When the two sides met earlier in the season in a cup match, Bradford’s powerful side exploited Minety’s defensive frailties and ran out easy winners. However, no one present at Minety on Saturday could have predicted the first half blitzing of the home defence that saw Bradford end the half 43-3 up.
Playing downhill in the first half on a well grassed pitch, Bradford opened their scoring in the first minute from a penalty in front of the posts.
The first try came in the 3rd minute when the visitor’s scrum half burst through the patched Minety defence, featuring a number of players pulled from the 2nd XV at very late notice and coach Richard Hall, making an emergency appearance.
Fly half John Blair scored Minety’s only points of the half with a penalty in the 8th minute as the home side fought back and pressurised the visitor’s line.
While Minety kept possession in the forwards they were able to match Bradford but all too often the resulting ball was slow and attacks were easily repelled by the visitors’ well organised defence.
Loss of possession close to the opposition line saw Minety heavily penalised as Bradford raced the length of the pitch to score their second try in the 15th minute.
Minety lost Hall to a leg injury and, for a short time, had to manage with 14 players.
Yet another “length of the pitch” break led to Bradford’s 3rd try after a period of Minety pressure and their 4th, and bonus point winning try, came almost from the kick off, yet another break out from deep in their own half, despite the valiant efforts of young Chris Rule, making his debut at full back.
Too often, Minety’s attacks stalled in midfield and wingers Dave Cooke and James Stuart saw hardly any ball.
Minety’s already dire situation became worse in the 27th minute when influential 2nd row forward Ben Collins suffered what looked to be a nasty knee injury and was carried from the pitch.
2nd XV’s Ben Scott was drafted in from their match on an adjoining pitch to shore up the home pack as Minety pushed hard for an opening try.
Two Bradford tries just before the break saw the teams turn round with the visitors 43-3 up.
Quite what coach Hall said to his players at half time isn’t clear but they came out for the second half in a very positive frame of mind.
Once again injuries took their toll and the villagers resorted to introducing 57 year old Club President Andy Ward to the fray in the 43rd minute. Just one minute later flanker turned centre Tom Windle burst through to score from 30 metres. Blair’s conversion reduced the deficit to 43-10.
Fearless defensive work from full back Rule prevented Bradford from scoring before Minety scored their second try in the 57th minute when hooker Owen Richardson forced his way over after both Ash Windle and Andrew Hibbard had been held up near the line.
Ward’s 20 minute cameo came to an end when he was replaced by a heavily patched up Hall for the final 15 minutes as Minety chased an improbable bonus point.
A beautifully caught line out ball by the consistently impressive Josh Bull, another product of the Minety Academy initiative, set up a series of attacks on the Bradford line and it was no surprise when Richardson scrambled in his second and Minety’s third try of the match. Blair’s conversion narrowly missed but the 20-43 score line now gave Minety added heart and some reward for their efforts.
Bradford extended their lead with the only try to be scored playing uphill in the game but Minety bravely struck back in the dying moments, Windle breaking out of midfield before off-loading to Bull, who ran in the score in the corner to end the match 25-48 but also secure what could, at the end of the season, be an invaluable 4 try scoring bonus point for the home side.
Despite the loss, coach Hall was upbeat as he spoke to the players after the match. To their credit, they never allowed their heads to drop and always tried to be positive. Everyone was congratulated on their efforts and special mention was made to the 2nd XV players who filled in some valiantly and to man of the match Josh Bull and debutant Chris Rule.
Much is made of the slope on two of the Minety pitches and how much of an advantage it is to play downhill. This was borne out on Saturday when, extraordinarily, 68 points were registered by teams playing downhill whilst only 8 were scored uphill!
In the weekend’s other match, an already patched up Minety 2nd XV, desperately short of players and forced to borrow some from visitors Swindon College Old Boys, were further restricted when players had to transfer mid game to patch up the 1st XV. Despite all of their efforts the 2nd XV went down to the league leaders, and hitherto unbeaten, Swindon College Old Boys by 70-0.