Beaten but unbowed
A patched up Minety team ended their fine season with a loss at 3rd placed Avonvale in a much closer match than the 31-13 score line suggested.
Scott & Mark Glew
With a number of players facing their 3rd game in 8 days and giving season debuts to Jay Thompson and 47 year old Scott Glew, the village team entered the match knowing that 4th place, in a very competitive league, was assured after the midweek win at Swindon.
Avonvale showed their intent early on with a fine crossfield move through their backs which stretched the Minety defence but the villagers clawed themselves back into the contest, keeping the ball in the forwards and using the pace and power of captain Andrew Hibbard and flanker Ben Sellick to relieve the pressure.
As the game opened up, Minety increasingly relied upon scrum half Garin Garland’s quick breaks and defensive line speed to break up Avonvale’s well organised attacks.
It was no surprise when Avonvale opened the scoring. A six phase move saw the ball out wide on the left and the 1st try was scored. A fine conversion followed putting the home team 7-0 in the lead.
Minety came back strongly, centres Chris Rule and Jack Howse using their power and pace to push Avonvale back but the village team were unable to transform possession into points against a well organised and disciplined Avonvale defence.
A change in tactics saw a long penalty kick chased down by winger Del Murray near the Avonvale line. Minety chose to run the ensuing penalty and first Sellick and then Garland and Ben Langridge were held up inches from the line.
When Avonvale were penalised again, Garland stroked home the penalty to bring the scores back to 7-3.
Avonvale struck back with their second try in the 28th minute. After a series of forward based attacks down the left, the play was switched across field for their right winger to touch down near the corner flag. Another long range conversion was successful and Avonvale led 14-3.
A Garland penalty on the stroke of half time saw the teams change ends with Avonvale 14-6 up.
The opening phases of the 2nd half were evenly contested although Avonvale always looked dangerous when the ball went out wide.
The decisive moment came in the 55th minute. The physically larger Avonvale team began to dominate a visibly tiring Minety side, many of whom were playing their second match in four days. With the Avonvale pack pushing Minety back onto their own line, the referee spotted an errant hand on the ball and awarded a penalty try to Avonvale.
When centre Chris Rule picked up a leg injury, 47 year old Scott Glew, making his season debut, joined his son Mark in the Minety front row.
Avonvale’s 4th try came from another forward drive before the ball was moved back for the centre to break the line and touch down beneath the posts. Yet another successful conversion saw Avonvale stretch their lead to 22 points.
A long range penalty in the 75th minute took Avonvale’s advantage to 31-6 but Minety’s grit and resolve was summed up in the last play of the match, and the season, when Sellick intercepted a pass and ran 60 metres to score Minety’s try wide out on the left.
Garland capped a fine individual performance with a conversion to leave the final score Avonvale 31 Minety 13.
Coach Andy Grayson had nothing but praise for his side. “I thought it was a really great effort from the lads. They never gave up and fully deserved that try at the end. At the start of the season I thought we were capable of a 4th place finish and we’ve managed it.”