Somerset Premier
Minehead Barbarians 27, Burnham-on-Sea 24

AFTER a year-long unbeaten league run stretching back to January 2019, Burnham-on-Sea finally tasted defeat in a classic game of two halves away to third-placed Minehead Barbarians on Saturday, writes Lee Berry.

The hosts made the better start, keeping the Stags on the back foot for much of the first half.

Poor discipline and decision-making allowed Minehead to take control, and after 10 minutes they took the lead through Ryan Lewis’ unconverted try.

The home side continued to apply pressure, forcing errors, and two more tries - Lewis with his second and then Hole scoring - made it 17-0 at half-time.

Along came the hair dryer treatment, as coach Kevin Inalls didn’t hold back at half-time.

Changes were made, with Tom Wall, Sam Wall and Scott Mills coming off for Tom Stevens, Luke Gowan - returning after dislocating his elbow in October - and debutant Asbel Rodriguez.

Stevens and Gowan were an instant hit in the forwards and the cohesion over the next 20 minutes showed why the Stags are league leaders.

They clawed back all 17 points and took a 19-17 lead with some sublime flowing rugby.

Gowan grabbed the first try, converted by Tim Piper, then Sam Lewis scored from the back of a driving maul, and finally Stef Pierce sprang off the back of another maul to take the lead.

Minehead found a way to disrupt the Stags’ momentum, though - keeping hold of the ball.

The hosts surged forward and won a 5m scrum, from where Hole scored again, and former Exeter Chiefs player Charlie Walker-Blair peeled off a maul soon after to make it 27-19.

Gowan bagged his second try for Burnham to set up a tense final 10 minutes, but Minehead closed it out to beat the league leaders in what was probably the best game of the season so far.

Reflecting on Saturday’s defeat, Burnham captain Ross McKechan told the Weekly News: “After a poor first half, we found ourselves 17 points behind.

“We allowed Minehead to dictate territory and possession through ill-discipline and a number of errors, which they capitalised on.

“We started the second half well, scoring three quick tries, which gave us a narrow lead.

“Fair play to Minehead, who came back at us and forced mistakes, which led to two more tries.

“We responded with a fourth score, which secured two points, and although we pushed hard for the winning score, we were unable to get it.

“It was disappointing that our unbeaten run has come to an end, but we have come a long way in two seasons and still sit at the top of the pile with eight games remaining.”

Burnham will look to bounce back at home to Weston-super-Mare 2nds this Saturday.