Rugby Union: Llandovery feel the might of Thorburn's boot

Llandovery 17 Neath 36
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The Independent Online
Paul Thorburn has been there and done it all and is currently trying to ensure that the 1999 Rugby World Cup goes with a swing.

But when the 35-year-old former Welsh captain was asked to step out of retirement to help steady the Neath ship at Church Bank in a fifth-round Swalec Cup tie that was too close to call at the start, he could not resist the temptation.

"I wouldn't have fancied it if it had been a top of the table clash in the league, and I don't have any ambition to play at the Arm's Park, Stradey or St Helens again, but it was nice to finally notch my 300th appearance for Neath," Thorburn said. "This was just a case of me helping out. It was definitely a one-off and I couldn't make a habit of it anyway because I can't train."

Thorburn, one of the game's greatest goal-kickers, has been offering his experience and expertise as a goal-kicking coach to the young players at Neath. Over and above an hour long session on a Thursday night at The Gnoll, his only other fitness work has been "a couple of games of squash a week".

Not that Llandovery stretched him too badly at full-back. Instead, the home side concentrated on taking the challenge to the Neath forwards, a job they did particularly well.

If it had not had been for the reliable boot of Thorburn, who converted all three of Neath's tries, and was on target with five of his eight penalty attempts, this would surely have been a day of glory for the home side.

Playing into the teeth of an icy wind the Drovers conjured up two superb tries in the first half to steal the lead and almost the initiative. It took Thorburn's metronomic boot to keep Neath in the hunt and then a controversial decision by the referee Paul Adams on the stroke of half-time.

The locals in Llandovery, who turned out in their thousands for the match, were still talking about the turning point as they mulled over the game yesterday. Their view was that Adams was far too harsh in awarding a penalty try to Neath when the full-back Emyr Lewis tackled a Neath player without the ball.

That try, converted by Thorburn, gave the Premier Division club the unexpected luxury of a nine-point advantage at the interval. A fifth penalty from Thorburn seven minutes into the second half effectively killed off the game and two tries by Ian Boobyer were the icing on the cake as far as Neath were concerned.

Llandovery: Tries D Williams, G Thomas, penalty try. Conversion A Thomas. Neath: Tries Boobyer 2, penalty try. Conversions Thorburn 3. Penalties Thorburn 5.

Llandovery: E Lewis; M Bowen, E Evans, H Thomas (D Simpson, 74), J Griffiths; A Williams, D Williams (A Davies, 77); A Evans, J Hughes, A Jones, J Westgarth, H Morgan, M Lewis, P Jones (capt), G Thomas.

Neath: P Thorburn; C Higgs, T Davies, A Palfrey, D Case; C John, P Horgan; D Morris (L Gerrard, 71), M Davies, B Evans, G Llewellyn (capt), S Martin, M Bennett, L Jones, I Boobyer.

Referee: P Adams (Ebbw Vale).

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