Lytchett Minster 15 - Minety 19
Minety travelled to Lytchett Minster, not far from Poole, in Southern Dorset on a blustery and cold Saturday to take on the Dorset and Wilts Division 1 South team in the final of the Dorset and Wilts Vase, a repeat of the 2015 Final which Minety famously won after a classic encounter at Warminster’s ground.
With the wind whipping across the field captain Andrew Hibbard lost the toss but was more than happy when the home side opted to play with the wind at their backs in the first half.
Fielding a greatly changed side from the one who defeated Warminster in the last round, Minety kicked off and immediately pressurised the home defence, new half back combination Sam Hughes and Andrew Irving making in roads and using the power of Chris Rule at centre and the pace of Duncan Simpson and Dave Cooke to spread play across the field and deep into the Lytchett Minster 22.
The home side’s aggressive and powerful rucking provided them with plenty of ball but Minety’s fast paced passing game kept them on top in the opening exchanges.
With Ben Scott dominant at the line out and the scrum holding firm despite huge pressure from the larger Minster pack, Sam Hughes was able to clear any dangers although only a last gasp tackle from Simpson and a timely intervention from captain Hibbard prevented Minster from opening the scoring as the wind buffeted the Minety team backwards.
Minety opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Flanker Kieran Tillotson took a lineout catch and Hughes released Simpson in midfield who moved it on to Irving. A complex dummy move involving Rule and Cooke saw the Minster defence disrupted and Sam Thompson and Matt Chisholm combined to drive Minety to the half way line. When the ball was recycled a long pass across field saw hooker Jay Thompson burst through, off loading to prop Colin French who put Hibbard away. When the captain was felled on the Minster 22 metre line Hughes picked up, cut through the defence and released Irving to run in and touch down near the posts. Hughes converted the try and Minety were 7 – 0 up.
Lytchett Minster hit back in the 20th minute after a period of impressive attacking play. An errant Minety hand disrupted play and the Minster captain and scrum half kicked the ensuing penalty to reduce their arrears to just 4 points.
Minety hit back with two tries in the space of four minutes soon after. When a long pass out wide from the Lytchett fly half went to ground Hibbard picked up the loose ball and drove forward. With new second row Jack Gillet on hand to take the off load, Minety were into the Minster 22. Another finer off load in tackle saw Jay Thompson burst through the line. From a ruck Hughes fed Irving who pushed forward before Hughes found Jay Thompson again, who was stopped inches out. With the defence in some confusion, Hughes set up the next phase, dummy runners all over the place allowing Rule to punch his way over for a fine try. Huighes’ conversion caught in the wind and cannoned off the upright but Minety were 12 – 3 up.
From the kick off Minety passed the ball swiftly through forwards and back and forced themselves deep into Minster territory. When Simpson threw a pass infield in the direction of Hughes with the try line beckoning the Minster scrum half deliberately knocked the ball forward and was shown a yellow card.
The Minety pack afforded Hughes good ball and he fed Irving. Quick passing involving Irving, Simpson and Cooke saw the latter stopped feet from the line but when the ball came back to full back Del Murray via Irving, the full back danced his way past two defenders before touching down for Minety’s third try. Hughes converted the try and Minety were 19 -3 up.
Sensing that their first half advantage of the wind at thgeir backs was ebbing away, Minster began to dominate in the open, playing some of their most expansive rugby but the Minety defence was resolute and Hughes was able to clear the lines despite the gale in his face.
Minster were able to register their first try on the cusp of half time, the full back running around a tiring Minety defensive line to score out wide on the right. The conversion was unsuccessful and Minety led as the teams turned around at half time by 19-8.
If the first half could be described as expansive, the second half was a battle as the wind, which had played such a significant part in the first half, died and both teams began to tire in the energy sapping conditions. Minety’s forwards used the driving maul to good effect while Minster tried to release their pacey backs but were thwarted by some very effective tackling from the Minety defence.
Minety had two scrums close to the Minster line but were unable to increase their lead despite excellent work from Colin French and Matt Chisholm.
Minster set up a tense last 12 minutes when their fly half scored their second try, later converted, under the posts in the 68th minute. For once the Minety defence was caught out as the No. 10 was able to run around the defensive line and race in unopposed.
A break from Simpson and a sharp interchange of passes with the impressive Gillet saw the centre bundled into touch metres from the line while shortly afterwards a wildly ambitious pass across field from Irving almost saw Chisholm in at the corner.
Irving used his one available substitute, Ethan Whitehurst, to replace Sam Thompson late on as Minety penned Minster back in their own half. When Simpson hauled down the Minster scrum half as he gathered speed and Minety took the ensuing throw in, Hughes ended the game and Minety were into their third Vase final in 5 years.
Afterwards coach James Irving said, “It was a great win. We found a way to win the match and some of the play was beautiful to watch. We all know that there is a lot of work to be done but the coaching staff will be meeting to devise the plan for the final. But we need all of our squad, injured or not, at training from now on.”
Captain Andrew Hibbard echoed the coach’s sentiments. “Excellent performance. We started as we meant to carry on and fended like Tojans in the second half. Special thanks must go to all the 2nd XV players who stepped up to play.”
Congratulations to both sets of players who provided a fine example of hard but fair play, and to the referee who allowed play to flow.
Onwards and upwards!
Team: Colin French, Jay Thompson, Matt Park, Ben Scott, Matt Chisholm, Jack Gillet, Kiran Tillotson, Andrew Hibbard (c), Sam Hughes, James Irving, Sam Thompson, Duncan Simpson, Chris Rule, Dave Cooke, Delham Murray & Ethan Whitehurst.