On an afternoon ideal for rugby, bright, windless and dry Minety welcomed Chippenham to Minety Fields for an eagerly awaited Division 1 clash writes Peter McAllister
Chippenham started the game playing down the hill with the sun behind them but it was the home side who started strongly, driving into the Chippenham 22 with Number 8 Andrew Hibbard carrying the ball into contact. The Minety scrum set the tone for the match by completely dominating the set piece, immoveable on their own put in and driving Chippenham backwards on theirs.
The villagers put together a series of fine passages of play following a smart pick up by winger Ben Langridge out wide but the chance of an opening score was thwarted when Chippenham were awarded a penalty.
Nevertheless Minety’s persistence was rewarded in the 10th minute with a penalty from just outside the Chippenham 22 which scrum half Garin Garland converted to give Minety a 3-0 lead.
Chippenham came back strongly but the Minety defence stayed resolute and forced Chippenham to kick the ball away.
The visitors continued to press and after 20 minutes Minety lost their own line-out 5 metres from their try line and Chippenham took full advantage, cutting through to score a try. The conversion was missed but Chippenham led 5-3.
The game was evenly balanced, Minety defending fiercely, winger Langridge in particular putting in some decisive tackles on the very dangerous Chippenham backs whilst the Minety forwards held the upper hand against their opponents. Even though Minety began to dominate and gained good field position they contrived to knock the ball on or lose possession. A penalty kick went wide of the posts and Minety found themselves 5-3 down at half time despite their overall superiority.
The second half saw Minety attacking downhill and early pressure led to a penalty opportunity but again the kick drifted wide.
Chippenham always looked dangerous with a quick back line and a large pack so it was no surprise that the game see-sawed back and forth. Minety’s excellent tackling and dominance in the scrum was counter balanced by Chippenham’s lineout superiority and all round pace.
A kick and catch by fly half Will Mason, making his first appearance of the season, pushed the home side into the Chippenham 22 again and the subsequent pressure resulted in a penalty in front of the posts which Garland coolly slotted to edge Minety into a 6-5 lead.
The Minety scrum was so effective against the large Chippenham pack that it consistently drove the opposition back and it was surprising that the advantage didn’t convert into points for Minety. The match took an unexpected turn in the 61st minute when Chippenham cleared the ball quickly from a retreating scrum and then fashioned a fine try with a set piece backs move to score under the posts. The successful conversion moved Chippenham into a 6-12 lead.
With time against them Minety had to respond but their desperation to force the play often led to handling errors which allowed Chippenham to reset and gain possession. However, the home team’s determination and superiority told; a great break by Mason was ended by a high tackle but Garland responded quickest and scurried over to score under the post. The try was converted and Minety moved back into a slender 13-12 lead.
The game continued to be competitive as both teams took advantage of each other’s errors – Minety winning the scrums and Chippenham taking the lineouts.
In the end the game was decided following sustained defensive pressure from Minety on the Chippenham 22. The ball went loose and 2nd row Matt Stone pounced to pick it up in midfield and race through unopposed under the posts to score the decisive try. Garland’s conversion was successful taking the score to 20 – 12 with just moments remaining.
Minety were deserved winners but the fact that Ben Langridge was named Man of the Match for his tackling and defensive duties were a measure of how competitive the game was. Special praise was also reserved to the pack and, in particular the Minety front row of Mark Glew, captain Tom Claxton and Andy Darrall.
(Match photographs to follow, care of Terry Parker and Wilts Glos Standard)