Dorchester 58 - Minety 14
Given less than a week to prepare for arguably their biggest match of the season did not bode well for Minety on Saturday.
After the original date for the Dorset and Wilts Vase Final was postponed due to waterlogging of the pitches at Warminster, Minety had just 4 days to garner a team together for the final but the 17 players who represented the team will be forever remembered for the huge effort they put in to provide a stiff test for a full strength, and hitherto unbeaten Dorchester team, riding high at the top of the Dorset and Wilts Division 1 South table.
Whilst the final score of 58 – 14 may suggest a drubbing, this was anything but that. Unfortunately, two key injuries, the first a head injury to influential fly half Sam Hughes which forced him off mid way through the first half, the second to second row Ben Scott in the second half, disrupted Minety’s game plan and left them struggling against a well organised and efficient Dorchester team.
On a pitch still showing signs of the recent waterlogging, an in overcast and cold conditions, Dorchester kicked off the match playing towards the club house end of Warminster’s main pitch.
Dorchester’s hard running backs and a very powerful pack had Minety on the back foot from the outset and the Dorset team’s opening try came in the 6th minute when their outside centre evaded a tackle wide out on the left wing to cross near the corner flag.
Minety struck back almost immediately. After pushing Dorchester back with some fluent moves in midfield, fly half Hughes was on had to pick up an intercepted pass and run half the length of the pitch to score near the posts. Hughes’s conversion pushed Minety into a 7-5 lead.
The lead was shortlived; straight from the kick off the ball went to ground and the Number 7 picked up and crashed over for Dorchester’s second try, this time wide out on the right. Dorchester increased their lead in the 17th minute, the Minety scrum being pushed back over the line and the Number 8 touching down for a try, converted with an excellent kick from wide out on the right hand side.
Minety’s front rowers Hugo Beanland, Colin French and Mark Glew pushed Dorchester back into their 22 but Hughes picked up a nasty blow to the side of the head while making a tackle in mid field and Minety lost their play maker for the rest of the match. Player coach James Irvine swapped to fly half to cover for the injured Hughes with Sam Thompson coming on to play on the wing, Matt Stone switching to centre duties with Dave Cooke.
Minety struck back through inspirational captain Andrew Hibbard in the 36th minute. Having scored tries in both of Minety’s recent visits to the Vase final in 2015 and 2018, Hibbard was keen to complete his “hat trick”. A rolling maul involving most of the Minety forwards pushed the towards the Dorchester 22 metre line and Hibbard emerged with the ball to race in and score. Irvine’s conversion was successful and Minety had cut the lead to 19-14.
Dorchester restored and extended their lead to 29-14 in the dying moments of the half with two more tries, the second in the 8th minute of stoppage time as Minety visibly tired.
The early exchanges of the second half were dominated by Dorchester who pushed Minety back with wave after wave of attacks, each repelled by some fine defensive work from the village team. James Stuart, who endured a two and a half hour drive to get to the match to support the team, entered the fray as coach Irvine tried to freshen up the attack. The pressure told in the 47th minute when Dorchester’s No 21 was on the end of a move, crossing for a try wide out on the right wing.
With Hibbard, ably supported by Scott and the other forwards, Minety fought back and some pleasing moves in the backs saw Irvine and full back Chris Rule combine to press Dorchester back into their own half, scrum half Del Murray setting up the backs to attack down the left. Minety were unlucky not to score when flanker Kieran Tillotson charged down a Dorchester clearance but the ball bounced awkwardly into touch with the try line beckoning.
The game was soured shortly after, in the 56th minute, when second row Ben Scott was left on the ground after a ruck and needed medical attention on the pitch and then a trip in an ambulance to Bath Hospital at the end of the game. With some Minety players concerned about their stricken colleague and both referee and linesman following the ball as it was cleared from the ruck, play continued and ended when Dorchester scored their 7th try, the conversion, from long range, striking the cross bar on the way.
With Scott still prone on the touchlines as an ambulance was called, an exhausted Minety team conceded three late tries to leave the final score a slightly flattering 58-14 in favour of Dorchester.
If, sometime in the future, someone writes about this game in a club history, I hope that the score will not be the only detail mentioned. Credit goes to all 17 of the players who wore the Purple and Green – they gave everything and I, for one, was hugely proud of each and every one of them.
Team: Hugo Beanland, Mark Glew, Colin French, Ben Scott, Matt Chisholm, Kieran Tillotson, Jay Thompson, Andrew Hibbard, Del Murray, Sam Hughes, Rob Hinwood, James Irvine, Dave Cooke, Matt Stone, Chris Rule, Sam Thompson and James Stuart