Minety’s bright start to 2019 has hit the buffers hard. After two fine wins at the start of the month, Andy Grayson’s team have now suffered back to back losses against Sutton Benger and Trowbridge, teams that they would have expected to beat earlier in the campaign.
Saturday’s 15 – 0 defeat by fellow mid table team Trowbridge was the first time that Minety have suffered a “shut out” since March 2018, when they were on the end of a hammering by eventual champions Bradford on Avon.
On a pitch dampened by a pre match shower and in rather blustery conditions, the home side kicked off up the slope, the team showing a number of changes to the line-up, with, once again, numerous players playing out of their usual positions.
Early signs were good with the new half back combination of Garin Garland and Dave Cooke using their powerful forwards to push Trowbridge back. Flanker Mark Glew was only stopped inches from the line in the 2nd minute while number 8 Andrew Hibbard was on the end of another move that ended with a thumping tackle close to the visitors line as Minety sought an early lead.
Garin Garland before his injury
Having seen off Minety’s early pressure, Trowbridge kicked their way into home territory and began to move the slippery ball confidently but were thwarted by fine tackles from winger Chris Rule, flanker Morgan Aubrey and full back Duncan Simpson.
Trowbridge opened the scoring in the 7th minute. A missed tackle in midfield allowed their fly half to slice through the Minety defence and, although he was stopped, the ball broke to the outside centre who cleverly cut back against the direction of play to touch down beneath the posts. The conversion was straight forward and Trowbridge led 7-0.
For the second week running an injury proved pivotal to the outcome of the game. Last week Minety lost specialist fly half Sam Hughes to a concussion; this week it was Minety’s top point scorer and play maker scrum half Garland, suffering a dislocated shoulder in the 12th minute. The injury forced coach Grayson to make a number of changes, moving flanker Glew to scrum half and shuffling his pack, introducing Matt Chisholm to the action.
The Minety pack, which despite being smaller than most opposition 8’s, has been dominant this season, once again proved its worth, pushing Trowbridge back. When Hibbard picked up at the back of a scrum and dived for the line most thought Minety had scored; sadly, the referee didn’t see it that way and brought play back for a reset scrum. Despite all of their pressure, Minety were unable to score and the game became a forwards battle in midfield although Trowbridge always looked dangerous when the play became open and their quick backs could attack down the flanks.
Hibbard reaches for the line
Another break down the middle almost saw Trowbridge through for their second try but the ball was dislodged in a tackle allowing Matt Stone to counter attack down the wing, with Hibbard in support as Minety tried to clear their lines. With props Colin French and Andy Darrall tackling hard and closing down space, Minety were able to hold Trowbridge in midfield.
Minety’s scrum and lineout continued to dominate but with so many positional changes, they lacked the ability to be able to clear their lines and set up the type of flowing rugby that categorised their early season successes.
In the final minute of the half Trowbridge increased their lead with a penalty to end the half 10-0 to the good.
The visitors started the second half strongly but once again, fearless tackling from the Minety players, notably Aubrey and fellow flanker Gareth Peirce, held them back as both teams sought to move the ball on a pitch that was cutting up quickly. Free running centre Jack Howse was always a threat to the visitors while the pack held firm and Ben Scott and Hibbard continued their domination at lineout.
Ben Scott takes another lineout
Coach Grayson brought on Gareth Thomas for Darrall on the hour and introduced Del Murray at fly half, moving Cooke back to his accustomed position on the wing.
Trowbridge effectively settled the match shortly after with their second try, scored by their centre as the Minety defence tried to re-organise. The conversion was successfully charged down by Simpson but with the rain falling and the scrummages now deemed “uncontested” after Trowbridge withdrew a prop and were unable to replace him, Minety’s final chances slipped away in the mud.
Morgan Aubrey & Chris Rule tackle
Coach Grayson was philosophical at the end. “I thought we put in and immense effort and I can’t fault any of the 18 players who wore the Minety shirt. We had so many players in unaccustomed positions and no real system to fall back on but they gave everything. For his tackling and rucking, my Man of the Match must go to Morgan Aubrey.”
Man of the Match: Morgan Aubrey
Next week Minety have a very welcome week off.