Minety bravely held on to defeat 2nd placed Warminster in a 7 try thriller at Minety Fields on Saturday in Dorset and Wilts Division 1 North, emerging 28-27 victors in a pulsating encounter.
When the two sides met in September it was Warminster who came out on top in a tight match and the two sides, evenly matched and with complimentary playing styles, continued where they left off.
Much of the pre match speculation revolved around how the referee and players would respond to the new laws introduced by World Rugby on 3rd January regarding high tackles and contact with the head. In the event two players, one from each team, spent 10 minutes on the side-lines for high tackles but that apart, the game was a fine advertisement for local rugby.
For the first time in many weeks, Minety coach Richard Hall was able to put out something akin to his strongest team with a powerful set of forwards and influential Dave Church and Jack Ward renewing their partnership in the centres.
Playing down the slope in the first half, Warminster used a kicking game early on to push Minety back into their own 22 metre area.
Warminster’s Fijian centres were a real handful in the previous match and their ability to switch play and exploit the merest of defensive gaps caught Minety in the 9th minute allowing their fly half to chip over the advancing defence and score beneath the posts.
Both teams enjoyed the excellent playing surface, played on one of Minety’s reserve pitches after the main pitch was declared too wet for rugby, and the ball was run at every opportunity.
Ben Langridge scores 1st try
Minety were reduced to 14 men when lock forward Ash Windle was yellow carded for a late tackle in the 21st minute but hit back when Minety captain Andrew Hibbard exploited some loose ball, kicked ahead and fly half Tom McAllister fed winger Ben Langridge who ran in to score from 30 metres out. Scrum half Garin Garland pushed the conversion wide, but Minety were back in the game.
Warminster were reduced to 14 men after a head high tackle on McAllister and Garland slotted home the subsequent penalty to give Minety a slender 8-7 lead.
Warminster struck back in the 34th minute when their winger collected a pass 20 metres out , avoided three tackles and ran in to score from 80 metres.
Garin (hidden) scores 2nd try
Minety’s response was to lay siege to the Warminster line and Garland, one of the smallest players on the pitch, somehow managed to smuggle the ball over for Minety’s 2nd try, which he converted.
In the closing minute of the half Warminster re-took the lead with a penalty.
Minety struck back in dramatic fashion at the start of the second half. Garland collected a clearance kick and ran back at the heart of the Warminster defence before off-loading to Ash Windle who shrugged off 5 tackles on his way to score under the posts. Garland’s conversion took the score to 22-17 for the hosts.
Only some desperate last ditch tackling from Church and wingers Langridge and Dave Cooke prevented Warminster from scoring as the game entered its final quarter.
Ash powers through for try No. 3
The home team’s desire to run the ball from their own line in the 61st minute cost them dear. An intercepted pass and then a ruck saw Warminster’s fly half touch down wide out on the right. The conversion was missed but the scores were now locked at 22 all.
Minety’s woes were compounded at the re-start when Langridge was yellow carded for a high tackle but they re-grouped and changed tactics. Playing downhill and one man down, Minety resorted to tactical kicking to keep Warminster pinned in their own half.
Garland restored Minety’s lead in the 76th minute with a penalty.
The final minutes were pulsating – both teams abandoning defence for all out attack, flinging the ball from side to side, much to the crowd’s delight and the obvious frustration of both sets of coaches. Garland extended the lead to 6 points with another penalty as the game entered stoppage time.
But there was to be a sting in the tail; in the final play of the match, Warminster won a scrummage against the head, spread the ball out wide and scored a try in the corner.
The match was decided on a long range conversion which fell agonisingly short for Warminster and Minety emerged victors by 28-27.
Congratulations to players, officials and coaches alike – it was great entertainment.
Minety joint Men of the Match: Ash and Tom Windle.
Joint man of the match – Ash Windle