Minety travelled to Royal Wootton Bassett on Saturday knowing that a win was vital against their nearest rivals, both in the table and geographically.
With club captain Andrew Hibbard unavailable, the village side were further hampered when vice captain Will North pulled out ill on the morning of the match and then hugely influential centre Jack Ward turned an ankle in warm up and was withdrawn.
The hastily re-arranged Minety formation, with many playing out of position, faced a strong Bassett team including a number of 1st teamers returning to action after injury.
Playing downhill, and with a fierce wind behind them, Minety used fly half Tom McAllister’s kicking ability to drive Bassett back deep into their own half to allow the hastily reshuffled village side to settle into the match.
Scrum half Garin Garland kept the ball close to the pack at breakdowns as Minety pressed forward, using the hard charging Tom Windle to make ground down the centre.
Somewhat against the run of play, Bassett took an early lead in the 9th minute. Minety chose to run a ball out of defence, when perhaps a clearance kick would have been the better option. Possession was lost and Bassett’s backs moved the ball swiftly to their right winger, who crossed in the corner.
Minety hit back straight away and flanker Josh Bull was stopped close to the line by a last ditch tackle and from the ensuing ruck, prop Owen Richardson was held up on the line.
Tom Windle scores Minety’s 1st try
A Garland effort was ruled out when Minety were penalised close to the Bassett line before the visitors opened their account after a period of sustained pressure. With Garland orchestrating attack after attack, the scrum half threw a huge pass to centre John Blair who off loaded to Windle who scored out on the left.
Garland’s long range conversion was successful and Minety rebuffed a series of Bassett attacks to go into the break 7-5 up.
Both teams struggled with the blustery conditions. A Bassett penalty kick near their own line caught in the wind and sailed the length of the pitch resulting in a Minety scrum deep in the Bassett 22 metre area.
Minety dominated possession and territory after the break, captain Tom Claxton driving forward on the crash ball while Garland used his backs well to spread play.
Bassett regained the lead with one of their first incursions into Minety territory in the 56th minute. A huge clearance kick pushed the visitors back into their own 22 and when they tried to run the ball out of defence a pass went astray and Bassett pounced to score out wide on the left. An excellent conversion from the touch line extended the home side’s lead to 5 points.
With both sides visibly tiring and the injury count rising alarmingly, the game entered the final quarter with Bassett 12-7 up.
Chris Rule runs in try No. 2
The match was settled in a dramatic 90 second period starting in the 74th minute. Garland spotted a gap and burst through the Bassett defence. From the ruck Claxton fed winger Dave Cooke, who drew the covering defender before passing to full back Chris Rule, who ran in to score Minety’s second try to bring the scores level. Garland’s conversion attempt stalled in the wind.
Straight from the kick off the ball was spilled and Bassett picked up and ran in for their third, and decisive, try beneath the posts. The conversion was successful and despite Minety pressure in the last 5 minutes, the game was lost 19-12.
Coach Craig Smith praised his players for the “massive effort” that they had put in.
Tom Claxton, speaking after the game, said, “It was frustrating; we made two mistakes and were punished for both. The lads put in a terrific shift and I was proud to be captain of a side that put so much into the match.”
Club Chairman Dave Peirce had nothing but praise for the Minety team. “It was a fantastic effort from all the players. They did themselves and the club proud.”
In the weekend’s other game the Minety 2nd XV, captained by Matt Stone, travelled to Swindon and came away with a fine 27-7 victory to boost their position in Dorset and Wilts Division 3 North.