THORNBURY sent Jon Day into retirement with a maximum point victory at Sidmouth, writes Dave Fox.
Although a far from vintage performance, Thorns never looked like losing against already-relegated Sidmouth and their final position of seventh is the highest they have finished in the RFU league structure.
This is a remarkable achievement given the ups and downs of the season and a tribute to the hard work and skill of the players and coaches.
The match brought down the curtain on Day’s magnificent Thornbury career which had seen him involved in senior rugby for more than 25 years.
Sidmouth kicked off into a gale and took an early lead through a penalty. Then the Thornbury forwards took control. From a turnover on the Sidmouth 22 Stuart Adams switched play to the left. Wayne Underwood made a break and good hands from Rob Higgitt and Ed Sheldon enabled Dai Matthews to cut inside the cover for the opening try, but no conversion.
Thorns started to turn the screw. Both Matthews and Luke Workman were held up inches short before Workman charged from a lineout and accurate passing saw Ed Sheldon race in wide out. Underwood converted and although Sidmouth hit back with an unconverted try Thorns led 12-8 at half-time.
Hussey and Wood linked well to rip a hole in the Sidmouth defence shortly after the restart. Matthews, Ollie Fleming and Boris Elloff-Petros all created chances.
After Liam Pemberton took a quick penalty Workman crashed over in the corner. Thorns were 17-8 up and looking for the bonus point try.
Workman nearly scored minutes later but after George Sheldon was held up a great drive saw the Sidmouth scrum shunted over the line for Hussey to score. Thorns had the try bonus and a 22-8 lead.
Sidmouth restarted but Matthews burst through, charged upfield and linked with the three-quarters for Ed Sheldon to score his 21st league try of the season. Sidmouth showed great determination and tackled ferociously as Thorns began to over-complicate moves, make more errors and concede turnovers.
Rich Bennett was twice close to scoring before Sidmouth enjoyed their best period of the game and two Thornbury players were sin-binned. Hussey was unlucky not to score again when Sidmouth made a hash of a quick lineout then the Devonians scored a dubious converted try. Thornbury kept their line intact and the match ended with no further score.
It had been an exciting game, which Thornbury should have won by a substantially bigger score. They regularly cut holes in the Sidmouth defence but were not able to convert chances into points.
James Wood, Jack Hussey and Luke Workman were prominent with George Sheldon and Elloff-Petros regularly seen with the ball in their hands.
Day had a fine last game in tight and loose and one typical charge late in the first half left a trail of casualties in his wake.
Thornbury scorers: tries - Ed Sheldon (2), Dai Matthews, Luke Workman and Jack Hussey; conversion - Wayne Underwood.
A Thornbury XV play Reading Abbey at Rockhampton on Sunday, midday.
It will be a largely social game with Abbey concluding an end of season tour of Bristol at Thornbury.
Former British Lion Steve Fenwick, who won 30 caps for Wales, is the guest speaker at Thornbury’s Annual Dinner, on Friday, May 16.
The 2014 Thornbury RFC Annual General Meeting will be held at the rugby club on Thursday, May 22 at 8pm.