One week on from their Senior Vase Final, and with an injury list of epic proportions, Minety travelled to unbeaten Combe Down on Saturday with 14 players and ended the match with just 11.
Whilst the score line of 55 – 10 may give the impression of a hammering, the match was anything but, with the Minety team matching their more illustrious opponents for long periods of the game.
Debutant Will Crisp
Minety gave a debut to centre Will Crisp and used a number of players in new positions to try and manage a Combe Down team averaging over 60 points per match this season against full strength teams.
The villagers more than held their own in the opening exchanges, keeping the ball in centre field and coping well with their numerical disadvantage. Scrum half Mark Glew organised a makeshift pack, brilliantly led by Andrew Hibbard, and Minety soon had Combe Down defending deep in their own 22.
The village side went behind in the 12th minute. Combe Down won a lineout in the Minety half and stretched the play back and forth across the pitch before crossing for a try wide out on the left.
Down’s second try came soon after. Despite ferocious tackling from Glew, Crisp and full back Chris Rule, Minety couldn’t keep out an attack on the right which led to a try beneath the posts. The conversion was successful and the runaway league leaders were 12 – 0 up.
Minety missed the chance to get on the score board in the 25th minute when Ash Windle’s penalty slipped narrowly wide. The contrast in approaches was marked: Minety kept the ball in the centre of the field and used close passing to maintain possession while Combe Down sought to exploit their 1 man advantage by kicking the ball and chasing.
The home side increased their lead in the 30th minute with a try out wide on the right and added a 4th two minutes later, using pace and the width of the pitch to out flank Minety’s defence.
Minety captain Tom Claxton, flanker Gareth Peirce and Hibbard drove the village team back on the attack and their enterprise and endeavour was rewarded when Windle kicked a penalty in the 35th minute.
Two minutes later fly half Dave Cooke took a flying interception and ran 60 metres to score beneath the posts, Windle converting, to bring the score back to a much more respectable and representative 24 – 10.
Fly half Dave Cooke races clear for Minety’s try
Now down to 13 players, with veteran 2nd row Phil Ward withdrawn with a neck injury, Minety battled to see the half out. Crisp’s clever chip through almost set up a second try but the ball bounced unkindly and the chance was lost.
Against the run of play, it was the home side who scored with the last play of the half. A break from deep in their own half saw Combe Down spread the ball wide, stretching the defence, and ended with the right winger scoring beneath the posts.
Minety opened the second half brightly, moving the ball confidently and forcing the home side back. Strong running from Rule, Matt Stone and Crisp pushed the home side deep into their own half and Minety should have had a second try when the overlapping Cooke was free out on the left but the pass went behind and out of play.
With 2nd row Ben Scott dominant at the lineout, Minety more than matched the top of the table outfit but a kick and chase downfield ended with a Combe Down try and a 38 – 10 lead after 53 minutes.
The home side’s 7th try came two minutes later. Once again, Minety were unable to cover a quick break down the left wing.
The 13 men soon became 12 when scrum half Mark Glew’s terrific performance was halted by a nasty leg injury forcing him off the field in the 63rd minute.
Undeterred and outnumbered, Minety were soon back on the attack again, flanker Rob Hinwood stopped metres from the line and then Stone, Scott and prop Colin French all going close.
Windle missed a penalty chance in the closing minutes before Come Down scored two more tries against an exhausted Minety team before the referee called a halt to proceedings when Minety lost fly half Cooke to an ankle injury, leaving the final score 55 – 10.
Dave Peirce, managing the team in coach Andy Grayson’s absence said afterwards, “I was really proud of all the lads. Combe Down are a very good side and have put over 100 points on a couple of teams this season but we gave everything and all the lads can hold their heads up high. It was a fantastic effort from a patched up team. I can’t single out a player for man of the match – they all deserved that accolade.”
In the weekend’s other match, Minety 2nd XV beat Bath Saracens 65 – 22 at Minety Fields to move up to 4th place in Dorset and Wiltshire Division 3.