Rugby: Stephens keeps nerve to give Thornbury dramatic victory

Luke Workman bursting through the St Austell defence

Luke Workman bursting through the St Austell defence

First published in Sport

South West One West

St Austell 18 Thornbury 20

A TIM Stephens penalty in injury time secured Thornbury a thoroughly deserved win against high-flying St Austell.

The marvellous win, based on committed defence, controlled aggression and clinical finishing, consolidates Thornbury’s position in the top half of the table and virtually guarantees their place in the league for next season.

It was all the more remarkable as several players were unavailable for the long trek to Cornwall.

Thornbury began with a fierce gale at their backs blowing down the length of the field.

The early stages were even. The first quarter was tense with fierce tackling from both sides effectively cancelling each other out.

Midway through the first half Jack Hussey was driven over from a rolling maul but the referee was unsighted and disallowed the try.

Thornbury continued to dominate the first half and half-time approached with the scoreboard still untroubled.

Then the Cornishmen were penalised in centre-field and expected a kick at goal but the quick-thinking Rob Higgitt took the penalty to himself and raced in unopposed between the posts. Stephens converted and Thornbury led 7-0 at half-time.

St Austell began the second half purposefully and only terrific defence kept them out.

After ten minutes of intense defending, Dan Hussey and Ed Sheldon raced upfield in a kick and chase but the ball bounced away from the diving Hussey and hit the post protectors to remain in play.

However, Thorns ran back a clearing kick and Hussey swerved past two players and outpaced the cover to dive between the posts for a fine try. Stephens converted for a 14-0 lead.

Thornbury seemed to lose concentration for a few minutes and St Austell scored a converted try, then a penalty followed minutes later.

When their wing scored a good try, St Austell went 15-14 ahead with 15 points in nine minutes to gain the initiative as well.

Thornbury had to regain control or lose the match.

St Austell infringed in front of the posts after the restart and Stephens kicked a penalty to regain the lead at 17-15, but Thorns conceded a penalty and went behind again with only three minutes of normal time remaining.

Thorns secured possession and embarked on a frantic final few minutes of ferocious attacking.

Without play stopping, Thornbury launched attack after attack close to the St Austell line.

Higgitt and Jon Day were tackled short, then Stephens was hauled down inches short.

St Austell kicked the ball away but James Wood charged it down and Day attempted a drop kick.

That, too, was charged down but when Higgitt charged to the line St Austell infringed and the referee awarded a penalty.

Tim Stephens had the far from straightforward kick into the stiffest of gales to win the match. The kick was powerful and true and sailed between the posts for the winning points. In the circumstances, it was a magnificent kick.

Thornbury became the first side in two years to defeat St Austell at Tregorrick Park.

It had been an extraordinary match. Thornbury never let St Austell get going and were well-worth this great win.

It was a heroic collective team performance in which every player was outstanding.

Thornbury scorers: Tries - Rob Higgitt and Dan Hussey; Conversions - Tim Stephens (2); penalties - Tim Stephens (2).

*Thornbury seconds were also in Cornwall and defeated Bodmin seconds 40-12, with Ollie Fleming scoring two tries, the first after only 15 seconds.

The Colts defeated Lydney Colts 31-0 in the first round of the Gloucestershire Cup.

Thornbury senior teams don’t have games this weekend, although the Colts are at Winscombe on Sunday in the Gloucestershire leagues, 1pm.

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