Bristol Combination Cup Semi-Final: Clifton 3 Thornbury 8

First published in Sport

MAGNIFICENT Thornbury made local rugby history with a remarkable victory over National Two side Clifton, due entirely to the players’ passion and determination to win against the odds, writes Dave Fox.

Decimated by injuries and absentees with work commitments, they overcame a strong Clifton side and will now play in their first Combination Cup Final. A first half try from Rich Bennett was the difference between the teams on the scoreboard, but the commitment and heroism of the Thornbury players was the difference between the teams on the pitch. The match has been described as the biggest upset in the 40-year history of the Combination Cup.

Clifton applied early pressure but the Thornbury defence held out and the boot of Liam Rinn cleared the lines. Adam Hodgkins was held up close to the Clifton line after seven minutes but the opening score came after 12 minutes when Clifton kicked a penalty. Four minutes later Thorns went ahead. Dai Matthews chipped the ball over the Clifton three-quarters and gathered the ball. He beat one man and then passed to Dan Hussey, who made good ground before passing wide to Rich Bennett. He came sharply off his right foot, cut through the defensive line and out-paced the cover for a glorious try. Rinn’s conversion was just wide but Thorns were 5-3 ahead.

Clifton spent most of the second half deep into Thornbury territory and tried to break through, but again the defence was well organised. However, the only points came from Thornbury. Jak Evans raced away on a 50-metre run to the Clifton 22. Clifton infringed and Rinn kicked a penalty. Five minutes later the Thornbury scrum destroyed the Clifton eight and took the ball against the head. It was a key moment and gave great inspiration to the rest of the side.

Everything Clifton threw at Thorns was countered by magnificent defence. When the referee blew for the end of the match there was tremendous jubilation from the Thornbury players and supporters.

The match will go down in the history of the club as one of its finest victories. Thornbury now play Avonmouth Old Boys in the final at the Memorial Stadium on Thursday, May 3. Thornbury: Dan Hussey; Rich Bennett, Rob Higgitt, Dai Matthews, Adam Barker; Liam Rinn, Jak Evans; Chris Till, Luke Workman, Adam Hodgkins, Giles Bristol, Paul Lambert, Tom Guzman, Liam Pemberton, George Maggs (c). Replacements: George Jackson, Jo Jackson, Matt Gay and Mike Sander Scorers: Try - Rich Bennett; Penalty - Liam Rinn.

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