A much depleted Minety 1st XV fell to a third successive Dorset and Wilts Division 1 defeat on Saturday at the hands of fellow promotion hopefuls, Melksham by 20 -14 at Minety Fields.
Missing 8 regular 1st team players due to injury and unavailability, the village team brought in second team and academy players in a much patched up team but took the fight to a strong Melksham unit.
Playing uphill in the first half on a very heavy pitch, Minety fell behind to Melksham forwards’ try in the 5th minute. The visitors, who sit in second place in the table, doubled their lead in the 27th minute with a pushover try. The home side held their own at lineout and in the scrum and began to exert their own pressure. Despite being penalised heavily at the breakdown, Minety ended the half strongly, with the pack led by captain Andrew Hibbard, matching their more experienced opponents. Melksham were somewhat flattered by a third try in the 33rd minute when a break out and loose ball saw them cross on the right wing.
Minety lost James Stuart, Kieran Gash, Ben Scott and scrum half Will Mason to injuries at the start of the second half and gave a season debut to ex academy player Josh Bull.
Playing downhill, Minety upped their game and began to dominate set pieces. With ex Academy star Garland prompting at scrum half and young Tom McAllister distributing the ball well from fly half, Minety pushed Melksham back and it was only some desperate tackling that saw the home side repelled.
The breakthrough for Minety came in the 69th minute. A throw in was collected by Bull and led to a fine forwards’ drive. The ball was fed to hooker Tom Claxton, who was tackled on the line but the impressive flanker Harry Neal stole the ball to score.
As the minutes ticked away, play became more open and mistakes occurred from both teams, the heavy mud taking its toll. Melksham restored their lead with a try wide out on the right before Minety struck back with the final score of the game with just minutes to play. Robin Greenway, making only his second appearance for the 1st XV this season, broke through the Melksham line and passed to Bull, who raced through to score under the posts. Garland converted to bring the scores to 14-20 but that ended the scoring.
Minety pick up a losing bonus point but slip back to 5th in the table behind runaway leaders Combe Down and the following pack made up of Melksham, Royal Wootton Bassett and Corsham.
Coach Andy Ward was upbeat on the final whistle. “We knew that this was going to be a really tough match. With over half a team unavailable we had to dig deep and ask 2nd XV players and Academy lads to step up and they did a magnificent job against a full strength Melksham team. For the third match running we spent significant time camped out on the opposition line without scoring and that is something that we can only address when we can get out on a pitch to train, something we haven’t been able to do in 2016.”
Captain Andrew Hibbard was equally positive. “I thought the lads did brilliantly. To have a team made up of 2nds, Academy and ex Academy players and push a good team like Melksham like that gives us real hope for the future.” Asked if he could pick out a man of the match, Hibbard replied, “They all deserved it; I couldn’t single anyone out; they all played well.”
Date: Saturday 27th February 2016. Kick off 2.30pm
Venue: Minety Fields, Minety
Weather conditions: Light cloud, cross wind, dry but very heavy underfoot
Competition: Dorset and Wilts Division 1 North
Man of the Match: Whole team shares the honour
Melksham score their first try in 5th minute. 0-5
Melksham extend their lead in 27th minute. 0-10
Melksham score 3rd try in the 33rd minute to lead 0-15
Harry Neal powers over for Minety’s 1st try in 77th minute
Melksham score their 4th try in 72nd minute to lead 7-20
Josh Bull scores Minety’s 2nd try in 80th minute. 14-20
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