Rugby: Thornbury v St Austell match report October 16
ST AUSTELL were given a tough time in Gloucestershire by a committed and highly motivated Thornbury side determined to kick-start their season after a lacklustre start.
In a thrilling encounter the Saints dominated the opening 30 minutes to lead 17-3 only for the home side to reel it back in the last ten minutes of the half.
The scene was set for an exciting second period where Saints were made to pay for their profligacy in the third quarter allowing the Thorns to level the scores.
It was a tense final five minutes that needed strong defence to keep the home side out as they looked for the win.
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It was Cornish relief at the final whistle, the Saints had several opportunities to put the game beyond the home side but Thornbury never gave up and will consider themselves unlucky not to grab victory at the death.
The Saints made light of the long journey from Cornwall with a blistering start. Straight from the kick off they churned through the phases with the home side unable to get a hand on the ball.
Lock Adam Kellow made the pressure tell with a fine try which skipper Matt Shepherd converted. Clumsiness at the restart presented Thornbury with a simple penalty which centre Tim Stephens gratefully accepted.
The setback did not put the Saints off their stride as they continued to dominate possession but were finding Thornbury resilient in defence.
A loose kick was gathered by winger Ashley Taylor who eluded the home chasers to set full back Dan Pearce on his way.
A mixture of speed, strength and side steps allowed him to sail under the posts for a converted try. Several chances went begging before Shepherd slotted a penalty to extend the Saints lead to 17-3 on 27 minutes.
Then calamity struck for the visitors, first influential ball carrier Kellow was forced off the field with a back injury only to be quickly followed by fly-half Shepherd with a hip injury.
Thornbury ruthlessly exploited indecision in the midfield as the Saints readjusted with a series of positional changes.
Home full back Ed Sheldon scored a glorious try out pacing the visitors with an arcing run to the corner. Thorn tails were up and the well drilled rolling maul was now providing quality ball to attack the visitors.
Right on half time missed tackles allowed the hosts to get within strike range before flanker Liam Pemberton dived over. Stephens' touchline conversion brought the half to a close with the game back in the melting pot at 17-15.
The Saints started the second period like the first and threatened to run away with the game. Several opportunities were created and it was only terrific defending by Thorn that delayed the inevitable until the 55th minute when prop Mark Martin crashed over.
The home side had weathered the Cornish storm and their forwards started to rumble with real menace. It was the visitors turn to be defiant in defence, the Saints survived a series of catch and drives and 5m scrums as Thornbury set up camp on the try line.
Eventually the pressure told when the ball was released out wide for Sheldon to dive in at the corner. A hushed Cooper's Farm exploded with delighted when Stephens stroked over the touchline conversion to tie the scores. Saints had two opportunities to restore the lead in a frenetic end to the match. First hooker Miles Davey was held up as he drove for the line and then Saints spurned a 2 on 1 overlap just as a try seemed certain.
There was still time for Thornbury to mount one final charge as they again laid siege 5m from the Saints try line.
A scrum under the shadow of the posts gave the hosts a platform for victory, but a crooked feed let the Cornishmen off the hook and it was with some relief the Saints were able to clear their lines.
The Saints will look back on a thrilling match as that they should have won but were grateful not to lose. The Saints were left to rue a lack of precision and poor decision making that allowed several opportunities to go begging.
That allowed Thornbury to grow in confidence and belief as the game went on and very nearly take the spoils. Some valuable lessons about life in SW1 will have been learnt and will no doubt help the development of the team.
This Saturday sees one of the most eagerly awaited fixtures of the season with the visit of Wadebridge Camels to Tregorrick in the first Cornish derby of 2013-14 (3pm).