Thorns snatch defeat from the jaws of victory
Thornbury failed to close out a game they had seemingly won and lost to a long-range injury time penalty in an exciting game in the Devon sunshine.
With Thorns two points ahead they chose to play rugby as if to win the match rather than control the last few minutes and close out the game. However, they left Kingsbridge with two points and completed their league campaign in sixth place.
Thornbury made several changes for the game and took the opportunity to select three seventeen-year olds in the side. Harry Tarling and Jake Wood joined Rich Bennett and James Donohue in the three-quarters whilst Jake Goodridge made his first start for the First XV in the back row. Tom Luke made his first start since early December whilst Bob Adams continued at fullback. In the forwards Sam Evans’ injury saw Luke Workman move to hooker and with George Sheldon available Jonny Heaven switched to loosehead. George Maggs and Adam Hodgkins were reunited in the second row and Liam Pemberton and Jack Hussey played at 7 and 8 for the twentieth time this season. Tom Adams covered the forwards from the bench, with Rob Higgitt available to replace a forward or back, and Mike Beswick the backs replacement. With Kingsbridge relegated and Thorns not going anywhere there was nothing other than pride in the jersey to play for. But Kingsbridge were determined to bow out of South West One on a high.
Kingsbridge kicked off with the sun at their backs but Thornbury attacked from the start and Rich Bennett made a fine break which Tom Luke took on but was hauled down a metre short. Kingsbridge cleared and shortly afterwards Thorns were penalised and Kingsbridge put the ball in the corner for their forwards to rumble over for a try accredited to lock James Palmer. The conversion went wide but after three minutes Kingsbridge were 5-0 ahead.
Thornbury were struggling to get their hands on the ball as the agricultural Kingsbridge forwards ploughed a furrow through the Thornbury pack. Although Thornbury had the edge in the scrum they moved the ball wide to their strengths in the backs.
The scores were tied on ten minutes when a clearing kick was run back by Jake Wood and Rich Bennett. Tom Luke drove on and then the ball was recycled and moved out wide to Luke Workman who crashed over for a try by the corner flag. Tom Luke’s conversion hit the post.
The lead didn’t last long as Kingsbridge attacked from the restart. Their forwards picked and drove in a series of phases that applied constant pressure until the inevitable try was scored by No.8 Jake Cope. Ben Newman converted for a 12-5 lead.
It was Thornbury’s turn to take control and good defence and some handling errors prevented Thornbury scoring. Rich Bennett was becoming a nuisance to the Kingsbridge defence and twice he broke through only for the ball to be lost in the next phase. Eventually, Thornbury drove at the Kingsbridge line then Tom Luke latched on a pop pass from Jake Goodridge and drove through the last tackler to score. He converted his try and the scores were even at 12-12.
As the half came to an end Kingsbridge scored their third try in a mirror-image of their second, Hooker Jake Vincent scoring after persistent pressure. The conversion missed but Kingsbridge led 17-12 at half time. During the break Mike Beswick came on for Harry Tarling and Tom Adams replaced Jake Goodridge.
Thornbury kicked off the second half and put early pressure on Kingsbridge, who had lock Palmer yellow carded. Thornbury needed to exploit their numerical advantage but were unable to do so. Thorns launched attack after attack. Jake Wood was narrowly beaten to the ball with a kick and chase, then Tom Luke kicked over the advancing defence, gathered the ball and put Adam Hodgkins clear. He raced down the touchline but the cover caught him by the corner flag and his inside pass was knocked-on on the line. There were too many mistakes. Harry Tarling came back on for the injured James Donohue.
Shortly after Kingsbridge were restored to fifteen Thornbury equalised again. Thorns stole a Kingsbridge lineout and moved the ball into the midfield. Mike Beswick made a half break, Rich Bennett exploited the space and raced through to ten metres from the line and passed wide to Jake Wood who scored his first try for the First XV. The conversion missed but with the score 17-17 the game was anybody’s with the last quarter to come. Jake Goodridge came back on for Adam Hodgkins and Rob Higgitt came on for Liam Pemberton who was struggling with an injury.
Each time the game was restarted the side kicking off took play deep into the opposition ‘22’ and this time it was Kingsbridge who applied pressure. Thornbury made hard work of clearing their lines then eventually were able to take play into the Kingsbridge half. Thorns won a lineout and accurate passing brought in Rob Higgitt as the extra man. He fed Harry Tarling out wide; he did well to shrug off the tackle of the cover and ran in for the bonus point try. Tom Luke converted and Thornbury were ahead for the first time at 24-17.
But Kingsbridge weren’t finished and having forced a penalty they kicked for the corner. As the clock ticked over 80 minutes flanker Ali Hamilton scored from a driving lineout. The conversion missed and Thorns were still ahead at 24-22.
Thornbury secured the ball in injury time but instead of keeping play tight and running the clock down the ball was moved into midfield. Harry Tarling took the play into contact but his support players watched rather than clear the defenders out and the referee had no option to award a penalty close to half way. With four minutes of injury time over fullback George Banfield stepped up and with a fine kick put Kingsbridge ahead.
There was still time for one final attack from Thornbury but Kingsbridge’s cover defence got to a kick behind the goal line first and the game was over.
The game turned out to be the Thornbury backs against the Kingsbridge pack, and that was reflected in the spread of tries scored. Thornbury had opportunities to win the game, particularly in the third quarter when a Kingsbridge forward was in the sin bin, but lacked the accuracy to finish off a number of chances. Thornbury lacked the bulk of the Kingsbridge forwards but the pack worked tirelessly. The backs ran well and the youngsters handled well. However, the outstanding player in the Thornbury side was Rich Bennett, who was on fire and had a game to remember with regular line breaks and water-tight defence.
So the season has ended. Although Thorns spent some time in second place they were, ultimately, a mid-table side, and the table doesn’t lie.
Thornbury: tries – Luke Workman, Tom Luke, Jake Wood, Harry Tarling; conversions – Tom Luke (2)
Kingsbridge: tries – James Palmer, Jack Cope, Jake Vincent, Ali Hamilton; conversion – Ben Newman; penalty – George Banfield
Thornbury: Bob Adams; Jake Wood, Rich Bennett, Harry Tarling, James Donohue; Tom Luke, Harry Glew; Jonny Heaven, Luke Workman, George Sheldon, George Maggs, Adam Hodgkins, Jake Goodridge, Liam Pemberton (c), Jack Hussey.
Replacements: Tom Adams, Rob Higgitt, Mike Beswick
Kingsbridge: George Banfield; Luke Davies, David Stephens, Ben Glover (c), Greg Parrott; Ben Newman, James Tait; Buster James, Jake Vincent, Stuart Winzer, Tom Meatyard, James Palmer, Alistair Hamilton, Freddie Buckle, Jack Cope.
Replacements: Sean Woodland, Jack Evans, Joe Banfield
Referee: Andy Coles (Devon Society)