SUPPORTERS of Bradford & Bingley, beaten 104-0 at home by Moortown, and Wibsey, who again could not field a side at the weekend, will have plenty of sympathy for Thornensians.

A junior club who used to fill senior clubs with dread when they were drawn to visit Thorne in the Yorkshire Cup and who played at Twickenham as recently as 2019 in the RFU Junior Vase final are a different proposition now.

The cellar dwellers from South Yorkshire have won only one of their 22 matches this season in Yorkshire Two and conceded Saturday’s match at Keighley before it had even kicked off.

The visitors started with only 14 players and were prepared for uncontested scrums, only for the cavalry to arrive and the match to go ahead as planned as a proper contest with contested scrums.

However, Keighley gained a club record 115-0 victory, eclipsing their 100-8 triumph over next-to-bottom Ripon, also at Rose Cottage, on January 22.

Thornensians’ Andy Evans, a 46-year-old back-rower who ended up playing on the wing admitted, in what will echo with many clubs: “We have been really let down.

“We had a decent selected side on Thursday night, but on Friday night and Saturday morning we had two or three call-offs and I had to make myself available as a winger, which I am not.”

Evans added: “We got hit at the start of the season, as everyone did, with Covid, and that had a big effect on player availability, and we also had 12 or 13 long-term injuries of first-team squad members then as well.

“Any season that you get to 30 or 35 first-team players then you are having an average campaign.

“Currently we are at 55 different players, a plethora of which are second teamers, young players, veteran players who have all pulled a shirt on for Thornensians.

“We have been competitive all season in the forwards, but it seems to have been a trend that we have had injuries in our backs, where we have lost virtually all of our backline from before Covid hit.

“We only have four players left from our Twickenham season of 2018-19, when we also got promoted from Yorkshire Three, who are playing regularly, and I am sad to see where we are now.”

But not all is doom and gloom, and Evans admitted: “It has been a very difficult season, but I am sure that a lot of other clubs are in a very similar situation. Now we are just looking to rebuild for next season and I am sure that we will come back as a club.

“We have had seven years with no ‘sausage factory’, no home players coming through.

“We have had peaks and troughs, but we have a very strong mini-junior section and in five years’ time I am sure that we will be back to a level where we are competitive in Yorkshire Three or Two, or even hopefully Yorkshire One again.

“I talk to players weekly, and if I were paid for that and for talking about team selection, I would be earning double my annual salary, but they are grown men and you cannot force them to play rugby.

“But we now have a solid base with our mini-junior section, we hope to have a junior colts side next season and I will be taking over as junior-mini director of rugby to transition the players through. I have taken a team from under-12s to colts before and there were two of them were playing today.

“We just need to press the reset button and see where we are next season.”

Evans’ words will resonate across not only Yorkshire but the whole of the country, in what is a trying time for all team sports, and it is a matter of getting through this difficult period and hopefully emerging on the other side still intact.

For the record, Keighley scored 17 tries, including a penalty try, with debutant winger Ben Parkinson getting a hat-trick, a tally that was matched by replacement Jak Adams, whose treble were his first tries for the first XV.

There were braces for full back Alfie Seeley and centre Adam Horsfall and singles for fly half Alex Brown, No 8 Shaun Minikin, replacement Sam Blakeley, debutant lock Harry Worstead, centre Sean Kelly and winger Kristian Bealey-Kay, with Brown adding 15 conversions.

Keighley, who scored four tries in the opening eight minutes, have four matches left and top the table by eight points from Wetherby, who have a game in hand and host the leaders on April 2.

In North One East, as mentioned above, Bradford & Bingley were thumped 104-0 by Moortown, but Cleckheaton moved up to third with a 54-7 win at lowly Morley.

Aside from Keighley's result in Yorkshire Two, Baildon lost 22-7 at high-flying Wetherby, while Old Grovians, for only the second time all season, had to concede defeat, against Hullensians on this occasion.

Wibsey's concession to Ossett in Yorkshire Three means they have not played since February 12, with a postponement and three opponents handed walkovers since.