MINEHEAD Barbarians took a big scalp on Saturday when they beat a determined Imperial side who had yet to lose a game since the start of the season.
And their 15-14 win lifted them to second in Somerset Division One, just a point behind leaders Bristol Barbarians.
In perfect conditions for the two running sides to go head to head, Minehead kicked off and Imperial made their intentions clear early on, using their experienced scrum half to kick the ball deep into the Minehead 22.
The defence held firm for the first ten minutes, but then a penalty for playing the ball on the floor led to Imperial putting three points on the board.
Minehead bounced straight back, putting their phases together and using their key runners in R Lewis, Swann and Parker to good effect.
With Justin Harris at fly-half and Westcott and Sam Lewis in the centres there was plenty of experience out wide, the latter two regularly finding space and giving James and Lamacraft plenty of room to run on the wings.
Imperial couldn’t handle the pressure that was building and gave away a penalty just inside their 22 from a high tackle which Westcott calmly slotted over to level the scores after 20 minutes.
Imperial came back with the same game plan, kicking the ball deep from the base of the rucks to push Minehead back down the park.
They tried to find space in all areas, but Minehead have the best defence in the division for a reason and gave little away, with only another penalty from a questionable decision from the referee adding three points to Imperial’s tally.
In reply, Minehead crossed the whitewash twice before half-time – first, when Harris was stopped just short after a blind side carry, James Cox plucked the ball with one hand and reached over for the try, then Sam Lewis crossed shortly, rounding his man with a good hand off then cutting inside the full back to race under the posts.
An easy conversion for Westcott put the Barbarians 15-6 up at the break.
The second half was an even affair, but with no points coming for the Barbarians, and they will be seething at the missed opportunities and final passes which didn’t go to hand.
Imperial used their pack well, keeping the running channels short and using their no 8 to good effect, and they scored a try ten minutes into the half when their sizeable prop crashed over from short range.
That closed the gap to 15-11, and the final 30 minutes felt like an hour for Minehead as they had to defend for the most part, with Swann, Willes, Richards and Simms working like Trojans, and Kyle Lewis again solid at full back, coping well with the high balls.
Imperial slotted over another penalty with 15 minutes to go, leaving just one point between the two sides, and with Minehead having a chance at goal themselves just after but the kick going wide, it was all to play for.
The Barbarians brought on their experienced subs in Parsons, Henson and Farmer to slow the game and try and keep the ball in hand, and they held strong to the crowd’s delight, seeing out the final minutes to earn themselves another three points.
There is no game for the 1st XV this weekend, with their next match away game to Wellington II next Saturday.
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