Minety’s topsy turvy season took another unexpected twist when the team lost narrowly away to local rivals Sutton Benger 18-17 on a rain sodden and muddy pitch.
Minety coach Andy Grayson must be wondering what else this season has in store after a selection nightmare for the game. Already without his two starting wingers, further injuries picked up last week deprived him of the influential pair of Jack Ward and Matt Roberts and then he lost leading points scorer, scrum half Garin Garland on the morning of the match.
The patched up Minety team started with a prop, Mark Glew, at scrum half, two flankers playing on the wings and a winger, Steve White, at full back.
With the rain falling steadily, Minety kicked off against a strong Benger team who have progressed well in Division 1 after their promotion last season. The early play was untidy, the wet ball making possession through phases difficult and the slippery ground halting backs moves almost before they had started.
Minety’s hat trick hero from last week, fly half Sam Hughes began to exert his presence on the game making short bursts in midfield and kicking over the top very effectively to release pressure.
It was Hughes who opened the scoring in the 8th minute with a 25 metre penalty kick after a Benger infringement at a ruck. The home side hit back just two minutes later when Callum Harford stroked home a penalty from a similar distance after Minety were caught offside.
With pitch conditions deteriorating fast, the game became mired in midfield. Minety’s quick backs were unable to move the ball effectively and it was down to the experienced Hughes to manage the plays and kick the ball downfield to break up play and allow Minety to reset.
Minety regained the lead in the 26th minute. After a series of assaults on the home line had been halted, Minety were awarded a scrum 5 metres out and No. 8 Andrew Hibbard was on hand at the back of the scrum to pick up and drive over for a try. Hughes kicked the conversion and Minety led by 10-3.
Andrew Hibbard reaches for the line to score Minety’s try in the first half.
Benger struck back, pinning Minety into their own half, moving the ball amongst the forwards and rucking effectively to maintain possession. The pressure told in the 31st minute when the ball was moved through a number of phases out to the right where a try was scored close to the corner flag.
Perhaps the pivotal moment of the match came just before half time when fly half Hughes was concussed after a heavy tackle and had to be withdrawn. Coach Grayson was forced to replace his fly half with a prop, Andy Darrall, and re-shuffle his team, now with no experience at half back and little experience elsewhere.
Minety re-organised at half time, centre Jack Howse now playing at fly half for the first time in his career at Minety. The incessant drizzle had made any sort of open play impossible as players sought grip in the mire.
A long range Harford penalty early in the 2nd half fell short as play became bogged down in midfield, with the physically larger and more settled home team shading both possession and territory.
Benger took the lead for the first time in the game in the 60th minute when one of the game’s only backs moves saw the ball moved swiftly across the pitch for the left wing to touch down near the corner flag.
In the physically taxing conditions, exhausted players began to make mistakes and the game became fragmented.
Fowards battle in the mud
Benger extended their lead in the 77th minute. Minety were unable to clear their lines and a when a clearance kick fell short the ball was run back. From a ruck near to the line, Benger moved the ball right and crossed for a try to extend their lead by 18-10.
Needing two scores to win the game, Minety launched a concerted attack on the home line. A clever chip from stand in full back White almost saw winger Matt Stone in on the right but the Benger defence held out.
As the game entered stoppage time, Benger were penalised in the scrum as Minety pushed them back onto their own line. After a series of furious attacks close in Benger were again penalised and when the Minety forwards pushed over a home player disrupted the play as Hibbard was about to touch down leaving the referee with no alternative but to award a penalty try.
Over the line – Minety’s penalty try
There was no time for a re-start so Benger took the league points with an 18-17 victory.
Try telling him defeat doesn’t hurt – photo by Caroline Stone
Afterwards coach Andy Grayson said, “I cannot fault our effort or commitment. Everyone gave 100%. The conditions made it a forward battle and when we lost Sam Hughes we simply couldn’t compensate for the loss. My Minety Man of the Match had to come from the front row and I chose prop Colin French for his tremendous all round performance in terrible conditions.”
Coach Andy Grayson with his players at the end.
Next week Minety will hope to get their revenge on Trowbridge after a narrow defeat earlier in the season.