Thornbury’s defence was non-existent and the team lacked the intensity to take on a well-drilled and pumped-up side that thoroughly deserved their big win and might consider they should have won by more.
Many of the players that had enjoyed the win over Lydney were absent through injury, family commitments and the lure of a music festival in Bristol. Amongst others three of the three-quarters and two of the back row had to be changed. Dan Hussey came in for Harry Glew and Mike Johnson replaced Bob Adams on the wings with Gez Asante coming in for centre Billy Cantin. Ben Phillips came in for Louis Osborne at open side and Jim Massey was replaced by the versatile Tom Williams at No.8. Ollie Critchley came in for James Wood at lock and Henry Low replaced Jay Burley at tight head. Jack Summerfield, Charlie Squier and Jonny Sanderson made up the bench.
Thorns’ comfortable opening Saturday win at Bridgwater contrasted with Chew Valley’s defeat at College Way the previous weekend. Were Thornbury complacent? Did they think all they had to do was turn up? Any thoughts of a comfortable win were dashed in the first ninety seconds. Thornbury kicked off into a bright sun which Chew used to their advantage with a high clearing kick that was miss-fielded. After Thorns kicked clear Chew ran the ball back and some poor tackling allowed wing Zac Kavanagh to score out wide. The conversion missed but Chew were 5-0 up.
Chew ran back the restart and they were welcomed by a number of poor tackles but Thorns managed to clear their lines and took play into the Chew ‘22’. Then Thorns went ahead in unusual fashion. The forwards embarked on a phase of pick and drive close to the line and worked very hard before Ben Phillips touched down. Few could remember the last time Thorns scored a try in that fashion. Jack Pinker converted to put Thorns 7-5 ahead.
Chew responded well and again exploited holes in the Thornbury defence. After several minutes attacking No.8 Alex Cox skipped through several non-existent tackles to score. Tom Bryant converted and Chew Valley regained the lead they would not relinquish. Jak Evans pulled off a try-saving tackle on the Chew wing shortly afterwards but Thorns were not able to clear their lines. Early in the second quarter Chew scored again from a scrum close to the Thornbury line. A fine drive sent Chew backwards but scrum half Ben Mead ran through a hole in the defence as wide as a three-lane motorway to score as Thornbury’s defenders looked at each other. Bryant’s kick made it 19-7.
Thorns brought Dan Hussey in off his wing on a good run but he was well-tackled with Pinker inside then penalised for not releasing and Chew cleared. A few minutes later Chew secured the try bonus point when hooker Jack Monk scored from a driving lineout. Charlie Squier came on for Tom Williams.
With things beginning to look desperate Thorns needed a score and James Phillips was held up over the line after Sam Evans had made a break. Asante was taken off with a groin injury and Sanderson came on to the wing with Hussey moving to centre. As the match approached half time Thorns scored a second try in a mirror-image of their first with James Phillips showing great determination to score. Pinker added the extras and with the score 24-14 to Chew Valley at half time Thorns were just hanging on.
Would Tom Luke be able to get the team wound up at half time? Initial signs looked positive as Thorns played better and although they kept pressure on they still looked sluggish in their attacks. Then Sam Evans hobbled off with a leg injury and Tom Williams came back on, but Thorns were not efficient enough and were unable to score. Then on the hour mark Thorns eventually did. Pinker made a break and a long pass from Sam Poustie found Charlie Squier unmarked out wide and he ran in for the try. The conversion didn’t threaten the posts but at 24-19 Thorns were back in the game. Jack Summerfield came on for Ollie Critchley with another re-organisation of the scrum.
With ten minutes of normal time remaining Chew put the contest to bed with a try and conversion from Bryant. Shortly afterwards Mead scored his second from a scrum on the Thornbury line, then from the restart Chew ran back and centre Harry Stride strode in for a score. In last play Thorns made a hash of the lineout and Cox ambled in unopposed for the score that made up the half century. Bryant converted all the late tries for a 52-19 win. The last three tries were scored in six minutes.
There is little point in criticising the players for such a dreadful performance. They know they didn’t turn up, never got out of second gear and individually and collectively are far better than this match suggests. Tackles, when they were made, were high and weak and ineffective against the dynamic running of Chew. The set piece was good until Sam Evans went off but the lack of intensity, physicality and focus was a malaise that spread through most of the side. James Phillips was the pick of the forwards and Jonny Sanderson did well when he came on.
But zero intensity equals zero points. Next Saturday Thorns are home to Newent, who have not enjoyed the best start to the season and will be desperate to get their first win. We know what we will get from them. Thornbury need sort out their mental approach to win, and win well. The match kicks off at 3:00.
Thornbury: tries – Ben Phillips, James Phillips and Charlie Squier; conversions – Jack Pinker (2)
Chew Valley: tries – Zac Kavanagh, Alex Cox (2), Ben Mead (2), Jack Monk, Tom Bryant, Harry Stride; conversions – Tom Bryant (6)
Thornbury: Alfie Richardson; Mike Johnson, Gez Asante, Jack Pinker, Dan Hussey; Sam Poustie, Jak Evans; Kieran Wilson, Sam Evans (c), Henry Low, Ollie Critchley, Chris Moseley, James Phillips, Ben Phillips, Tom Williams.
Replacements: Jack Summerfield, Charlie Squier, Jonny Sanderson.
Chew Valley: Tom Bryant; Zac Kavanagh, Harry Stride, Charlie Shallcross, Joseph Webb; Dan Gatton, Ben Mead; Dean Brooker, Jack Monk, Jonathan Eves, Matthew Blacker, Ben Whitemore, Luke Sparkes-Brown, Jake Rogers, Alex Cox.
Replacements: Grady Wright, Reg Parfitt, Steve Bartlett.
Referee: James Maby (Bristol Society)