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Thornhill work hard to secure away win to remain top of table

Joel Gibson scored a try and kicked six goals as Thornhill Trojans secured a 32-26 victory away to Pilkington Recs which keeps them top of National Conference League Division One. Picture: Paul Butterfield.
Joel Gibson scored a try and kicked six goals as Thornhill Trojans secured a 32-26 victory away to Pilkington Recs which keeps them top of National Conference League Division One. Picture: Paul Butterfield.

Thornhill Trojans pulled off an important win on their travels in National Conference League Division One as they overcame Pilkington Recs 32-26 last Saturday.

It was the Trojans second visit to the St Helens club this season, having previously suffered a defeat in the Ladbrokes Cup.

The Trojans demonstrated superior forward power throughout but they made hard work of the victory by conceding far too many penalties.

Man-of-the-match Ben Kendall was in awesome form and seemed to take delight in swatting off would-be tacklers. There were also impressive performances from Tom Geldhill and Jake Wilson.

The Trojans included a number of new faces in their line-up. Debuts were handed to Casey Johnson, Martyn Holland and Declan Tomlinson. There was also a call up for Josh Geary.

Despite these changes the Trojans made a strong start and scored on their first real attack.

Kendall surged forward and shrugged off a couple of defenders before Joel Gibson then kicked the ball high into the air.

A Pilkington player spilled the ball and Kendal picked it up to score. Gibson converted.

Pilkington replied shortly after with a controversial score. There appeared to be a knock on in the build up which caused to the Thornhill players to stop but the officials waved play on and this allowed Kieron Knapper to cross for an unconverted try in the corner.

Undeterred Thornhill continued to put Recs under pressure. Jake Wilson powered for the try line despite a host of tacklers desperately trying to hold him back and reached out an arm to plant the ball over to score and Gibson converted.

Will Gledhill then broke from Thornhill’s half of the field and went on a fantastic run.

Using the supporting Joss Ratcliffe as a decoy for Pilkington’s defence, Gledhill opted to pass inside and put Gibson racing away to the posts to score a try which he improved.

But Thornhill made life difficult for themselves by conceding penalties.

From one decision, Pilkington charged for the Thornhill try line from close range and Jonno Peers twisted over for the try. Kieron Knapper converted.

Yet more needless penalties gifted field position to Pilkington and Thornhill failed to stop Greg Smith and he went over for a try which Knapper converted to reduce the half-time deficit to two points.

From the restart Thornhill put on a run around close to the try line. Jake Wilson made a raid for the try line and nipped through a gap to score a try. Gibson converted.

Thornhill then had Martyn Holland sin binned for a late challenge but despite their handicap they stood firm until the final 10 minutes when suddenly play sprung to life putting the result into doubt.

Jamie Smith thundered over the line to score from close range. Knapper conveted to put Pilkington within two points.

Thornhill replied as a run around saw Holland take the final pass and nip over for a try which Gibson converted.

However, in the final minute Pilkington showed that they were still in the fight.

A break down the wing ended with the pass sending Danny Lynch over for a try by the posts. Pilkington rushed the goal kick and the ball bounced back off the uprights.

In the final seconds Gibson made the game safe by kicking a penalty goal.

This was not the most polished performance from the Trojans but could prove to be a key victory in the final league standings as they stay top of Division One.