Thornbury’s form vanishes
Confirmation that Thornbury’s form had deserted them was delivered by an efficient Okehampton side that comfortably beat a lacklustre Thorns selection.
Thornbury never fully recovered from conceding two early tries yet were still in the game at half time before a dreadful second half performance consigned them to their third defeat in the last four games.
Skipper Liam Pemberton returned to the side and Rich Bennett was chosen at centre ensuring a stronger midfield defensive presence. With James Donohue unavailable colt Jake Wood made his First XV debut out of position on the wing. With Harry Glew unavailable Craig Beyer moved to scrum half allowing Alfie Richardson to return to full back. In the pack the front five were selected en bloc with Dalton Tice continuing as an emergency lock, but the back row was a complete change with Liam Pemberton and Jack Hussey chosen along with Henry Conchie. On the bench Adam Hodgkins and Tom Adams covered the forwards with Mike Gaston selected as the replacement back.
Although Thornbury had played well against Clevedon and Newent they had recently suffered heavy defeats at Bridgwater and North Petherton. Okehampton selected a strong side and looked to continue their recent run of good form. The match ball was sponsored by Alan Pearn, the former Bristol points record holder who had played for both clubs.
Okehampton kicked off downhill and although Thornbury ran the ball back the ball went loose and Okehampton broke through midfield with alarming ease to put wing Gareth Espin clear. He had work to do but rounded the Thornbury defence for the try with less than two minutes gone. The conversion missed but after Thorns had failed to gather the return kick from the restart Espin was again clear and he ran in for his second try. That too remained unconverted but Okehampton had a 10-0 lead after only four minutes.
Thorns looked to redress the balance and a fine run from Alfie Richardson looked to lead to a score. He kicked the ball over the Okehampton defence but the visitors won the race to the ball. Although the Thornbury scrum was on top the team were unable to do much with the possession they had secured. Passing was poor with knock-ons, dropped passes, interceptions and turnovers ending almost every attack Thornbury attempted. Errors continued, Thorns missed a kickable penalty then were penalised for truck and trailer at a driving lineout as the line became in reach or the rolling maul.
Okehampton’s dangerous wing Espin was unlucky to be called back for a foot in touch but Thornbury were well on top in play as the first half neared its end. As halftime neared Thornbury drove for the line with another driving lineout. Centre Mike Beswick joined the maul and it was he who scored when the maul splintered. The conversion went wide but with Okehampton leading 10-5 it was anybody’s game at half time.
Mike Gaston came on for Rob Higgitt and Adam Hodgkins replaced Luke Workman during the break then the second period started with some desperate play from both sides as error followed error. Eventually Okehampton extended their lead with a penalty from fullback Gary Sizmur to extend the lead to 13-5. Thornbury needed to score but couldn’t find the keys to unlock the Okehampton defence. Tom Adams came on for Henry Conchie and Luke Workman replaced George Sheldon as the third quarter drew to a close.
The game swung towards Okehampton shortly afterwards when Rich Bennett was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle. Okes immediately took play into the Thornbury ‘22’ and after stretching the home defence centre Kevin Dennis crossed out wide as Thorns ran out of defenders. The conversion missed but Okehampton were now 18-5 ahead.
Okehampton continued to press with the carrot provided by a try bonus point. Thornbury kicked clear and Okes ran it back then hooker Jake Shin showed good pace as he ran in on a fine line to score. Richie Friend converted and at 25-5 Okehampton had the game won. Rich Bennett came back on with Thornbury having conceded twelve points in his absence.
Thornbury attacked late on seeking a consolation. Wayne Underwood look a quick penalty but as Thorns drove towards the line the ball went loose again and Okehampton counter-attacked and with the home defence now clearly dispirited Luke Honeychurch had little trouble in running in for the final try. The missed conversion heralded the final whistle to put Thornbury out of their misery.
Whilst Thornbury’s appalling injury saga has challenged the most positive of outlookers this performance lacked composure, control and energy as Thornbury fell off tackles and seemed bereft of ideas and accuracy. There was nothing on the game yet here was a chance to ensure that the frustrations of the North Petherton game, and since, were dealt with. It was not to be. Okehampton are a good side yet Thornbury made them look world-beaters. Okes defended well with frequently two defenders taking down the Thornbury attacker. There were some good performances, and young Jake Wood can be proud of the way he played with a good run and some accurate kicking to touch, but Thornbury individually and collectively were not good enough. George Maggs was deservedly awarded the Man of the Match from sponsors Ronnie’s of Thornbury for a good performance in the loose and the tight.
The form that had taken Thornbury to second place in the table at the turn of the year was now a distant memory. With only one of the remaining four games at home, and a visit to Weston, who had were crowned champions after their win over Teignmouth, still to overcome, hanging on to third place seems a considerable challenge.
With no game next Saturday Thornbury travel to Teignmouth for their next game on March 25th.
Thornbury: try – Mike Beswick
Okehampton: tries – Gareth Espin (2), Kevin Dennis, Jake Shin, Luke Honeychurch; conversion – Richie Friend; penalty – Gary Sizmur
Thornbury: Alfie Richardson; Jake Wood, Rich Bennett, Mike Beswick, Rob Higgitt; Wayne Underwood, Craig Beyer;, Luke Workman, Sam Evans, George Sheldon, George Maggs, Dalton Tice, Henry Conchie, Liam Pemberton (c), Jack Hussey.
Replacements: Adam Hodgkins, Tom Adams, Mike Gaston
Okehampton: Gary Sizmur; Gareth Espin, Kevin Dennis, Rich Friend, Rory Honeychurch; Rhys Palmer, Joe Bruce; Pat Nash, Jake Shin, George Trerise, Charlie White, Sam Turner, Neil Perrott, Simon Cox, Tom McGrattan (c).
Replacements: Ian Langbridge, Gaz Evans, Luke Honeychurch
Referee: Brad Bignell (Bristol Society)