Minety’s fine run of victories in Dorset and Wilts Division 1 North came to an end when they were edged out 25-22 by unbeaten Combe Down in an encounter decided by the last kick of the match.
The match started under leaden skies and blustery wind.
Playing up the slope, and into the wind, Minety found themselves having to defend desperately in the opening exchanges as the confident Combe Down outfit launched attack after attack.
The visitors opened the scoring in the 5th minute when Minety were punished at the ruck in front of the posts.
The home side attacked from the restart, scrum half Garin Garland and fly half Adam Watts combining well to push the visitors back onto their line. Strong forward play from captain Tom Claxton and Number 8 Andrew Hibbard maintained the momentum and when second row Ash Windle caught a lineout ball and set up a ruck on the try line, Garland picked up and dived over for Minety’s first try. The young scrum half converted his try and the home side led 7-3.
Minety increased the lead in the 15th minute. Winning a scrum 20 metres out from the Combe Down line, Hibbard set up a ruck and when Garland kicked ahead, flanker Josh Bull was the first to react, catching the ball and diving over.
Combe Down struck back and only some desperate tackling by the home defence kept the league leaders at bay. The pressure led to Minety being penalised and the visiting fly half converted the penalty to bring the score back to 12-6.
Both sides defied the deteriorating conditions, choosing to pass the ball along the line and stretch the defences and it was the visitors who profited next. Minety, unable to gain any ground kicking into the fierce wind, tried to break out down the centre but the ball was lost and from the subsequent scrum, the ball was fed to the full back who won a sprint to the corner flag to touch down for their opening try.
A single point separated the sides as they headed into stoppage time at the end of the first half.
A ruck out on the right, on the Come Down 22 metre line, was secured by Minety. Garland fed Watts and Claxton took the ball on. Prop Colin French set up another ruck and Watts’ long pass was taken by full back Matt Roberts who burst through the defence to score Minety’s 3rd try. Garland converted and the village team led 19-11 at half time.
Given that the visitors had only conceded one try and only 10 points in total in their first 4 league matches, Minety had put in a fine 40 minutes of rugby.
With the advantage of the slope and the wind, the home side started the second half in confident mood, winger Tom McAllister jinking through the visitors’ defence and Watts using the conditions intelligently to kick Minety deep into Combe Down territory.
Against the run of play, Combe Down registered the first points of the second half when sloppy defensive work allowed their winger to burst through for a try to bring the score back to 19-16.
The away side adapted better to the deteriorating conditions as a fine drizzle made both ball and ground slippery. Only fine tackling from winger Duncan Simpson and flanker Kieran Tillotson maintained the slender home lead.
The scores were tied at 19 all when Minety were caught offside in front of their posts and the visitors edged ahead in the 71st minute with another penalty.
Minety struck back with just 4 minutes left. Strong running from centre Tom Windle, Roberts and Simpson pushed Combe Down back and when the visitors were penalised at the ruck, Garland kicked the penalty to tie the match at 22-22.
A cruel bounce of the ball from a high kick put Minety on the back foot as both teams went for the win. A penalty, a throw in and three rucks later, Minety were penalised and with the last kick of the match, Combe Down took the win 25-22.
The visitors’ post-match celebrations contrasted with dismay on the faces of the Minety players.
Coach Andy Grayson was philosophical in defeat. “We played our best half of rugby in the first half and the worst half of rugby in the second. I’m really disappointed. We should have put the game to bed at half time. We let it slip. Now we must make sure that it doesn’t happen again. “
Next week Minety travel to the other unbeaten team in the league Bradford on Avon.
In the weekend’s other fixture, tries from Rob Hinwood, Jon Blair (2) and Dale Langdown saw Mienty 2nd’s overcome Swindon III’s by 34-19 in D&W3N.