Leading by thirty points early in the second half Thorns looked to have had the game won but gave Lydney a lifeline and the Severnsiders took that with both hands to run in four second half tries and finish comfortably on top.
Thornbury made one change to the starting XV from the win at Bridgwater with Chris Moseley coming in for Tom Constable at lock. Mike Johnson was chosen for his first league start on the bench in place of Dan Hussey. Jim Massey had left Thornbury and played a season at Lydney in his last year as a Colts player before going to University in Plymouth.
Lydney, ambitious to return to the lofty heights of the National Leagues, had targeted this game as a win. Thornbury had won the home game last season played in awful conditions, but Lydney had won the match at Regentsholme.
Lydney kicked off downhill in glorious sunshine but there was a controversial start. As Thorns tried to run out of their ‘22’ with the ball James Wood was tackled high and dangerously by Lydney No.8 John Barton. Barton was yellow-carded and Wood taken off with a facial wound and concussion. Only two minutes had elapsed. Tom Williams came on.
Thornbury had shown their intent to play a fast and open game and after five minutes went ahead. They attacked from a scrum in the Lydney ‘22’ and after good initial defence Jak Evans delivered an accurate pass and Louis Osborne broke through and found Harry Glew in space and he raced down the touchline and scored by the corner flag. Bob Adams converted with an outstanding conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Shortly after Barton returned to the game Thorns doubled their lead. Directly from a scrum in their own half they attacked through the backs. Sam Poustie created space and Alfie Richardson seared through and dummied the cover to stroll in for the score. Adams added the extras.
Lydney attacked from the restart and Osborne was penalised for a high tackle. Tony Wicks opened Lydney’s account with the goal then Thorns scored again. Lydney kicked clear from the restart and Jim Massey acrobatically gathered the ball as it was about to go over the line. He moved the ball infield and Richardson bisected two defenders and raced clear, drew the cover and fed inside to Adams who ran a great line and scored between the posts. He converted his try and put Thorns 21-3 ahead.
To rub salt into Lydney’s wounds Thorns scored again following the next restart. From another scrum deep in Thornbury territory Adams, Poustie and Jack Pinker combined to bamboozle the defence and Richardson sliced through and once more drew the cover and passed out wide to Glew who scored his second try and earned Thorns the try bonus point. As Adams converted the first quarter drew to a close with a 28-3 lead.
That was extended even further a few minutes later when forwards and backs launched a series of phases in the Lydney half at pace and created space out wide where Williams made ground and passed back inside for Richardson to score again. Adams converted and at 35-3 all spectators looked at the scoreboard and rubbed their eyes in disbelief.
Lydney brought on all their replacements and there was greater solidity. The forwards drove many times close to the Thornbury line before Barton crashed over. Wicks converted but although Lydney pressed again they were unable to score and Thorns led 35-10 at the break. Mike Johnson came on for Bob Adams and Luke Panting replaced Kieran Wilson during the interval.
Jak Evans scored Thorns’ sixth try just 29 seconds into the second half, running back a clearing kick and handing off three defenders to score. Jack Pinker’s conversion was wide but Thorns were now at 40 points and seemingly had the game won. They visibly dropped the intensity and this olive branch was taken by Lydney who set about trying to get back into the game.
Firstly front row replacement Costner Lane scored after persistent pressure on the Thornbury line. But Thorns struggled to get hold of the ball and began to incur the displeasure of the referee conceding many penalties. Kieran Wilson came back on for Jay Burley.
Thorns then looked as though they were scoring again. Massey broke clear and a fine pass put Pinker through a gap. He was hauled down close to the line but made the ball available and quick passing put Richardson clear but as he dived for the line he was well-tackled and the ball dislodged. Shortly afterwards Sam Evans and Mike Johnson combined with Thornbury’s wing enjoying a fine run down the wing. Sam Evans popped up the other side of the field but a heavy double-tackle ended the move. It was to be Thorns last real threat of the game. Adams came back on for Richardson.
Lydney had the bit between the teeth and Thorns struggled to regain the intensity and possession of the first half and were now missing tackles. Josh Dunn scored out wide after the forwards tied up Thorns defence then minutes later committed a howler by crossing the goal line but running over the dead ball line and thus not scoring. James Phillips was yellow-carded following an accumulation of penalties and Lydney hooker Rob White scored their bonus point try from a driving lineout a few minutes later. Thorns’ lead had been reduced to 40-27.
Thorns had to defend for their lives as Lydney now sensed a win. When Henry Sleeman scored in the corner on the stroke of 80 minutes the conversion was crucial, but Joe Hamlin missed. Thorns held out for a 40-32 win. It was a deserved win but the last quarter in particular was desperate. Lydney won the second half 22-5. Had the kicks gone over and Dunn touched down rather than running behind the posts it could easily have been a different story.
The first half saw Thorns at their very best and never missed a tackle and created opportunities through pace, width and fine running lines. It a game of two halves, as they say, Thorns were not at the races in the second and were unable to regain the intensity and momentum they had in the first. The lesson here is, as at Bridgwater, they need to be able to put sides away.
Nevertheless, the performance in the first half was extraordinary with each player contributing to a great display and the crowd commenting that they had had value for money. Harry Glew took his tries well and there were good performances from Thorns’ back row collectively and individually. Bob Adams kicked beautifully and ran a lovely line for his try. The scrum was solid for most of the game and although there were a couple of blips the lineout was generally efficient. But the dominant player was Alfie Richardson and he was awarded the Fox Inn Player of the Match by the sponsors from Thornbury RFC Juniors.
Next Saturday Thorns travel to Chew Valley, kick off 3:00.
Thornbury: tries – Harry Glew (2), Alfie Richardson (2), Bob Adams, Jak Evans; conversions – Bob Adams (5)
Lydney: tries – John Barton, Costner Lane, Rob White, Josh Dunn, Henry Sleeman; conversions – Tony Wicks (2); penalty – Tony Wicks.
Thornbury: Alfie Richardson; Bob Adams, Billy Cantin, Jack Pinker, Harry Glew; Sam Poustie, Jak Evans; Kieran Wilson, Sam Evans (c), Jay Burley, Chris Moseley, James Wood, James Phillips, Louis Osborne, Jim Massey.
Replacements: Luke Panting, Tom Williams, Mike Johnson.
Lydney: Jack O’Connell; Mike Cross, Henry Sleeman, Joe Hamlin, Tai Lacabuka; Tony Wicks, Matt Williams; Tom Heard, Rob White, James Pugh, Dave Bennett (c), Ryan Watling, Tom Page, Callum Wyman, John Barker.
Replacements: Costner Lane, Nathan Ford, Josh Dunn.
Referee: Oli Carey (Bristol Referees Society)
Yellow cards: Thornbury – James Phillips (68-79). Lydney – John Barton (2-13)