Sutton Benger 15 - Minety 10
Minety travelled to high flying local rivals Sutton Benger, currently placed 4th in the division, hoping to build upon wins over 2nd placed Melksham and 3rd placed Royal Wootton Bassett recently, but came away with just a single losing bonus, having gone down by 15-10.
On a surprisingly good pitch, considering all the recent rainfall and the flooding of fields and roads nearby, Benger kicked off with a very strong breeze at their backs as sunshine broke through the clouds and warmed the crowd.
Minety welcomed back Tom McAllister back at fly half, with Sam Hughes moving to scrum half in Garin Garland’s absence. Coach James Irving had also brought Gareth Thomas in as hooker, Bram Coleman in the 2nd row and Alex Binnie, Jesse Daybell and Joe Smedley into the backs in a much changed lineup from the one that stunned Royal Wootton Bassett at Ballards Ash at the start of the month and then followed that up with a 19-17 win over promotion chasing Melksham on the 15th February.
Minety’s pack exerted all the pressure in the opening exchanges, pushing Benger back and giving Hughes time to launch the ball out to the backs.
Benger missed two penalty attempts as they began to dominate in the loose, the Minety defence finding the home teams’s strong running backs difficult to handle.
The visitors nearly opened the scoring when winger Dave Cooke intercepted a pass deep in his own 22 but he was hauled down30 metres from the line and the chance went begging. Minety’s lack of league action recently showed but they grew into the half and as the half hour was reached, were the better team, suing their backs effectively and working well to hold up Benger’s attacking moves.
A typical break from Hughes and an off load to Chris Rule saw the latter into the Benger 22 and from there McAllister and his backs put real pressure on the Benger line.
On the cusp of half time, Benger took the lead. After a period of sustained pressure, with Minety unable to clear their lines, a forwards’ move ended with a try being score on the left. The conversion was successful and Benger went into the break 7 – 0 up but only after they held back a hard charging Minety revival, led by Hugo Beanland and Bram Coleman.
At half time coach Irving brought on Cameron Smith, back after a lengthy injury layoff, for Thomas in the front row as Minety chased the win in the 2nd half.
It took the visitors just three minutes of the second half to even up the scores. Hughes fired a penalty deep into the Benger 22 and captain Andrew Hibbard took the ensuing lineout ball to set up a ruck on the Benger line. Prop Andy Darrell and McAllister went close before Hughes fired the ball out to Rule, the centre crashing over beneath posts. Hughes stroked over the conversion and the match was tied at 7 apiece.
Minety went ahead 5 minutes later, Hughes kicking a penalty from 30 metres after the Minety scrum has pushed the Benger pack back 15 metres and forced them to concede.
Conditions deteriorated quickly as the wind brought a number of heavy, and wintery showers across the pitch, making the ball increasingly difficult to control.
Irving had to make changes in the pack when Coleman picked up and injury and replacement Jack Gillette was introduced. Another injury, this time to centre Jesse Daybell, saw the introduction of young Charles Grayson, son of Director of Coaching Andy Grayson, at scrum half with Hughes moving to fly half and McAllister out into the centres as Minety pushed for a second try. Indeed, as the rain hammered down, it looked as if Minety were the more likely to push on for the win.
Somewhat against the run of play, Benger took the lead. After a serious attack down the middle of the pitch had pushed the visitors back into their own 22, a series of moves saw Benger camped on the Minety line with the ball eventually being fired out to the left where the winger ran in for a try. The conversion stalled in the howling gale but Benger were back in front by 12-10 with about 15 minutes left on the clock.
With both teams suffering in the energy sapping conditions, the last 10 minutes were mired in mid field with a solitary penalty to Benger late on ending the scoring 15-10.
The loss did gain Minety a bonus point for losing by less than 7 points and takes them to 31 points, one point behind 9th placed Chippenham and three behind 7th and 8th placed Calne and Trowbridge.
Team: Hugo Beanland, Gareth Thomas, Andy Darrall, Matt Chisholm, Bram Coleman, Mark Glew, Ron Hinwood, Andrew Hibbard ©, Sam Hughes, Tom McAllister, Alex Binnie, Jesse Daybell, Chris Rule, Dave Cooke and Joe Smedley. Replacements: Cameron Smith, Charles Grayson and Jack Gillette.
A battered and bruised Mark Glew after the match.