St Austell 29 Thornbury 8

Thornbury lost this top-three match 29-8 in appalling conditions as St Austell maintained their challenge for automatic promotion, writes Dave Fox.

It was all square at half time but St Austell played the conditions better than Thornbury and in winning secured their first league win over Thorns at the sixth attempt.

There was a yellow weather warning to welcome Thornbury’s large crowd of travelling support, and as the players ran on to the field torrential rain and a vicious gale-force wind blew across the pitch.

Thornbury kicked off but St Austell used their big forwards to rumble up the pitch and Thorns had to defend frantically. That summed up the entire game.

Thorns lost skipper Sam Evans through injury after seven minutes. St Austell went ahead shortly afterwards with a penalty which Jack Pinker cancelled out after Chris Perrett and Jake Wood had forced a penalty in front of St Austell’s posts.

St Austell played to their strengths. Their forwards’ ball retention was excellent and Thornbury found themselves constantly tackling. After half an hour St Austell scored a try out wide after a period of pick-and-go which had started with an un-penalised knock-on from a scrum.

Thorns took the opportunity of the restart to take play into the St Austell ‘22’ and applied pressure, making it difficult for them to clear their lines. After a series of infringements in the home ‘22’ Jay Burley drove from a quickly-taken penalty before Luke Panting and Wood led an assault on the line. Then after another carry from Panting Pinker threw a long pass to Jake Goodridge who barged over to score. The conversion fell short and halftime arrived with the scores tied at 8-8.

Ten minutes into the second half a converted try from the home No.8 put St Austell ahead again after another series of pick and go. The match was put beyond Thornbury with ten minutes remaining when St Austell scored a third try from a quickly-taken penalty in front of Thorns’ posts. That was converted as was the final try which gave St Austell the try bonus point, once more a series of pick and go in front of the Thornbury posts led to a prop barging over.

To the great relief of all the referee played very little injury time and blew for the end of the match shortly afterwards.

Despite the close score of the first half, Thornbury were rarely in the game.

Already suffering from the absence of a couple of leading players the loss of Sam Evans so early was a huge blow.

The players put everything into the game and defended well but constant tackling eventually took its toll.

Thorns were ground down by a physically bigger team with good ball retention and a kicking game that worked.

Thorns are not in action again until they welcome Wellington to Rockhampton in early April.

Scorers: try –Goodridge; penalty –Pinker