All local derby matches are keenly fought and the one which pitched 7th placed Minety against 5th placed Royal Wootton Bassett on Saturday was no exception.
It was the village team who emerged victors at the end of a full bloodied affair, storming back from 14-5 down to win 25 – 17 and complete a noteworthy double over their more illustrious neighbours.
The home team, playing down the slope, started brightly, taking the first scrum and sending scrum half Garin Garland down the right. A high tackle halted his run but Minety opted for a scrum rather than a penalty and their enterprise was rewarded when No. 8 Andrew Hibbard picked up at the base of the scrum and charged the Bassett line. Further attacks from captain Tom Claxton and flanker Ash Windle were held up but temporary scrum half James Nicksen reversed the direction of play and a fine backs’ move saw the recovering Garland drive over for the opening score in the 4th minute.
Garland scores Minety’s 1st try
Bassett struck back immediately, pinning the home team back in their 22 and moving the ball confidently from side to side as they sought to breach the Minety line. Only some fearless tackling from centre Jack Howse, flanker Jay Thompson and fly half Tom McAllister kept the Minety line intact but they were helpless to prevent the opening Bassett score. A long flighted pass split the home defence and the full back was on hand to score near the posts. The conversion was successful and Bassett led 7-5.
The visitors had clearly rattled a Minety team who had lost their previous 4 matches and only a last gasp tackle from prop Mark Glew prevented a breakaway try direct from the kick off.
Matters worsened for the home team seconds later when full back Ben Langridge suffered nasty ankle ligament damage in a tackle, an injury that could keep him out for several weeks. Coach Andy Grayson was forced to reorganise, shuffling the back line and bringing on Jack Ward, himself still not match fit after an injury before Christmas.
The visitors increased their lead in the 16th minute from another slick backs’ move which ended with a lovely line from the full back to break the home defence. Another successful conversion and Bassett had stretched their advantage to 14-5.
The home team struck back, dominating the scrummage and disrupting the Bassett line out and after another burst into the opposition 22 by the powerful Hibbard, Garland fired a pass out to Claxton, unusually positioned out on the wing, and the Minety captain scored his first points of the season wide out on the left. Garland’s huge conversion kick drifted agonisingly wide but Minety were back in the match just 10-14 down.
Claxton scores Minety’s 2nd try
With both teams playing some lovely rugby, the pace of the game actually increased as did the ferocity of the tackling. Minety were reduced to 14 players when Ward saw yellow after he took exception to a tackle and its aftermath.
Bassett increased their lead with a penalty in the 29th minute after the home side were caught off side at a ruck.
Minety managed the yellow card period by continuing to dominate at set pieces and through some hard tackling from second rowers Ben Collins and Ben Scott allied to some clever tactical kicking from Tom McAllister and penetrative running from centres Sam Hughes and Chris Rule.
With Ward back on the pitch, Minety took a scrum and attacked down the right. A tap penalty taken by Hibbard saw the No. 8 batter the Bassett defence and the ball was swiftly passed along the line to Nicksen on the right wing, who scored despite a neck high tackle. The referee awarded Minety a penalty try to bring the scores level at half time.
James Nicken is caught by a high tackle scoring Minety’s 3rd try
Bassett kicked off the 2nd half with the advantage of the slope, usually considered to be worth at least two scores, and Claxton’s team knew that they had their hands full to arrest a slide that has taken them down the league in recent weeks.
With their dominance of set pieces still intact, Minety pushed for the bonus point winning 4th try and looked to have had it when Hibbard picked up at the base of a scrum, charged forward and slipped the ball to the unguarded Garland to run through but the pass was considered forward and play was brought back. Seconds later another scrum against the head saw Hibbard almost in at the corner before a cross field kick to Hughes ended with the centre held up inches short. From the recycle, Minety moved the ball along the line and Howse seemed to be over for a try but the ball was dislodged as he dived for the line.
Minety were dominant at this stage, playing their best rugby of the season, and Bassett only held them out with fully committed tackling, rucking and some tactical kicking.
Minety lost centre Hughes to a leg injury, Dave Church coming on to replace him in the centre in the 53rd minute. The attritional nature of the game saw Howse down after a heavy tackle. Garland’s penalty attempt in the 60th minute floated wide as both teams fought to break the deadlock.
Minety thought they had a try shortly after when Ward crossed but once again it was brought back, the ball again being dislodged by a defender’s hand.
Tempers flared shortly after and the referee had to separate the two teams and speak to the captains.
Bassett were reduced to 14 men after a yellow card for a high tackle in the 66th minute and Garland stroked home the penalty to put Minety ahead by 20-17.
With both teams now playing some of the most impressive and aggressive rugby seen at Minety this season, something was sure to give and the visitors were reduced to 13 men in the 73rd minute when a player was shown a second yellow and dismissed for another high tackle.
Minety introduced Matt Roberts, back after a long term injury, in the 73rd minute to replace Church but then Windle suffered ankle ligament damage and Church was forced back on to replace him for a frantic last 5 minutes.
The match was settled in stoppage time with the move of the match. Ward set up a ruck just outside his own 22. Claxton ran a dummy line and allowed Garland to find Rule who broke through the line, releasing Hibbard. The No. 8 burst forward up to the Bassett 22 before passing to Garland who scored by the corner flag to put Minety 25-17 up and secure the league bonus point.
Garin celebrates after scoring the 4th try in stoppage time
Garland was yellow carded as Bassett made a desperate last attempt on the Minety line but the home side held out magnificently.
Afterwards coach Grayson praised his teams all round performance. “We did make it hard for ourselves at times but I can’t fault any of the 18 players who played today. Special mention must go to centres Chris Rule and Jack Howse and young James Nicksen, but it was the pack that really won it for us and I thought Tom Claxton was a deserved Man of the Match.”
Man of the Match, Tom Claxton