A blustery cold spring day saw Monmouth Men travel south to take on the D2 playoff bound Jersey Shore Sharks. The weather was due to deteriorate as the games progressed but started dry with the strong wind drying the field from earlier showers.
The game started at a decent pace with Monmouth playing into the wind and controlling the possession with ball in hand. The Jersey Shore defense was well organized and their tackling was excellent which allowed them to soak up the Monmouth pressure during the first 15 minutes. A long clearance from the Jersey Shore fly half eventually brought play near the Monmouth line and a few minutes of pressure led to an unconverted try on 18 minutes.
Monmouth faster pace was causing a succession of penalties against Jersey Shore for high tackles, hands in at the rucks, not entering through the gate and not staying on your feet. One of these penalties set Monmouth up with a line out 30 meters from the goal line. Mark Biafore tidied messy ball at the tail and made yards before setting the ball, the ball was then spun to Joe Lucarelli who bumped outside the defense to score an unconverted try. Monmouth immediate had a two on one inside the JS 22 only for the ball to go to deck with the line begging.
The rest of the half consisted of Monmouth running at the Jersey Shore defense and every breakdown was a free for all with nobody staying on their feet. It was therefore very hard to build any momnetum and the ball would be cleared down the field only for Monmouth to counter attack again. To say that the Jersey Shore out half was only interested in kicking is an understatement.
This stalemate continued until half time leaving the sides tied at 5-5.
With the wind at their backs Monmouth started the half and were rewarded immediately with an unconverted try from Nick Lynch after 2 mins. Monmouth let their guard down and conceded a very soft try three minutes later, 10-10.
The next 33 minutes were consistently stop start with the referees interpretations of the law changing from moment to moment. During this time there was a spear tackle penalized but no yellow, Scrums were penalized for pushing too hard and there were numerous high tackles unpunished. Monmouth found it very hard to build any momentum and despite being in the JS half for almost all the half it took until five minutes from the end for Jersey Shore to conceded a penalty infront of the posts leading to the winning penalty from Joe Lucarelli.
Monmouth had a scare with a couple of minutes left in the game when James Barlow was carded following a poor neck tackle on Kenvin Robinson attempting to counter attack. A brawl ensued but the referee only saw one sides infractions and JS went unpunished.
Following the game Monmouth were left a little frustrated with the stop start nature of the game so the Development XV channeled this into a huge win in badly deteriorating conditions. Barry Minihan’s familiarity with the challenges on days like this enabled him to control the game for Monmouth kicking to space and to the corners. Many First XV players played a part in that game venting their frustrations in a positive manner.
thanks to pat for the write up