Dorset & Wilts Division 1 North
Minety 1st XV 14pts – Devizes 2nd XV 7pts
Fine first-half tries from Jack Ward and Tom Fitzcharles gave Minety victory over Devizes seconds in their last home game of the season but were not enough to secure a bonus point as dropped ball and opposition spoiling prevented their making further scores.
Sunshine and a dry pitch promised free-flowing rugby, but though Minety started positively, their ambitions were largely thwarted by their opponents adopting a damage-limitation policy of slowing possession and killing the ball whenever possible.
Highly experienced Minety forwards Martin Coe, Andy Hurley and Craig Smith are all due to retire at the end of the season, but they each made their presence strongly felt in this, their last appearance on home turf. Their storming runs, bustling tackles and committed rucking kept their opponents continually on the back foot and their contributions will be sorely missed next season.
Smith was forced to retire injured after 30 minutes, but though Devizes attempted to disrupt the set piece, consistently wheeling the scrum, it was to no avail as Minety launched from the base just outside the visitors’ 22. Fitzcharles slipped through two tackles to score under the posts, and Ward slotted the kick to make it 14-nil at the half.
With the wind and slope against them and the sun in their eyes in the second half, Minety struggled to add the two tries needed to secure a bonus point. Scrumhalf Ben Thomas created havoc for the tired Devizes pack and forwards Tom Windle and Max Smith both put in good runs. The backs continued to look lively but vital passes went astray and the home team failed to trouble the scoreboard again.
In the end it was Devizes who managed a consolation score, breaking from deep in their own 22 and creating an overlap to put away their speedy flanker for a long run in for the try.
Still second in the league and with a tight finish to the season guaranteed, Minety travel away this Saturday to take on Chippenham seconds.
The club press officer, who didn’t see the game, wrote the above report based on details provided by one of the players who took part. Club coach Huw Jones, who did see the game (and took notes!), remembers things slightly differently…
Minety started strongly with the wind at their backs and opened the scoring after 7 minutes. Devizes failed to make touch following a clearance kick from their 22. The ball was fielded by winger Duncan Simpson. A side step, swerve and acceleration put him into space. The cover defence managed to haul him down, from the quick ruck that followed Minety’s backs put it through the hands. Tom Fitzcharles’ majestic side step catching the Devizes defence flat footed and he glided under the sticks for the score. Minety skipper Jack Ward kicked the conversion for a 7 – 0 lead.
Despite plenty of pressure, a combination of poor ball retention and by the home side and some disruptive tactics from the visitors kept the score line unchanged until the 37th minute.
With Devizes penalised for killing the ball Minety upped the tempo. A quick tap by scrum half Ben Thomas going left put Ward into space. With the line at his mercy he powered over, taking 4 tacklers with him. The conversation added by Ward to make it 14 – 0 at half time.
With the visitors enjoying the wind and slope in the second half a fourteen point cushion didn’t look enough for Minety. However Devizes didn’t change their negative tactics until it was too late in the second half. With only 7 minutes remaining Minety lost the ball deep in the Devizes half. This time the visitors chose adventure and unleashed their rugby ability for the first time. Crisp inter-passing set the Devizes open side in space on his own 22. Scintillating footwork and searing pace saw him outstrip the entire Minety defence for an 80m score under the posts. With the conversion a formality the score was 14 – 7 and a tense final 5 minutes ensued.
Ultimately it was too little too late for the visitors and Minety hung on for a deserved victory and four valuable points in their quest for league glory. Devizes being forced to settle for a losing bonus point as their season fizzles out. Had Devizes deployed their rugby talent throughout the whole game the result may well have been quite different.