A SENSATIONAL try from youngster Mindaugas Bendikas two minutes from time secured a 16-12 victory for Thornhill over Widnes St Maries in the BARLA NATIONAL CUP first round.
With the teams locked in a 12-12 stalemate extra-time seemed inevitable.
However, the Yorkshire Under-19s player timed his run perfectly to latch on to a pass from man-of-the-match Joel Gibson and sprint away for glory.
The visitors proved to be stern opposition throughout the game – despite a lack of game time due to the Widnes side playing in the summer league – and played with some good execution throughout.
Perhaps this lack of game time allowed Thornhill to catch them cold and they scored a try after only one minute of play.
This opening score came after Thornhill winger Adam Bird broke clear and took play into Widnes’ territory, before he passed the ball inside to the supporting Gibson, who covered the remaining length of the field to score.
Gibson converted his own try for an early 6-0 advantage.
Thornhill continued to press the Widnes try-line in the opening exchanges and after a further spell of pressure, scrum half David Dourley was sent to the sin-bin for dissent.
Once restored to 13 players the Widnes team began to find their feet and took advantage of a Thornhill error, as a pass from Gibson was intercepted 10 meters from the Thornhill try-line by Lee Birdseye, who strolled over for a try which he converted himself.
Thornhill now had a serious game on their hands and with play just beyond the half-hour mark they managed to take the lead again when Jordan Lowther nipped over from close range, following another Gibson break.
Gibson converted Lowther’s try.
Just before half-time the hosts came close to scoring again when the ball was kicked into the Widnes in-goal area and Bendikas dived to touch down, but the ball was hoofed clear to safety by Widnes.
Thornhill’s narrow hold on the tie was cancelled out early in the second half when Leighton Smith ploughed over from close range – much to the delight of the travelling Widnes fans.
Birdseye converted and the arm wrestle was back on.
As the game wore on Widnes tried at every opportunity to put over a drop goal but they couldn’t find the target.
Thornhill did have a penalty goal attempt, but Gibson kicked wide of the posts and extra-time seemed to be on the cards.
However, with the final whistle fast approaching, a Gibson pass put Bendikas over for the match-winning try.
The goal was missed from in front of the posts, leading to a tense finish.
It was close, but Thornhill had done just enough to progress into the next round where they face a home tie against Premier Division rivals Hunslet Old Boys, in a repeat of last month’s Yorkshire Cup Final.