Speedy Thorns thrash Clevedon
The pace and ball-handling skills of Thornbury were the key factors as Thorns demolished bottom club Clevedon in spectacular fashion.
Thorns scored ten tries and had the try bonus point in the bag before the end of the first quarter. Clevedon, who had targeted the match as one they should win, never recovered from the opening onslaught.
With injuries to both props that started last weekend’s game at Matson the selectors showed great confidence in the highly-promising Kieran Wilson and chose him at loosehead for his first league start. Sam Evans returned to hooker and George Sheldon played in his usual position of tight head. Josh Whitlock popped his shoulder late on at Matson so Tom Williams was moved to the second row with Jak Evans returning to the back row for the first time since early December. Harry Glew returned to scrum half with Sam Poustie moving to outside half. Mike Beswick came in at centre with Rich Bennett moving out to the wing in place of Will Cullimore. Johnny Heaven also returned to the squad for his first appearance since the game with Okehampton and was chosen on the bench alongside Tom Luke and Alfie Richardson, who was also returning from injury.
Last season’s runners-up Clevedon had endured a nightmare season following the departure of a dozen players. Their replacements were young and inexperienced and, like Thornbury, Clevedon were rebuilding. Despite this they still possessed a powerful pack which had caused problems for every side they had played this season. Thornbury believed they had the mobility and pace to win provided they got some ball to play with.
The pitch passed an inspection during the morning following heavy overnight rain. The ground was shrouded by low cloud and light drizzle fell as Thornbury kicked off downhill. Within a few seconds Thorns won a lineout on the Clevedon ‘22’, Jak Evans burst away and fed Tom Williams who powered through two tackles and showed great pace to score close to the posts. Inexplicably, Jake Wood missed the conversion but Thorns were 5-0 and barely a minute had elapsed.
Thorns played at great pace and the handling of forwards and backs was remarkable, particularly given the conditions. Clevedon defended desperately as waves of Thornbury attackers looked to score again. Thornbury’s back row carried well and hard with Jak Evans and Jack Hussey prominent and Tom Williams everywhere whilst Louis Osborne’s unseen work on the ground was invaluable. Thorns’ lightweight pack was dominating possession.
Ten minutes had gone when Sam Poustie cross-kicked for Rob Higgitt, but the ball fell short. Thornbury’s coach put boot to ball and kicked it over the goal line. As he and a defender dived for the ball the unpredictable bounce of the ball saw it slide away at an alarming angle for Mike Beswick to dive on for the try. Wood converted for a 12-0 lead.
Thorns were making Clevedon think and a kick behind the defence from Poustie caused panic as Liam Pemberton chased hard and Thorns’ centres drove the defenders over their own line. From a solid scrum Thorns moved the ball into midfield where Harry Tarling drove for the line, was tackled but Jack Hussey picked up the ball and drove over for Thorns’ third try. Jake Wood added the extras and with fourteen minutes gone Thornbury were 19-0 ahead.
The try bonus point was secured two minutes later when Thorns’ forwards and backs attacked in a multi-phase move. Harry Glew burst through and was tackled close to the line before moving it into midfield where Rich Bennett acrobatically collected the ball and Osborne sent Evans crashing over close to the posts. Wood’s third conversion put Thornbury 26-0 ahead and the first quarter wasn’t over.
The second quarter began as had the first. Mike Beswick made a glorious break in midfield from a lineout close to halfway then drew the last man to put Bennett in. The conversion made it 33-0 then Williams was tackled close to the line and when Wood and Beswick combined in a run down the right wing another try looked a certainty but a rare handling error brought the move to an end. But Thorns were not to be denied. From another lineout Thorns drove. Evans burst out of the maul then the ball was quickly recycled and moved along to Wood who scored in the corner. His outstanding conversion put Thornbury 40-0 ahead at half time.
With Alfie Richardson on for Rob Higgitt and Johnny Heaven for George Sheldon the second half began with Clevedon on top. Their forwards took control and the scrum, which had seemed strangely quiet in the first half, began to become a dominant factor. Thornbury’s forwards couldn’t get their hands on the ball and after ten minutes defending in their ‘22’ they conceded the first points when the Clevedon scrum pushed Thorns back towards their line. The scrum was halted illegally and Clevedon were awarded a penalty try.
The restart enabled Thornbury to take play back in to the Clevedon half and once again set about ripping holes in the Clevedon defence. Beswick and Evans made ground and Bennett surged to within a metre of the visitors’ line but was penalised and Clevedon cleared. George Sheldon came back on and Kieran Wilson went off having had a fine game.
Shortly afterwards Jake Wood launched another attack down the right, beat two men then passed inside for Harry Glew to go over in the corner. Five minutes later Bennett made another great run which created space and a clever pass from Tarling put Glew into space again and he raced through to score by the posts. Wood converted for 52-7.
Clevedon were being enthusiastically encouraged by the impressively loyal Tom Thie who worked hard keeping heads up and his team had some encouragement when from another scrum on the Thornbury line Harvey Russell scored their second try.
Thorns restarted and Clevedon kicked clear only for Wood to launch another attack down the right. He created enough space for Richardson to break clear. His pace took him outside two further defenders and he crashed over by the corner flag. Wood’s conversion from the touchline was outstanding and eased Thorns out to a 59-12 lead.
Shortly after the restart Thorns ran from deep and carved through in midfield once more and space was made for Poustie to burst clear on the Clevedon ‘22’ and score. Wood’s conversion put Thorns 66-12 up with six minutes to go.
Thornbury launched further attacks and as the game entered stoppage time Richardson bisected the centres and chipped over the fullback but was unable to cleanly gather the ball in-goal and the chance was lost. Referee Ian Hillier, who had allowed the game to flow throughout, blew for the end of the match and Thorns had won by the remarkable scoreline of 66-12.
Thorns were in irresistible mood. The intensity, pace, focus and hunger was of the highest order and despite being under-strength the commitment of the forwards to quell the Clevedon pack in the first half and secure loose ball in the second was outstanding. Thornbury’s back row of Jak Evans, Louis Osborne and Jack Hussey was excellent and with the remaining forwards being mobile the continuity was remarkable considering the muddy pitch and slippery conditions. Mike Beswick had his best game in a Thornbury shirt and Jake Wood’s running from deep caused constant problems. His goal-kicking was also excellent, recovering from a miss in front of the posts to slot over eight conversions for a tally of 21 points in the game. Credit also needs to go to the home eight for the solidity of the scrum in the first half. From a team full of outstanding performances Louis Osborne was selected by sponsors R & H Grey Ltd as the Ronnie’s of Thornbury Man of the Match.
Thornbury move up two places in the table to sixth. They travel to fourth-placed Newent next Saturday for what is likely to be one of the toughest games of the season.
Thornbury: tries – Tom Williams, Mike Beswick, Jack Hussey, Jak Evans, Rich Bennett, Jake Wood, Harry Glew (2), Alfie Richardson and Sam Poustie; conversions – Jake Wood (8)
Clevedon: tries – Harvey Russell and penalty try.
Thornbury: Jake Wood; Rob Higgitt, Mike Beswick, Harry Tarling, Rich Bennett; Sam Poustie, Harry Glew; Kieran Wilson, Sam Evans, George Sheldon, Liam Pemberton (c), Tom Williams, Jak Evans, Louis Osborne, Jack Hussey.
Replacements: Johnny Heaven, Alfie Richardson, Tom Luke
Clevedon: Tom Phillips; Joe Williams, Adam Coles, Cameron Maslen, Matt Fisher; Tom Thie, Rhys Talbot; Brian Largenton, Matt Honour (c), Blaise Bosley, Ollie Jones, Will Trollope, Warren Taylor, Charlie Tucker, Harvey Russell.
Replacements: Ben Stone, Dave Burns, Jack Crew
Referee: Ian Hillier (Bristol Society)