Maximum points for gale force Thorns
Thornbury 29-3 Cleve
THORNBURY scored three second-half tries into a fierce gale to turn a worryingly small half-time lead into a comfortable victory over Cleve.
After the previous week’s win over North Petherton Thorns faced a Cleve side that had struggled for most of the season and were one place above the relegation places with only a single point advantage over Newent. Thornbury had won 29-14 at the Hayfields last October.
The ongoing extreme weather forced a switch of fixture to the 3G pitch at North Bristol RFC and Thornbury kicked off under low cloud with a gale behind them.
Theywent ahead on two minutes when, after regaining possession, Sam Poustie cross-kicked for Jonny Sanderson to gather the ball and score in the corner. The conversion was blown wide but Thorns had the perfect start.
Thorns nearly scored a second from the restart when a Harry Glew box kick was mis-fielded and Rich Bennett gathered the loose ball and ran hard into the Cleve 22, but Thorns were unable to capitalise. And that was the nature of the game for the remainder of the first quarter, with Thorns in command but unable to score. A long pass from Sam Poustie put Sanderson in for a second but the wind blew the pass forward and the try was disallowed.
Early in the second quarter Thorns scored again and it was largely due to the individual brilliance of Alfie Richardson. Thorns won a scrum in their 22 and Cleve’s backline, expecting a clearing kick, gave him time and space to run in. He exploited the gap between outside centre and wing and roared away with Rich Bennett on his shoulder for support and as a distraction to the Cleve defence. A swerve, a step and searing pace saw him run around to ground the ball between the posts. Sam Poustie converted for a 12-0 lead.
Shortly afterwards a kick and chase involving Rich Bennett saw Cleve centre Greg Welling yellow-carded for obstruction but Thorns were unable to add to their tally. Cleve defended well, including repelling a driving lineout that looked to have try written all over it. Kieran Wilson came on to give Johnny Heaven a breather and shortly afterwards a clearing kick by Alfie Richardson in his own ‘22’ was carried by the wind all the way over the Cleve dead-ball line. Thus a scrum to Cleve in Thornbury’s red zone but good defence kept the line intact. Half-time came with Thorns leading 12-0 and many concerned Thornbury supporters feared that lead was not enough to face the wind in the second half.
Their worries looked justified as Cleve started the second half well but they only managed a penalty to reduce arrears to 12-3 before Thornbury’s pack got on top and monopolised possession.
As the third quarter drew to a close Thornbury extended their lead attacking from a scrum on the Cleve ‘22’, with good hands creating the chance for Rich Bennett to score. The conversion was blown back but Thorns were now 17-3 up.
Cleve’s discipline began to crack and more penalties were conceded. From one, Harry Glew took it quickly on halfway and sprinted through the defence only to be hauled down by a fine cover-tackle five metres short. Cleve knocked on at the ruck and then from the scrum Jack Hussey picked up and ran hard to put Billy Cantin for the bonus point try. Sam Poustie added the extra two points and at 24-3 Thorns looked home and dry with 20 minutes to go.
Thornbury were now using their backs to carry the ball to, through or around the Cleve defence. Stu McWhinnie came on for Jonny Sanderson and shortly after Cleve had a second player sin-binned Thorns scored again from an outstanding attack started on half way in which several backs handled the ball before Richardson and Bennett combined to clear the last line of defence and Bennett ran in for his second try in the corner, with the final score a healthy 29-3.
Man of the match went to Alfie Richardson for his outstanding try and his willingness and confidence to take on players and create gaps for his team mates to exploit
Words and pictures by Dave Fox.