Boxing Day Friendly

Usk RFC 33 
Monmouth RFC 23

The traditional Boxing Day ‘Derby’ game this year at Usk was slightly slanted from the start by its ‘Barbarians’ mix, but together with the dry weather, an even larger crowd than usual was entertained by a closely fought game with eight tries shared equally between the teams, reports PETE WALTERS.

Despite Monmouth scoring four largely ‘stylish’ tries to Usk’s forward-dominated ones, the deciding factor was the points achieved through the boot, where the home team out-scored the visitors by a well delivered 13 points to 3.

Competition through set piece play was broadly equal, but Usk’s forwards appeared the more vigorous in their ability to apply pressure at rucks and mauls.

Despite Monmouth spreading the ball wide inside five minutes of the opening whistle to left wing Harvey Thomas who showed his speed and determination in breaking a last ditch tackle to score.

Usk were soon to drive over in the left corner to level the score, and then exploiting their close-quarter dominance scored again through a driving maul which this time was converted from far out.

The response from the visitors was good with Thomas again completing the move but with the conversion failing by hitting the post.

A stirring long distance burst from second row Will Tyler was promising, but his decision to ignore Thomas and a scissors opportunity saw a try, and the winger’s hat-trick go begging.

Usk moved to the other end with the aid of a seemingly harsh ’handling in the ruck’ penalty decision which gave them a line-out in the left corner at the Town end with a converted try from a driving maul the outcome for a 19-10 score at the break.

Tensions showed as Usk were soon to be lectured for too many penalties although little positive action was seen on this front again despite the penalty incidence remaining relatively unchanged.

A good three-quarter move saw Monmouth centre Morgan Jeffs loop around to narrow the gap to 19-15.

An off-side penalty gift then widened it again only for the visitors to score another unconverted try by the same player, again from a quickly taken penalty to narrow the scores at 22-20 as they entered the final quarter.

But Usk were not to be outdone as they punished the visitors with two successive penalties, the first made easier by some dissent followed soon after by another easy shot at goal for off-side in mid-field, eased a little by a penalty in return for foul play.

In what had been a vigorous and fairly clean game throughout, with time fast running out, Monmouth were now consistently pressing hard to overturn the 28-23 deficit.

But a mishandling error around the home 22 line saw the ball hacked and hacked on again down-field.

As Monmouth’s desperate attempts to keep their hosts out failed, the now 33-23 score was to prove too large to overcome as Usk resolutely defended their line.

Their ability at contesting and disrupting play and their superior goal-kicking had been the determining factors in this traditional annual contest.

The bar takings afterwards would almost certainly have been good, too!