With their two narrow defeats by table topping Bradford on Avon and Combe Down still fresh in the memory, Minety headed into their D&W1N match with newly promoted Avonvale knowing that a win was essential if they were to keep in touching distance of a promotion slot come the end of the season.
Avonvale’s 2017/7 season in Division 2 had been very impressive, 21 wins and a draw, netting them 106 points, and they had brought that compact and well organised approach into Division 1 with some success, winning 5 out of 6 matches and sitting one place above Minety.
Minety took the lead in the 2nd minute. An Avonvale clearance kick was caught by winger Chris Rule just inside his own half. A quick off load to Matt Roberts saw the full back slice through the visitors’ defence, evading 5 defenders before touching down beneath the posts. Scrum half Tom McAllister kicked the conversion and Minety were 7-0 up.
Both teams looked to attack but the defences were well organised and gave little ground.
McAllister extended Minety’s lead in the 8th minute with a 22 metre penalty kick.
Avonvale struck back and got themselves on the scoresheet in the 13th minute with a penalty when Minety were caught not releasing the ball after a tackle.
The home team dominated much of the play in terms of possession and territory but despite some intricate passing moves and intelligent kicking from fly half Adam Watts, they were unable to impose themselves on the well-disciplined and mobile Avonvale defence.
As half time approached it was Avonvale who threatened the Minety line. Attack after attack was thwarted by some brave tackling from the home side’s defence. In the 34th minute Avonvale kicked their second penalty to bring the score to 10-6.
Minety’s task was made even harder when both captain Tom Claxton and hard hitting flanker Ben Sellick were forced off with head injuries. In the re-shuffle Rob Hinwood moved to flanker, Tom Windle to centre and Mark Glew came on as Claxton’s replacement at hooker.
Avonvale started the second half on the front foot and in the 44th minute kicked their third penalty to reduce the arrears to just a single point.
Both teams launched attacks in the next 10 minutes, Minety using their forward power to push down the centre while Avonvale preferred to attack out wide on the flanks. 2nd row Ben Collins, out injured for a month, returned to duties in the 53rd minute when Ashley Windle was injured and McAllister eased the pressure in the 56th minute with his second penalty kick of the game.
Minety’s resources were stretched to the limit when Roberts, always an attacking threat from full back, was forced off with a recurrence of a back injury. Avonvale took advantage of the re-organisation of the Minety back division and brought the gap back to a single point in the 68th minute with their 4th penalty.
The last 10 minutes were played out mainly in mid field and there was certainly relief on the faces of the Minety coaching staff when the final whistle was blown.
After the match coach Andy Grayson said, “We weren’t at our best today and the injuries and changes made life difficult. We started very well but our set piece play at scrum and lineout wasn’t as good as usual but we did enough to win and our game management, especially at the end, was excellent.”
The win keeps Minety in 5th place in the league but they will need to win again at 9th placed Trowbridge next week if they are to bridge the gap to the top 4 teams.
In the weekend’s other match, Matt Stone’s Minety 2nd XV overcame Bath Saracens by 52-17 and moved up into 5th place in D&W3N.