For the second week running Minety came up agonisingly short against an unbeaten side in Dorset and Wilts Division 1, losing to league leaders Bradford on Avon by 13-8. After last week’s stoppage time loss to Combe Down, Tom Claxton’s team knew that their stiffest challenge of the season lay ahead at Bradford on Avon, top of the division and boasting winning bonus points in every match this season.
To make their task even tougher, Minety played almost 70 minutes with 14 players after centre Dave Church and 2nd row Ash Windle were yellow carded in the first half and then Church received a second yellow and was sent off early in the second half.
On a well prepared pitch, both teams had to contend with a gale blowing across the ground, making place and penalty kicking something of a lottery.
The pattern for the match was established in the opening 5 minutes with Minety pushing Bradford back with a combination of slick back moves and crunching forward tackling.
Bradford’s first attack in the 8th minute was stopped on the line by a fine tackle from outside centre Jack Howse supported by Claxton and Church. With Windle dominating at the base of the lineout and fly half Jack Ward kicking well to touch, Minety forced their way back into what was fast becoming a real battle.
Bradford took the lead in the 16th minute from a penalty after Church was yellow carded for a perceived high tackle.
If the table toppers thought the 14 men of Minety would be easy picking, they were soon disabused of this; Minety roared back into attack, scrum half Garin Garland managing his pack and forwards Andrew Hibbard, Colin French and James Stuart making inroads into the Bradford defence while Ward and full back Matt Roberts sought defensive weaknesses out wide.
Bradford extended their lead in the 27th minute, moving the ball across from right to left and exploiting their extra man. The try, out on the left, was not converted and the home side led by 8-0.
Full back Roberts almost found a way through in the 30th minute, halted close to the line as Minety pushed for their opening score.
The tackling was ferocious from both teams as Minety pinned Bradford back in their 22. Forwards Ben Scott and French were denied by last gasp tackles while Ward, Church and Howse held centre ground as Bradford tried to break the shackles.
Minety’s persistence was rewarded in the 33rd minute when Bradford were penalised for holding on and Garland kicked the penalty.
A Roberts break and a Claxton drive were both held up metres from the line as Minety drove for an equalising try but the village team were reduced to 14 men again when Windle was yellow carded on the stroke of half time.
Minety brought on Rob Hinwood for the tiring Stuart at half time, the latter having put in a tremendous, energy sapping shift in the 1st 40 minutes.
As both teams pushed forward, gaps appeared in defence and it was only a brilliant saving tackle by Garland that stopped an almost certain Bradford try in the 44th minute.
The 14 soon became 13 when Church picked up a second yellow card and was sent off.
Bradford extended their lead in the 53rd minute. Ward’s kick to touch stalled in the wind and was then blown back into centre field. The home team collected the loose ball and with a smooth passing move their outside centre scored wide out on the right.
But if anything is to sum up Minety’s efforts thus far it is their determination and effort. 13-3 down with one man short to the league leaders, they simply would not lie down and it was the terrier like Garland who spotted a gap and raced 25 metres to score their try to bring the score back to 13-8 in the 56th minute.
Both sides threw everything into the final 20 minutes in what was a fine advert for everything that is good about league rugby. Minety lost hard working French to a leg injury in the 74th minute but left nothing out on the pitch as they stood up to the Bradford team.
Minety’s consolation 1 league point for a close loss was no reward for their efforts and Bradford came away knowing that they’d been in a real battle.
In the weekend’s other fixture, Matt Stone’s 2nd XV recorded a fine away win at Melksham by 50-15 with Scott Glew scoring his first try for Minety.