and trowel.
Both sides at times were forced to transgress when defending, leading to a first home yellow card.
After a lecture to the Blaenavon blind-side before he soon followed for verbal abuse of the match official, Mobbs-Morgan rounded off another three-quarter attack which Johnson converted for a 13-7 lead from far out.
Despite their reduced numbers, the hosts were soon threatening the visitors’ line and despite Monmouth receiving a yellow card in defending, they withstood the onslaught successfully by winning the penalty scrum against the head and gaining 55 metres from the penalty kick clearance of Johnson.
With just minutes of normal time left, Johnson converted two further penalty kicks to advance the visitors to a 19-7 half-time lead.
The second half, with the slope now in the home team’s favour, began predictably, with a concentration on strong carrying and driving mauls, but Monmouth were determined to defend that whilst still trying to run the ball whenever chances allowed.
Flanker Will Korb led the way with bone-rattling tackles and strong charges of his own.
And it was from one such strong back row-led break upfield that a try by captain Jack Edwards resulted not long after the re-start.
Johnson comfortably kicked the goal and Monmouth then set about defending their 26-7 lead.
Substitutions were made to ensure fresh legs and significantly, when second Cory Harper departed, his athleticism and ruggedness during his stint brought a deserved round of applause from the away supporters.
As Blaenavon struggled to redeem themselves, with the Monmouth pack digging deep, their frustration began to show with a further penalty for back chat and, later, another yellow card for a head butt on a player, which no doubt would have been red if the referee had seen what really happened.
Monmouth centres Morgan Jeffs and Dan Dunmore were a consistent threat, along with physical runs by Johnson, and more creative, but equally elusive and determined activities, by fly-half White.
The latter having charged down a kick, hacked on and outpaced the local defence but, just before he touched down, the referee blew and called Monmouth back for a penalty to them because he deemed advantage over. How critical might that have been if the score had been closer?
But then the Blaenavon pack finally obtained some of the recognition they deserved when, in overtime, with a whole series of rucks rebuffed, they finally crashed over for a converted try, before the referee blew for the 26-14 win that Monmouth thoroughly deserved.
A boost to local spirits one would think just ahead of a short breathing space and an even tougher game against league leaders Newbridge at home on Saturday (May 6), but sadly late news says it has been called off because of excessive injures and unavailability.
So it is now Dowlais away instead on Wednesday (May 10) before ending the season, again away, against Newbridge on Saturday, May 13.