Minety 1st XV’s remarkable season ended with a brilliant 29-20 victory over Dorset and Wilts Division 1 North champions, Combe Down, in front of a large crowd at Minety Fields on Saturday.
Combe Down had only tasted defeat once this season, by a single point at Corsham, and arrived at Minety looking to end their season on a high but the village team pulled together for a win which leaves them in a very creditable 4th in the table, only missing out on a top 3 position by points difference to Melksham.
The first quarter was an evenly matched affair, both teams spreading play out wide and Minety holding the champions’ attacks with some fine tackling, especially by flankers Stephen Brown and Harry Neal.
Minety took the lead in the 22nd minute with a Garin Garland penalty. Another Garland penalty in the 30th minute extended Minety’s lead to 6 points.
Minety’s first try came on 36 minutes. A defensive kick was caught by winger David Cooke who threw a long pass infield to Garland. His pass to full back Dale Langdown caught the entire Combe Down defence flat footed and the full back raced through to score wide on the left.
Garland’s fine long range conversion took the score to 13-0.
The league champions hit back with the final play of the first half. Stealing the ball from a Minety scrum, they crashed over for an unconverted try to leave the half time score at 13-5.
Playing uphill in the second half, Andy Ward’s team knew they had to start strongly to defend their lead but Combe Down struck early. A missed tackle in midfield left an overlap on the left wing for a try to be scored. 13-10.
Minety’s fighting spirit, which saw them win the Dorset and Wilts Vase earlier in the season, shone through and, after Garland was tackled in mid field, fly half Jack Ward cleared out an attacker allowing flanker Brown to pick up and race through from 30 metres. Garland converted and Minety were 20-10 up. A Combe Down penalty on 49 minutes reduced the lead but two more Garland penalties in the 54th and 67th minutes stretched the lead to 26-13 entering the final quarter.
Minety were reduced to 14 men for persistent infringements near to their own line on 74 minutes and conceded a penalty try shortly after as Combe Down fought back.
A Garland penalty deep in injury time ending the scoring with Minety 29-20 victories in a pulsating match.
Captain Andrew Hibberd could hardly contain his joy at the end. “We were really up for that match from the start. It was a superb team performance both in defence and attack. I’ve really enjoyed my time as captain this season and this result ends our campaign perfectly.”
Coach Andy Ward, in his last match as 1st team coach, was emotional at the final whistle. “I really believed in this team. I knew they had it in them for once last, magnificent effort. Our set pieces worked well. We dominated at lineout and scrummaged so much better in the second half. It was a real hearts and pride performance. I’m so proud of all of them.”
Man of the Match: Jack Ward
Date: Saturday 23rd April 2016. Kick off 3pm
Venue: Minety Fields
Weather conditions: Sunny and breezy
Competition: Dorset and Wilts Division 1 North
Click on a photograph to bring it up full screen size.
Minety warm up before start
Stephen Brown (7) and Garin Garland
Stephen Brown, David Cooke and Andrew Hibberd
Centre, Robin Greenway
Pre match huddle
Cliff Garland, Ryan Simoes, Debra and Andrew Hibberd
Ryan, Debra and Wallace joined by the referee and Combe Down captain
Guest for the day, Ryan Simoes tosses the coin