For the second time this season, Minety have dropped valuable league points in the final play of a game. In October a last play penalty saw table topping Combe Down snatch a victory; on Saturday a last play try and conversion saw Melksham grab a 19-19 draw.
Late withdrawals meant that the village team went into the last fixture of the first half of the season with an inexperienced back line and a reduced bench.
Kicking down the slope in the first half, Melksham pushed Minety back deep into their own 22 and it was only strong tackling from Ben Scott and the Minety pack that held them at bay while fly half Tom McAllister’s astute tactical kicking helped relieve the pressure.
Minety began to gain some semblance of control thanks to heavy tackles in the centre from Jack Howse and Chris Rule and lineout dominance from Kieran Tillotsen and Josh Bull.
The home team took the lead in the 14th minute when Melksham were penalised for handling in a ruck and Garin Garland slotted home the ensuing penalty.
Melksham hit back straight from the kick off. Despite some excellent defensive work from full back Duncan Simpson and flanker Rob Hinwood a clever cut back from the Melksham flanker sliced through the defensive line and the visitors had their first try. The conversion was missed but Melksham now held a 5-3 lead.
Minety should have retaken the lead soon after but captain Tom Claxton and Tillotsen were held up on the line and despite massive forward pressure, the Melksham defence held resolute.
Whilst there could be no criticism of their effort, Minety’s tactics of running the ball at the centre of the Melksham defence, and not passing it wide, did play into the visitors’ hands and Melksham extended their lead when the full back entered the line and crashed over for a converted try to take the score to 12-3.
Minety reduced the arrears with a Garland penalty deep into 1st half stoppage time.
Chris Rule scores Minety’s try
The village side took the lead in the opening minute of the 2nd half. When Garland ran a clearance kick back at the Melksham line, first Claxton and then McAllister were held up inches from the line but, from a ruck, Garland fed Rule who thundered over for his first try in Minety1st XV colours. Garland converted the try and Minety led 13-12.
Garland stretched the lead in the 48th minute with a long range penalty kick.
As the home team pushed Melksham back with a combination of kicking and backs’ moves, Garland’s long range penalty kick drifted agonisingly wide in the 54th minute. Eight minutes later, the scrum half was on target with another penalty after Melksham were again penalised at a ruck.
In the gathering gloom, Melksham launched one last attack down the left wing, their fly half out running an exhausted Minety defence to touch down close to the posts. The conversion was successful and the match drawn, 19-19.
The draw keeps Minety in a comfortable 5th place in the 12 team league but Claxton’s men will rue the lost chance to close the gap on Warminster and Avonvale, who are tied for 3rd place.
Minety 2nd XV’s match was cancelled after visitors Devizes were unable to raise a team.
The 1st XV return to action on the 13th January when they take on championship chasing Warminster at Minety Fields.