Tarleton First XV had a rest from League action on Saturday when they welcomed Thornensians RUFC to Carr Lane for the Northern Final of the Rugby Union Vase Trophy. Thornensians ply their trade in Division 2 of the Yorkshire league and arrived in Lancashire on the back of two decent wins.
The winner of this game would be playing the winners of the Midland Final and whoever wins that game goes on to play in the final at Twickenham, so there was everything for both sides to play for.
The conditions probably favoured the visitors in that they had a large mobile pack that wanted to blast holes through the Tarleton defence to create gaps for their backs to exploit and Tarletons’ expansive way of playing was going to be difficult with high winds, driving range and a deteriorating pitch as the game went on.
It was Tarleton who opened the scoring though after taking the game to Thornensians and playing several phases of pick and go and making some hard yards before a kick through was pounced on by George Skofic who beat the Thornensians defender to the ball to score a good try. The conversion was missed but Tarleton led 5-0.
The rest of the half saw Tarleton having to defend for their lives as Thornensians threw everything at them but the defence held firm.
The second half and he tackle count was astronomical and Tarleton did start to show signs of tiring and eventually after many attempts the Thornensians ‘big guys’ combined well to roll the maul forward and allow their No. 5 to crash over to score. The conversion was good and Thornensians were now 7-0 in the lead and thought they had found the way to get through Tarletons’ dogged defence. They continued to maintain pressure on The Tarleton line but Tarleton began to run the ball back at them from defence and suddenly they looked the more dangerous team.
Thornensians defence began to work hard but gave away a penalty that was kicked to the corner, from the line out a mud-caked pack formed a rolling maul and Thornensians couldn’t deal with it and Tarleton went over to score and regain the lead with minutes to go – much to the delight of the players and the home supporters.
Despite Thornensians having the ball in their control for the last 8 minutes Tarleton did not let them get into their half and when the whistle went for full time the ground erupted.
This was an extremely hard fought game played in atrocious conditions and was a credit to both sides and to grass roots rugby. The commitment shown by everyone who pulled on a jersey for their club was immense and it is always a shame in games like this that someone has to lose. Thornensians then retired to the bar with their supporters and proceeded to try and drink the bar dry whilst Tarleton now wait to see who they play from the Midland leagues to give them a shot at playing in the finals at Twickenham.