Thornhill Trojans continued their defence of the BARLA National Cup with a fantastic 38-18 victory against 2016 National Conference Division One champions Thatto Heath Crusaders.
Thatto Heath had failed a pitch inspection the previous afternoon so the fixture was switched to the 4G pitch at Ruskin Park, the home of Pilkington Recs.
Spurred on by their travelling support, Thornhill weathered an early onslaught from Thatto Heath to take control of the game and set up a quarter final showdown with Upton.
Thornhill’s James Craven gave a fine exhibition of attacking rugby, underlining his attacking prowess by scoring two tries in a man-of-the-match performance.
The early exchanges were marred by a number of high tackles which caused tempers to boil over.
After play restarted it was Thatto Heath who opened the scoring as second rower Leon Tatlock broke clear from the halfway line.
With half of the first 40 gone the referee was forced into showing the yellow card as another fight broke out, with Thornhill’s Tom Gledhill and Thatto Heath’s Liam Quinn being sent to the sin-bin.
A penalty goal from Shaun Quinn nudged Thatto Heath two points further in front before Thornhill replied by getting their first try of the game.
James Craven picked his channel perfectly to run onto a pass and dive over the line to the delight of his
Thornhill were finding their way into the game and took the lead as Luke Haigh spotted an opening and darted to the corner to score.
As the first half was coming to a close Ryan Fenton collected a pass and powered himself over the whitewash to give the Trojans an eight-point lead.
As the second half got underway Tatlock got his and Thatto Heath’s second try of as he ran the ball into the corner to reduce the deficit between the teams.
Thatto Heath continued their promising start to the second half and eventually took the lead.
A kick on the last tackle bobbled between the posts and Liam Quinn pounced to score.
Good work from Jack Gledhill and Danny Ratcliffe put the Trojans back in front.
Gledhill broke down the wing before switching the ball back inside to Ratcliffe, who collected the pass and went between the posts to score.
Thornhill put themselves further ahead as the ball was moved swiftly along the attacking line until it reached substitute Sam Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe cut inside to open up the Thatto Heath defence and go underneath the posts.
Craven added to Thornhill’s lead as he fooled the Thatto Heath line with a clever dummy that allowed him to sprint through and score.
Tom Gledhill scored the final try of the game as he received the ball from Danny Ratcliffe to go over from close range.
Thornhill’s National Cup clash with Upton will be played in April as they now turn their attention to the opening NCL Division Two game of the season, a home match against Wigan St Judes tomorrow afternoon (Sat, 2.30pm).