Thornbury hold their nerve as Clevedon push them all the way
THORNBURY were far from their best, but still made it three in a row with an 18-10 home victory over Clevedon to remain fourth in South West One West.
For the first hour, it appeared as if it was going to be one of those days for the South Gloucestershire outfit on a bitterly cold afternoon and on a pitch which, in places, resembled a ploughed field.
They dominated in terms of territory and possession, but wasted several clear-cut chances and twice found themselves trailing to Clevedon, who defended with determination and discipline before putting points on the board against the run of play.
But Tim Stephens nudged Thornbury into an 11-10 lead in the 66th minute with a close-range penalty. And five minutes later, fly-half Wayne Underwood's neat inside pass saw winger Rich Bennett cut a nice line to coast over by the posts, Stephens converting.
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The home side, playing down the slope, then pegged Clevedon back in their own half to close out a first win over their rivals for six seasons.
Coach Gareth Llewellyn said: "We made hard work of it, but I think we would have done a better job in better conditions.
"We're holding our own in this league – it's the highest the club has ever been – and we're heading in the right direction."
Clevedon counterpart Nick Hill was pleased with his side's commitment on the back foot, but was disappointed to head home down the M5 without any points, particularly after the visiting forwards called for a five-metre scrum – which went nowhere – after being handed a very kickable penalty chance midway through the second half.
He said: "That was a foolish thing to do and I'll be having a word. But I can't knock the effort a young side showed out there and we're unlucky to leave without a losing bonus."
Mike Taylor kicked Clevedon into the lead with a 22nd-minute penalty before Stephens levelled proceedings with a shot of his own and Dai Matthews ran a nice angle for an unconverted try to make it 8-3 at the break.
Scrum-half George Towers then showed his footballing skills to hack a loose ball on the halfway line straight down the pitch, earning a penalty try after he was impeded short of the line in the act of attempting to gather and score, Taylor converting to put the visitors 10-8 clear.
But Thornbury, with outstanding scrum-half Jak Evans at the heart of much of their best work, maintained their composure to finish strongly and claim the win.
Next up for Clevedon is a home date with Old Reds, whose clash with Cleve was postponed because of an unfit pitch at Scotland Lane.
In National Three South West, Avonmouth bounced back from a heavy home reverse against Weston-super-Mare with a tremendous 25-24 victory over Barnstaple at Barracks Lane.
It was quite a game. The Combination side trailed 17-5 at the turnaround, but then piled up 17 points of their own without reply to take control only, for Barnstaple to regain the lead with a converted interception try.
But the 'Mouth showed boatloads of character, particularly up front, where Dan Lee and Harry Hone were outstanding, to have the final word thanks to a Joe Wearne penalty five minutes from time against his former club.
Skipper Grant Britton led from the front with two close-range tries, while there was also a five-pointer from James Foss with Wearne making a key contribution with the boot, adding two conversions and a penalty before his crucial late successful kick at goal.
Victory was sweet for several reasons, not least the fact that Barnstaple were comfortable 35-8 victors when these sides met back in September.
And there was extra satisfaction as the three teams below Avonmouth in the table all lost, including Malvern who slipped 24-3 at Weston.
There were tries for prop Dave Swann, hooker Dave Burge and lock Ashley Russell as well as a penalty try, with James Mackay slotting two conversions in another bonus-point effort which kept the Seasiders in third place.