Monmouth RFC | 1st Team 31 - 26 Dowlais RFC | 1st Team

Match Report
08 April 2024 / Team News

30/03/2024 Monmouth v Dowlais Admiral National League 1 EAST Match Report

Dowlais Vs Monmouth 30/03/2024 Match Report


Dowlais: 26

Monmouth: 31

A narrow defeat almost-turned incredible comeback this week for Dowlais, away at Monmouth.

After an excellent victory against the home side the previous week, hopes were high amongst the visitors for a similarly favourable result. But while the match would eventually come to be a very close one in the end, Dowlais were in for a harrowing first half.

The visitors hardly got off to the best start, as the home side very took charge and put them under heavy pressure almost right away. While they were able to make it to the other side of Monmouth’s first campaign in their twenty-two relatively unscathed, only conceding a penalty, that good fortune wouldn’t stick around for long.

After going up 3-0 in the first five minutes, Monmouth charged back into the Dowlais twenty-two almost right away, before swiftly scoring the try that they’d been denied only minutes prior. After the subsequent conversion, Dowlais found themselves staring up at an unnerving 10-0 score gap.

But from there, and for the rest of the first half for the most part, things wouldn’t get any better for them.

At around the fifteen minute mark, after another lengthy period of pressure with Dowlais seemingly hanging on by thread, the home side broke through once again.

Although this second try would go unconverted, it was little comfort to the visitors, as they found themselves knocked down even further, now down to a fifteen point deficit.

Following that, for a fleeting moment, it almost seemed as though Dowlais were starting to come into the game, with them making their first real breaks into Monmouth’s half, and showing the first slivers of threatening attacking power that they’d shown all match.

But just as they’d begun to make some real strides towards their first points of the match, an interception cruelly snuffed out the kindling embers of that comeback, leading to yet another converted try for the home side, and a truly demoralising 22-0 lead for them.

Hopefully, but perhaps somewhat naively, it started to feel as though things couldn’t possibly get any worse for Dowlais, what with being three tries down only twenty-five minutes into the game and having conceded almost a point a minute, but not long after, as the half closed in on its final ten minutes, they would be proven wrong, as they were struck with a red card, the absolute last thing that they needed in their situation.

With the match that they’d had up until that point, fears began circling in the air that Dowlais were about to have a cricket score on their hands, but somewhat surprisingly, apart from a penalty that followed shortly after, Dowlais’ red card didn’t have much of an effect on the score of the match – or at least, not the effect that everyone had expected it to have, but more on that later.

Those three points would be Monmouth’s final points of the half, and although Dowlais put in a few good efforts – their best efforts of the match up until that point – they would prove to be the final points of the half too, as the first forty minutes came to an end, 25-0 to Monmouth.

Now, this probably goes without saying, but Dowlais had definitely had better first halves than the one that they had that day, and the situation that they’d found themselves in seemed just about as far from hopeful as it reasonably could be.

While they’d managed to hold out better than expected in those final ten minutes, especially with only fourteen men on the field, there was no telling whether or not that solid line would hold for the remaining forty minutes.

In short, there were more than a few anxious breaths for Dowlais going into the second half, and fear that their situation could somehow get even worse than it already was.

In many ways, it almost seemed like the game was already out of reach.

That’s why what happened next came as such an immense (but still very much pleasant) surprise.

After what must have been the most rousing half-time pep talk in rugby history, Dowlais stepped back onto the pitch for the second half looking like a completely different side.

Their defence was tighter, their running and attacking were fiercer and snappier and their passing was swifter and more fluid. In the few minutes that had passed since they were last on the pitch, it seemed as though every aspect of Dowlais’ game had improved tenfold.

And these improvements weren’t just empty ones, as almost right away, as early as the opening breaths of the half, they finally scored their first points of the match, with a try, driven over by Kyle Prosser and converted by Conor Murphy.

Even though they’d struck back in swift and impressive fashion, with eighteen points left to conquer, Dowlais were still a long ways away from being able to celebrate.

But that first try was no one-off fluke, as Dowlais’ renewed assault continued as soon as the next kick-off commenced, putting Monmouth straight back under the pump, and scoring another converted try less than ten minutes later, touched down by Sam Davies and converted once again by Conor Murphy.

With the score gap brought down to eleven – almost into single digits – Dowlais unbelievably looked like scoring again almost straight after, but Monmouth snatching the ball away at a crucial moment put a stop to that momentum, and to Dowlais’ attacking efforts for quite a while.

During that time, the home side reignited their attacking efforts somewhat, but not in any meaningful capacity, only getting another penalty for their efforts.

But while those efforts hadn’t widened Monmouth’s lead by a massive amount, they had lost Dowlais some crucial time from their own efforts to take the lead, time that they didn’t have to spare.

So from the next kick-off, they got right back to it and right back into the Monmouth twenty-two. With their attacking lines back in working order, they swiftly claimed yet another try, this one both scored and converted by Conor Murphy.

But unfortunately, at this point, with less than fifteen minutes to go and only a single converted try’s worth of points separating them from the home side, Dowlais’ efforts began to run into some trouble yet again, as Monmouth managed to worm their way back into their twenty-two, wasting more of their precious time.

It was also at this point that penalties truly began to bite the visitors, as careless mistakes granted the home side two penalty opportunities to push their lead just out of reach. While the first of these missed, the second did not, bringing the score to 31-21.

While they’d managed to come back into the match in spectacular fashion over the course of the second half and had scored a bevy of points already, with the remaining time winding down to single digits, and needing at least two tries to take the lead, it was looking like the odds for Dowlais’ comeback of the season were starting to look bleak.

But nevertheless, the boys stuck at it and charged straight back into the enemy twenty-two. It was tough-going, exhausting work, but eventually, they managed to score a fourth and final try in the very last play of the game. Although it went unconverted, it still managed to secure them two bonus points, for a comeback that – while ultimately ill-fated – was still valiantly fought until the very end.

After having left the first half down 25-0, Dowlais ended the match with their heads held high, the final score, 31-26.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single match better exemplify the phrase ‘game of two halves’ than Dowlais’ performance this week. Watching them slog through the first half with possibly their worst performance of the season, conceding three tries and getting struck with a red card, only to turn it all around in such spectacular fashion, almost taking the game at the last minute and ultimately getting two bonus points out of it, was truly a sight to behold.

Although there were definite gaps and lulls between their most ferocious moments, Dowlais’ attacking efforts in the second half truly were incredible, and the beating heart of that second half performance.

But their defensive efforts shouldn’t go without credit either, as they too played a crucial role in holding Monmouth off from gaining back the lead that they’d fought so hard to chip away at.

But nevertheless, as incredible as they were, those efforts ultimately proved to not be enough, and a large part of that can once again be directed towards Dowlais’ penalty count.

While the early red card is definitely the elephant in the room, ultimately, it didn’t have that much of an effect on the match, and Dowlais managed to perfectly hold their own in the second half, even with only fourteen men – to the point that it was easy to forget that they were a man down at all. If anything, the numbers disadvantage only seemed to motivate the boys.

Ultimately, the faults that cost Dowlais their grand comeback were the small things, little penalties that gave the ball back to Monmouth and cost them a potentially brilliant opportunity – not to mention the nine points worth of penalties that they handed away, an amount that ultimately kept Monmouth’s lead alive throughout the second half.

Because of those small mistakes, Dowlais ultimately ended up with yet another match where they lost, despite having scored more tries than the eventual victors.

But while it can be tempting to dwell on what could have been if one less try had gotten behind the line or if a few less penalties had gone over, that’s ultimately not what I took away from this match.

Instead I choose to take away the excellent resolve that Dowlais showed to battle on and never give up on a match that, at one point, had begun to seem like a lost cause, the grit and strength to come back from a hopeless twenty-five point lead to almost taking back the match and ultimately leaving with two incredibly well-deserved bonus points.

That’s what I think should be taken away from this particular bout.

Let’s hope for a slightly more well-rounded performance next week, when Dowlais play Pontypool United at home.

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