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Reigning champions Thurston progress with narrow victory at home in Suffolk Chadacre Cup

Thurston Rangers set up a home clash against lower-league Hadleigh in the Suffolk Chadacre Cup with a 33-26 win away to Clacton in the only first round tie to take place.

It was a repeat of the 2018/19 semi-final, which Thurston also went on to win before then beating Ipswich YM in a tightly-contested final.

And they remain on course to defend their title with the victory on Saturday sending them into the second round. That is not due to take place, against Eastern Counties Greene King 1 South side Hadleigh, until February 8, 2020.

RUGBY - Thurston v Clacton in Suffolk Chadacre Cup semi-final..Pictured: ...PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (23222830)
RUGBY - Thurston v Clacton in Suffolk Chadacre Cup semi-final..Pictured: ...PICTURE: Mecha Morton... (23222830)

It was only a select few brave souls that ventured out on a freezing Saturday afternoon for the first game of a hopeful cup retaining campaign.

The Rangers kicked off and were quickest out of the blocks as they found holes in the Clacton defence to eventually force a penalty from the home team.

The ball was fired deep in the corner, where a smooth arrow from hooker Harry Bell found the hands of his catchers, before the forwards went on the first dominant display of power in the game.

It led to Max Tully cruising easily into the corner, leaving the score 5-0 with 10 minutes gone.

The Rangers’ defence held strong when Clacton came back at them but a lack of discipline at breakdowns and ever creeping offsides allowed Clacton to punish.

Clacton scored from a good break down the blindside to go under the posts leaving Thurston trailing 7-5 into half-time.

Clacton started on the attack and forced the Rangers back to defend their own 5m. But Sean Handleigh intercepted for a break, to pass to Tully who ran it in unopposed – converted to regain a 12-7 lead.

The physicality increased with big hits from Craig Wilson and Lawrence Guise, allowing space for Joe Melvin to cross the line and score, with another conversion from Jack Rae.

At 19-7, Clacton took advantage of a tiring Thurston and score a quick run down the blind side to trail 19-12.

But the thought of giving up the Suffolk Cup so early spurred Thurston on and the quick feet and goose-stepping of Ed Ballam saw the captain dot down in the corner for a fourth try – third converted – with 15 minutes to play.

Thurston scrum half Rob Duschene broke tackles to dot down again for a simple conversion to make the score 33-12.

But Thurston took their foot off the accelerator and let Clacton in for two easy tries; it was 33-26 with two minutes left. But the Rangers held on.

Thurston will return to action in London 3 Eastern Counties on Saturday, with a visit from basement club Beccles.

But their visitors showed strong signs of improvement in their last outing, a 34-5 win over Thetford.

Thetford, meanwhile, are set to return to league action at home to Ipswich YM on Saturday.

In London 2 North East, Stowmarket are set to host Ipswich on Saturday (2pm).

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