Rugby: Thornbury claim superb derby win at Cleve after early Sheldon double

Gazette Series: Mike Gaston on the run for Thornbury against Cleve Mike Gaston on the run for Thornbury against Cleve

South West One West

Cleve 17 Thornbury 18

FIFTEEN points in the first eight minutes and magnificent defence in the face of a fierce gale saw Thornbury win at league leaders Cleve, writes Dave Fox.

The win consolidated Thorns’ seventh place in the table ahead of the Christmas break.

Thornbury kicked off with a gale at their backs. They immediately took play to the Cleve line and spectators were forced to rub their eyes as Ed Sheldon out-sprinted the home defence to dive on a delicate chip and touch down close to the dead-ball line after just seconds. Tim Stephens narrowly missed the conversion in difficult conditions.

Thorns showed a steely determination to capitalise on the conditions. After six minutes Stephens kicked a penalty from halfway.

Directly from the restart Boris Elloff-Petros made a powerful drive, creating space for Sheldon to bisect the Cleve centres and score a second try. Stephens added the conversion to see Thornbury 15-0 ahead.

Cleve began to claw their way back into the game but Thornbury made the most of the wind when they had the ball. As the first quarter came to a close Stephens kicked a second penalty.

Trailing 18-0, Cleve began to take control but Thorns showed great commitment to defend their line.

However, Cleve were not to be denied and, as the game went into first half stoppage time, they scored a try out wide. The conversion missed but Thorns remained 18-5 ahead at the break.

The wind strengthened during the break and Thornbury had concerns that the lead may not be sufficient in the face of Cleve and the gale in the second half.

Cleve attacked from the kick-off and were on the Thornbury line within a few seconds but the defence was determined and disciplined.

Some frustrations overflowed and the referee was forced to speak to the captains, eventually yellow carding Wayne Underwood.

Cleve capitalised and, despite a magnificent tackle from Elloff-Petros, they scored in the corner.

A few minutes later they scored again, the conversion reducing Thornbury’s lead to 18-17.

Things got worse for Thorns when George Jackson was yellow-carded and they were down to 13 men. But Thornbury dug in and kept their line intact.

Cleve were getting increasingly frustrated and had a man sent off close to the end.

The impetus swung to Thornbury. With three minutes of normal time remaining Cleve were awarded a penalty but they chose to go for territory rather than the points.

Thornbury kept Cleve out and after six minutes of stoppage time the referee blew for the end of the match, which triggered deserved celebrations from the visiting players.

It was a tremendous, gutsy performance from Thornbury, who made better use of the elements than Cleve and defended magnificently.

Thornbury scorers: Tries - Ed Sheldon (2); Conversion - Tim Stephens; Penalties - Tim Stephens (2).

There is rugby at Thornbury during the Christmas period. On Friday, December 27 Thornbury host the PROPS Barbarians (midday) for their annual charity game, raising funds for children and young adults with learning difficulties.

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