Bourne Rugby Club beaten by Market Rasen in NLD Shield as second team sink Gainsborough
Bourne showed they are capable of competing at the next level after a battling display against higher grade Market Rasen in the NLD Shield on Saturday.
Their Midlands 2 East (North) hosts ran out 22-6 winners, but Bourne’s performance provided plenty of encouragement.
With Bourne presently third in Midlands 3 East (South) and promotion still very much a possibility, they travelled with a very different side to that of recent weeks to face a Rasen side who sit mid-table in the league above.
Bourne dominated the opening five minutes by starving the hosts of any possession and the early indication was that the visitors were capable of holding their own.
Their dominance was rewarded when they forced so much pressure on the Rasen defence that the home winger was adjudged to have deliberately knocked-on in a bid to stem another Bourne attack.
But Rasen's misfortune seemed to be the kick-start the home side needed and, despite being a man down, they quickly grew into the game.
Rasen looked the more athletic and dynamic side and Bourne were made to defend relentlessly. To their credit the visitors worked hard and repelled a number of strong attacks from an increasingly powerful home side.
Eventually though another surge from the Rasen pack caused the Bourne defence to become disjointed and, with a number of gaps across their backline, the visitors were unable to defend a powerful burst from the midfield.
Despite a solid start, Bourne trailed 7-0 as Rasen returned to full strength. At this point the game levelled out with both sides enjoying equal possession and territory.
Rasen looked the more threatening of the sides but Bourne's persistent efforts in defence reflected their ambition to compete at the higher level.
Bourne were dealt an unfortunate blow when scrum-half JD Charlton was forced off with injury after just 20 minutes.
This led to full-back Jack Berry moving to scrum-half and back-row Adam Binns, already covering the centres, moving to full-back.
It also led to the involvement of last season's player coach Dave Maudsley coming off the bench for his first appearance of the season after retiring last year.
On a difficult day Rasen were unable to finish numerous opportunities with too many errors and this led to a number of set-pieces where Bourne really showed their ability to hold their own.
The Bourne front-row of Chris Greenwood, Keir Moore and Sam Cowell more than matched their opponents at scrum time and the visiting pack also secured their own line-outs.
Second row partners Sam Harby and Jason Rushton were both heavily involved in defence and also carried the ball well providing the guests with momentum as they approached half-time.
The Bourne pack earned two penalties with their efforts and Sam Evison, filling in at fly-half, converted both to take the visitors within a point but Rasen added one of their own in response.
Neither side could take further advantage in the final 10 minutes of the half although the interval came as the Bourne backs pressured their opponents chasing a kick into the Rasen 22 which was then fumbled as the last of the home defence attempted to gather the ball.
The attack came to an abrupt end with little advantage played by the referee and Bourne were rightly aggrieved not to have had more chance to end the half on a more positive note.
The third quarter was played in much the same way as the first 40 minutes and, with both teams unable to add any scores, the game entered the final minutes with Bourne well in touch at just 10-6 behind.
Going into the final stages of the game Rasen's superior fitness started to show and they continued to be the better team in attack but crucially, with the conditions favouring them slightly, they began to make less mistakes as they made inroads into the Bourne half time and time again.
Bourne's defence was stretched regularly but their desperation to stay in the game was reflected with a scramble defence that repeatedly saw Rasen's last man being brought to ground or tackled into touch.
Centre Sam Thornburn and Josh Lynch were responsible on different occasions for denying Rasen additional tries and the effort throughout the Bourne side was impressive.
On the hour mark, after a sustained period of pressure, Rasen worked their way into the Bourne 22 and from a line-out in the wettest corner of the field they forced a number of drives towards the Bourne try-line.
It was to Bourne's credit that they managed to keep Rasen at bay for so long in an area of the pitch that was almost unplayable due to the amount of standing water but eventually they couldn't do any more and Rasen slid over for second try. With the conversion added Bourne were now 17-6 behind.
It was clear that Bourne had no intention of giving up and for the next 15 minutes they continued to match their opponents.
In the backs Thornburn carried well when he was given the chance but it was the Bourne forwards that did the most damage.
Bourne had lacked a degree of structure throughout the game, the result of different personnel in different positions, but when they resorted to a possession game as they had in the opening minutes they seemed far more in control.
Keeping the ball tight they put pressure on the home pack and a number of penalties allowed them to work their way upfield.
There wasn't much between the sides going into the final 10 minutes but, with five minutes to go, Bourne looked to tire and another good attack from the hosts resulted in a try, albeit with a degree of luck.
The Rasen attack looked to have come to an end when an awkard pass appeared to have been knocked on as the last man reached the Bourne try-line but the reality was that it had bounced off his legs and the try was therefore awarded.
At 22 - 6 down Bourne knew they were going to fall the wrong of the result but approached the final minutes with a view to closing the gap.
It wasn't to be though and the game came to an unfortunate end as with just two minutes to go Evison and then Berry both received yellow cards for late tackles just one minute apart.
Thankfully for Bourne Berry's sin-binning in fact signalled the end of the game and they weren't forced to play on with a numerical disadvantage.
Player-coach Andrew Brown praised his side's efforts.
He said: “We're enjoying some good form in the league and in the back of our minds there is always the question of just how high we can go. This was proof that we're worthy of being in Midlands 2.
“I take nothing away from the guys that filled in but we were missing key players and others were in playing positions they aren't used to and that affected our structure, but even so we ran a good side close and the lads should be proud of themselves.
“Going into the last 20 minutes we could have turned the result with just a single try.”
Director of rugby Maudsley echoed Brown's sentiments.
He added: “That wasn't the perfect performance by any stretch but importantly, even playing below our best, we showed we can compete at the next level.
“We know there are areas to work on and when we reflect on the game there'll be plenty we can learn from Rasen but it was pleasing that we can continue to implement our own brand of rugby and trouble teams presently sitting some way above us.”
Maudsley was particularly pleased to have seen the club field a strong second team on the same day.
He continued: "It was a good day for the club. While the first team result didn't go our way we knew it would be tough and our agenda was more about testing ourselves and moving forward in the league.
“A big part of the club's development is a second team playing regularly and they've had a decent squad at home and that's led to a good win.
“With more and more players training and playing at the club we can go from strength-to-strength and that will be crucial if we're serious about progressing.”
Bourne’s strength-in-depth has improved over recent years and, while the first team travelled to Market Rasen at the weekend, the club also had sufficient players to run a second string fixture at Milking Nook Drove.
Bourne hosted Gainsborough who arrived with a depleted squad and were grateful for the help of a number of home players.
Front row Mark Edwards, back row Rob Martin and centre Spencer Bannister were quick to offer their services along with centre Dave Greenfield in his first outing for a number of years. Martin had a particularly good afternoon and was in fact the pick of the Gainsborough side.
Despite adverse weather conditions a strong Bourne side built early momentum setting the tone for a dominant display.
First team manager Paul Mambey led the Bourne pack from number eight and was well supported by fellow back-rower Nathan Cope and second-row Kieran McFarlane.
The Bourne half-backs of captain Calum Weston at fly-half alongside scrum-half Xanti Tito-Xipu, enjoyed a good afternoon and proved a useful link between the forwards and backs.
The hosts eventually crossed for seven tries with just a solitary response from Gainsborough.
The Bourne pack created a strong platform with their set-pieces and their effort around the field but it was the home backs who took the glory with all but one of the tries.
Outside centre Jake Anderson, wing Rob Webb and full-back Jack Fitch got one try apiece, as did back-rower Jake Appleby.
But it was Stu Hyde who stole the show with a hat-trick from inside centre. Weston added four conversions and was delighted with the result.
He said: “It's great to get the win of course but it's particularly pleasing to get out so many Bourne players on one day.
“The guys that have played for the second team had a good win with some decent individual performances but more than anything we're pleased to be a part of the club's general progress.
“Getting two sides out regularly remains a firm ambition for the club and that's becoming a more regular thing.
“Beyond that though it's certainly a bonus that we can play as we did and finish with a convincing win.”
More by this authorJames Bedford