THORNHILL Trojans gave Danny Ratcliffe a winning start to life as head coach of the club as they knocked last season’s NCL Premier runners-up Thatto Heath out of the Challenge Cup (22-16).
The visitors arrived with big cup pedigree having reached the fifth round last season, but they would go no further than the first round this time as Thornhill came out on top.
The Trojans were relegated from the top flight last season, with the help of Thatto Heath’s league double over them, so the victory was one to savour when the full-time whistle sounded.
Man of the match for Thornhill was loose-forward Casey Johnson, although there were also great performances from Nick Mitchell, Liam Morley and Will Gledhill.
The game was played in very blustery conditions, which made kicking at times something of a lottery.
The first try of the game was created by a piece of Morley magic, stepping away just inside Thornhill’s half of the field and using his pace to break clear before sending out a pass which found the supporting Rye Ward. The youngster took the ball and sprinted clear to score a try in the corner.
After creating this try Morley left the field to go in the blood bin to have a head wound attended to, and Jordan Lowther came on in his place.
The fast-paced opening continued and Thatto Heath responded to Thornhill’s initial score with a try of their own. Quick hands saw the ball travel to the bottom side of the field and Nathan Taylor took the final pass to go over for an unconverted try in the corner.
Thornhill hit back in this end-to-end game. Matthew Tebb picked up the ball from the acting-half position, sold a dummy and nipped over between the posts for a try which Johnson converted.
Thatto then had a try disallowed when the referee spotted a knock-on over the try line. Sean Leicester threw the ball away in frustration and was shown the yellow card by the referee.
Tempers momentarily boiled over in the run-up to half-time following a high tackle. The Crusaders were awarded the resultant penalty and attacked the Thornhill line, with the defence giving Jack Jones too much space as he reached out to plant the ball down between the posts. Sean Quinn converted to level the scores at 10-all at the interval.
Thornhill scored two quick tries after the restart which put them in a commanding position for the rest of the game.
Thatto Heath lost possession from the kick-off and Will Gledhill took the ball forward. It was worked out to Sam Ratcliffe who scored an unconverted try in the corner.
Nick Mitchell then made a superb break for Thornhill and sent out a bewildering pass which somehow picked out Ross Roebuck on the wing. Roebuck sprinted away to score a try which Johnson converted, giving Thornhill a 10-point cushion. Thatto now knew they had a battle on their hands if they were to remain in the cup.
Thatto Heath upped the tempo and Leicester took the ball out on the wing, beating a defender to score a try in the corner which Quinn converted.
In the run-up to full-time the away side were penalised for a high tackle and then spoke out of turn to the referee. They were marched back 10 metres, putting Thornhill into a position from which Johnson could convert the penalty.
After what seemed a very lengthy period of stoppage time, the referee blew for full-time to allow Thornhill to celebrate.
Tuesday night’s second-round draw saw them receive another home tie, this time against NCL Division Two side Normanton Knights. The West Yorkshire derby will be played over the weekend of January 25-26.