In distinctly gloomy conditions on Saturday afternoon an Adam Watts try at the end of the first half was sufficient for the village side to overcome Swindon in Dorset and Wilts Division 1 North.
A wet pitch and a troublesome wind always meant that the match would be a territorial battle with little flowing or expansive rugby, and so it proved to be.
Playing into a swirling wind and rain, Minety dominated possession and territorial advantage in the first twenty minutes of the game, pinning Swindon back into their own half and forcing the play. After 20 minutes Swindon lost one of their backs, yellow carded, and the pressure on their line grew.
The wet ball and greasy conditions made running play difficult but it was surprising that it took the village side 25 minutes before they opened the scoring, scrum half Garin Garland slotting home a penalty from 22 metres out after Swindon forwards were penalised for going off their feet in a ruck.
Minety were straight back on the attack from the kick off. Excellent territorial kicking from Garland, fly half Tom McAllister and full back Adam Watts pushed play back into the Swindon half and some tenacious tackling by the Minety forwards ensured that Swindon only ventured in the Minety half on a handful of occasions in the first half hour.
The pressure told in the 32nd minute when Swindon were forced back onto their own line. A fumbled pass over their own in goal line gave Minety a scrum 5 metres out. The pack held firm and Garland quickly flicked the ball out to McAllister whose pass to outside centre Jack Ward split the home defence. Ward shrugged off two defenders before popping the ball to full back Watt who crossed easily for the opening try. The conversion was missed in the swirling wind but Minety were now 8 points up.
The village side lost prop Gareth Thomas to a lower back injury and McAllister’s movement was restricted when he picked up an ankle problem. In the closing minutes of the first half Minety pressed forward again in search of a second try but resolute defence from Swindon kept them at bay until the final play of the half when the home forwards were caught off side and Garland scored with the resultant penalty to take Minety into a reasonably comfortable 11 point lead at half time.
It seemed as if the domination would continue in the second half when flanker Josh Bull caught the kick off, chipped over the Swindon defence and was only just beaten to the ball inches from the Swindon line.
The first 10 minutes of the second half were spent with the team camped in the Swindon 22. Bull and debutant James Thompson troubled the Swindon forwards all match. In the wet conditions, with ball carrying at a premium, they were there to pick up loose ball time after time.
Minety’s lead was extended to 14 in the 52nd minute with another Garland penalty but they were caught flat footed almost immediately. Possession was lost from the kick off and the Swindon full back was able to pick up and run in for a try, which was converted. With their lead cut to 7 Minety lost shape and Swindon at last saw some possession in their opponents’ half.
It came as something of a relief when Minety were able to break free without conceding any more points. Once again Swindon forwards were caught offside and Garland kicked the penalty to push the visitors’ lead out to 10 points.
In a frantic last 10 minutes, in the fading light, Swindon mounted attack after attack on the Minety line and when Minety were penalised for not releasing after a tackle, Swindon took a quick penalty and moved the ball out wide to the right, scoring by the corner post. The conversion was missed and Minety were able to hold on for a fine away win by 17-12.
Minety coach Richard Hall was full of praise for his players. “I thought they played with real passion today. We pressurised a really good Swindon team into making errors and capitalised on them. It was a great win played in dreadful conditions. All I am concerned about is our tendency to switch off for short stretches in our games. It happened again today and cost us 7 points.”
Captain Andrew Hibbard relished playing in the muddy conditions. “We’re used to the mud, playing at Minety. We were all over them in the first half and at the start of the second but then we had that quiet spell and lost our shape and momentum. We’ve got a hard match next week against Melksham and we need to be at our best for the full match if we’re going to win that one.”
Man of the Match: Josh Bull for a tremendous all round performance, especially his ability to turn loose ball into Minety possession.
In the weekend’s other match, Minety 2nd XV travelled to Westbury with just 13 players but came away with an amazing 62 – 0 win. At one stage the Minety were down to 12 men after an injury but still ran in a number of tries.