A patched up Minety team were soundly beaten by Dorset and Wilts Division front runners, Combe Down, by 46-0 on Saturday.
The result brings to an end an unbeaten run for the village side stretching back to 11th November. Minety, forced by injuries and unavailability, made 8 changes to the team which had beaten Supermarine the previous Saturday and gave season debuts to front rowers Martin Coe and Craig Smith and a full debut to Bramwell Coleman.
Combe Down, who sit just behind leaders Bradford on Avon, but with a game in hand, started at breakneck speed and crossed the line for their first try after just 3 minutes. The villagers’ cause was further hindered when hard running centre Jack Howse was sent to hospital with a bad hand injury within the first 5 minutes. Combe Down extended their lead in the 10th minute with another try and the third and, bonus point winning, 4th try, came in the 14th and 18th minutes as the village side struggled to get themselves organised and moving on a very heavy pitch.
24 points down with just a quarter of the match played and an avalanche of points might have been predicted, but Andy Grayson’s team, led from the front by hooker and captain Tom Claxton, fought their way back into the match and steadied the ship. Ferocious and fearless tackling, especially from No. 8 Ben Sellick, fly half Jack Ward and centre Dave Church helped clear the lines and push Combe Down back. With a front row stacked with experience, but also with a collective age of over 100, Minety’s scrum held its own and then started to dominate as the half wore on.
Jack Ward, Martin Coe & Craig Smith
Matt Roberts, playing at full back, troubled the Combe Down defence with his kicking and running and Church and Sellick were always in the thick of the action in the centre of the field.
At half time coach Grayson was forced into more changes as Minety lost fly half Tom McAllister and Church was moved to cover him. Colemen’s introduction to the 1st team was a brutal one when he was on the wrong end of a huge tackle just after catching a flighted pass.
Combe Down struck their 5th try with a swift move down the left wing in the 41st minute and registered their 6th in the 66th minute.
By the time that they had scored their 7th and 8th tries in the closing minutes, Minety had lost the influential Claxton to a hip injury and were a team out on their feet.
Coe and Smith, both coaxed out of 1st XV retirement, enjoyed the match but admitted that it had been really hard work.
Coach Andy Grayson was philosophical about the defeat. “I cannot fault the commitment of any of the lads who played today – they gave everything and for large parts of that game matched a very impressive Combe Down side. The injury crisis at the club has hit both teams; the 2nd XV couldn’t put out a team today against Swindon and some of their players came across to bolster the 1st’s , for which we are very grateful. We now have a short break and will be hoping to get as many players fit for the final push towards the end of the season.”
When the two teams met earlier in the season at Minety, Combe Down won with the last kick of the match.
Minety maintain their 4th place in the league but face table toppers Bradford at Minety Fields in a fortnight’s time.
Minety 2nd XV were forced to concede their match at Swindon when it became clear that they couldn’t raise a team. Like the 1st XV, Matt Stone’s 2nd XV have a week off before facing Melksham on the 17th February.